While I was glad to see NASA receive a slight increase for FY 2003, I was very disheartened in where it went. Apparently, Human Space Flight will not be the beneficiary of such an increase. I am well aware of the systemic problems with the ISS program. I stand ready to assist Sean O'Keefe, the OMB and our international partners to see how we can mitigate these problems and go on to execute world-class science research on ISS. But today, I remain dubious of the commitment the Administration is willing to provide to the crown jewel of America's space efforts - Human Space Flight.
So far, we have been told that ISS is on probation and we are focusing on ISS "U.S. core complete." I was very concerned to see a recent Congressional Research Service report that provides an analysis of the NASA budget stating that not enough funds are available to build a core complete version of ISS. Namely between FY 03-06, there is a $603 million shortfall for ISS. NASA apparently feels that internal savings can be achieved to cover such a shortfall. I'll be interested in hearing how such savings will be realized.
I am excited about Mr. O'Keefe's commitment and enthusiasm for research into new propulsion technologies, namely his commitment to SLI. I agree that we must conduct research into new propulsions systems and materials technology in order to reduce the cost to orbit and thus allow a more cost effective exploration of the solar system. We must, however, not neglect the Space Shuttle. It will continue to be our civil space workhorse for at least another 15 years and will require upgrades while a new system is developed. As well, because of the importance of SLI, it is vital that the expertise of all NASA field centers, not just a single center, be used in the R&D efforts being funded through SLI. Kennedy Space Center has underutilized R&D capabilities and the experience of the KSC workforce makes it a natural fit with several major elements of the SLI program.
As a person who has a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers' money to be spent wisely, I do not like seeing poor management, and programs that are over budget. NASA, however, is by its very nature a unique entity that is called upon each and every day to execute missions that are both high technology and high risk. NASA's budget for too long has been anemic at best and has been called on to perform more missions while not enjoying a reasonable increase in funding. We must work to reduce programmatic missteps, project mismanagement, achieve fiscal clarity and at the same time provide NASA the resources to perform its varying missions. I look to this Administration for leadership on these fronts and will stand ready to assist in all that I can do.