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Opening Statement by Rep. Mark Udall

Status Report From: Rep. Mark Udall
Posted: Friday, February 18, 2005

  • Good morning, and welcome Mr. Gregory—we look forward to hearing your testimony.
  • As we all know, NASA is an important part of the nation's science and technology infrastructure.
  • At their best, NASA's activities advance knowledge, inspire our youth, and improve the quality of life for our citizens.
  • So it's important that Congress be involved in decisions on NASA's future, and I think this hearing can be a good start toward gaining the information we will need to make sure that those decisions are informed ones.
  • In that regard, I look forward to working with Mr. Calvert in my new capacity as Ranking Member on the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee to carry out additional oversight.
  • Mr. Chairman, I consider myself to be a champion of space exploration in its broadest sense—the adventure of pushing back the boundaries of our ignorance with both robotic and human explorers, as well as with researchers in the laboratory and the observatory.
  • I confess that I am a bit troubled that the President's exploration initiative seems to be couched in terms of having to walk away from important research areas in science and aeronautics if we want to do exploration.
  • One of those important research projects is of course the Hubble Telescope, which I intend to discuss further during this hearing, but it's not the only one.
  • Nevertheless, I think we're being presented with a false choice. We should be able to do both.
  • It may require adjusting the pace of the President's exploration initiative, or making a "tough love" prioritization of the proposed exploration programs…
  • ... but I believe it can be done.
  • To do otherwise is to risk losing the fruits of investments we have made over the last 45 years or more to establish and maintain our current world-class capabilities for research at NASA and at our universities across a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines.
  • In addition, I think we should never forget that an important component of those world-class capabilities is the NASA workforce.
  • As you may know, I have several Federal laboratories in my district.
  • I have developed a keen appreciation for the intellectual capital that resides in those laboratories.
  • And I have no doubt that similarly impressive intellectual capital exists at the NASA Centers.
  • When contemplating changes to NASA's workforce, we should proceed very carefully.
  • Change by itself is inherently neither good nor bad—it's just change.
  • However, if we make precipitous changes to those Centers without considering what the nation will want from NASA in the future…
  • …We risk losing valuable skills and intellectual capital that we may never be able to recover.
  • I know that some champions of the President's exploration vision want to move quickly to realign NASA to conform to that vision.
  • However, as Members of Congress, I think we need to step back and take the broader view.
  • We need to ask some hard questions…
  • What do we want NASA to be?
  • What are we asking NASA to contribute to our society? To our economy?
  • And what steps do we need to take to ensure that NASA will retain the capacity to make those contributions for decades to come?
  • It's not going to be easy to answer these questions.
  • Nevertheless, it's vital that Congress, working with the Administration, try to answer them.
  • With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time. Thank you.
  • // end //

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