From: NASA HQ
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Editor's note: Comments made by Federal Railroad Administrator nominee Joseph Boardman, who appeared with Michael Griffin before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, have been omittted.
Sen. Inouye: At the direction and instructions of the chair, I want to welcome all the nominees today, and especially their families. You have a lot to be proud of, and I know that this is a very important day for all of you. And so I'll place my statements on each nominee in the record, because I think we would like to expedite the hearings. I will have a few questions but those, too, will be made part of the record. We have several of our colleagues here, so we'd like to hear from them. May I call upon my dear friend, Paul Sarbanes. Senator Sarbanes of Maryland?
Sen. Sarbanes: Oh, well, thank you very much, uh, Senator Inouye and members of the committee.
I've come with my, uh, esteemed colleague, Senator Mikulski, to introduce a highly respected leader in Marylandís scientific community, Dr. Michael Griffin, who is the president's nominee to serve as the next administrator of NASA. We think this is just an outstanding nomination. Dr. Griffin is a native of Maryland, born in Aberdeen, the home of Cal Ripken, Jr., I might note - for whatever relevance that has to the hearing.
And he's been educated in some of our nation's finest academic institutions. He's got his bachelor of arts degree in physics from Johns Hopkins University. He's earned five master's degrees - aerospace science from Catholic University; electrical engineering from the University of Southern California; and applied physics from Johns Hopkins; civil engineering from George Washington University; and business administration from the University of Maryland. He also earned his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. So as you can see, Dr. Griffin is literally - quite literally - a rocket scientist.
He's currently the space department head of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County, Maryland.
Johns Hopkins APL is a nonprofit division of the Johns Hopkins University, and under the strong leadership of Dr. Rick Roca, serves as one of the premier research and development institutions in the nation. For almost 50 years, APL's space division has played a central role in supporting our nation's civilian and military space programs. And they've carried out any number of very, very important scientific endeavors there.
The New York Times put it well in an editorial strongly supporting Dr. Griffin's nomination entitled, very simply but appropriately put, A Talented Leader. He's held a number of leadership positions during his long career in both the public and private sectors. They have demanded an extraordinarily high level of both scientific excellence and administrative capabilities. And he's met those challenges at a very high standard.
Currently the head of APL Space Division, Mike Griffin oversees a staff of over 600 employees, an annual budget well in excess of $200 million. He's, of course, had very important experience at NASA in the upper echelons, as both the chief engineer and the associate administrator for exploration. He's held important management positions in the private sector. In addition to his administrative and research interests, he's continued to do important academic work - continued as an adjunct professor at Maryland and Hopkins.
I need not mention to this committee the challenges faced in the space program. We think that the expertise and the passion that Mike Griffin brings to the job is exactly what's needed.
And I'm very pleased to come before the committee today to very strongly endorse his nomination and I very much hope the committee can act expeditiously and favorably on this nomination. Thank you very much.
Sen. Inouye: Thank you very much, Senator Sarbanes. And I must apologize to my colleagues. I forgot to call upon them. Senator McCain, do you have any statement?
Sen. McCain No, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Inouye: Senator Lautenberg?
Sen. Launtenberg: I'd like to offer some remarks after we've heard from (inaudible)
Sen. Inouye: Senator Hutchison?
Sen. Hutchison I will also make remarks following the witnesses at the witness table. I would like to make an opening statement as chairman of the NASA...
Sen. Inouye: Senator Nelson of Florida?
Sen. Nelson : Mr. Chairman, I just think Dr. Griffin is an outstanding choice. I think he's going to be a breath of fresh air. And not only does he, in fact, bring the credentials to the table, that he is, in fact a rocket scientist, he carries himself with great humility. And I think that's going to fit very well with the NASA family.
Sen. Inouye: Senator Nelson? Senator Mikulski?
Sen. Mikulski: Thank you very much, Senator Inouye, and to members of the panel.
I'm here really under two flags: One, the proud flag of Maryland, talking about one of Maryland's favorite sons, Dr. Mike Griffin, to be nominated for the NASA administrator; and then the other as the ranking member in the Senate Appropriations Committee who has responsibility for the funding of NASA programs. I want to thank President Bush for nominating such an outstanding candidate to head up NASA at this time of great strategic importance for NASA's future - and also the fact that the NASA administrator has to deal with the long-range plans and the short-range crises that we're now facing.
Under the Maryland flag, as Senator Sarbanes said, Mike Griffin is really a hometown guy, coming from Aberdeen, the home of Cal Ripken, Jr. What's important about that is he brings those, what we call, those Ripken values, that Ripken way, to NASA.
What does that mean? To be best at what you best can be and to work hard at it; to concentrate with a high level and degree of competence, but at the same time, to put values into action, playing by the rules, serving your community and being an outstanding citizen.
This is what Mike Griffin has done. He has gone to our local schools - Aberdeen High School, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland. He has five master's degrees and a variety of engineering and physics, and also even an MBA from Loyola College. Much has been made over the fact that he is a rocket scientist. Thank God that we're really going to have someone who understands what this is all about. Because the very safety of our astronauts will depend on the quality of this NASA administrator as we get ready to the return to flight.
Much has been made over the fact, and it should, that he worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, heading a space department, knowing what earth science means, knowing what space science means, and knowing what it means to be a contractor and to meet the bottom line while serving the nation. Dr. Griffin brings a variety of experiences from within government, within the Applied Physics Lab, as well as the private sector, with the Magellan systems and the Orbital systems. And he even ran a nonprofit company for the CIA, when the CIA created a nonprofit venture capital firm to search for new technologies that would serve the nation.
He's a rare combination of a scientist, an engineer and a manager.
Dear colleagues, as the Commerce Committee knows, NASA is facing enormous challenges right now - the need to return to flight safely. We need to send our astronauts not only back into space but to return them safely. We need to be able to finish that space station. I, of course, want to save the Hubble, and hope that Dr. Griffin's an able partner in that.
We need to see how we're going to implement the Moon-Mars initiative - at the same time, revive aeronautics, which is so crucial. I'm sick and tired of being beaten by Airbus. I'm going to win Nobel prizes, I'm going to win the markets, and I want a NASA administrator to do that.
This is what I think Mike Griffin will help be able to do: a framework where we meet the immediate crises facing us, but at the same time look to the long-range needs of our country.
So I'm proud to introduce him, as both a Marylander and the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations now responsible. And also we want to thank, that while Dr. Griffin has served the nation, his wonderful wife, Rebecca, has been behind him. And we know that behind every great rocket scientist was the woman who provided the rocket.
Sen. Mikulski: So thank you very much. And I hope that we send this nomination forward quickly.
[BOARDMAN COMMENTS OMITTED]
Sen. Inouye: Thank you very much, Senator Burr. And thank you, Senator Dole. And now it's my pleasure to call upon the first panel, Dr. Michael Griffin, nominee to be administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Mr. Joseph Boardman, nominated to be administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
Sen. Hutchison Mr. Chairman, could I make an opening statement as the witnesses are coming forward? Could I make my opening statement?
As Chairman of the NASA and Science Subcommittee, I just want to say how pleased I am with the nomination of Dr. Michael Griffin, because I think having his leadership and his expertise, his knowledge - at this time when we are trying to get the return to flight and set NASA on its mission for the next 50 years - I think having a leader such as Michael Griffin will enable us to get a clear focus of where we want NASA to go. And so I am very supportive of his nomination. We are going to have several hearings in our committee to talk about the importance of the shuttle, the space station. And I will have questions later for Dr. Griffin, regarding some of those issues. But I do want to ask the chairman and the ranking member to consider trying to get Dr. Griffin's nomination out of the Senate this week.
We know that return to flight is on a time schedule and having the - not permanent leader of NASA, but certainly the designated leader of NASA on board by Monday would help accomplish the return to flight on that timetable. So Mr. Chairman, I hope that we can expedite his vote from the committee and further have this on the Senate floor before we leave this week. That would be my request.
Sen. Nelson : Mr. Chairman, I want to support Senator Hutchison's comment. NASA needs a leader as we are coming back to flight. And if you can honor Senator Hutchison's request to expedite this nomination to the floor so that he could be in place the beginning of next week, I think it would serve the nation well.
Sen. Stevens Senator, if we have a quorum tomorrow, we'll report the nomination. Dr. Griffin, first let me state, I apologize. I was appearing before the Intelligence Committee to introduce my great friend, Ambassador Negroponte, for his confirmation to his new post as director of national intelligence. I want to put in the record without objection the statement I would have made had I been here to open the hearing. Dr. Griffin, would you please introduce your family? I believe there are some of them here.
Dr. Griffin : Yes, sir, they are. My wife, Rebecca, my brother-in- law, one of my daughters, Alison Griffin are here with me today, I'm very please. And as much as I dislike to correct any statement made by Senator Mikulski, I would have to say that Rebecca is actually the one who lights the fire ... rather than bringing the rocket.
[BOARDMAN COMMENTS OMITTED]
Sen. Stevens Good. Well, we're delighted to have these two nominees. First, Dr. Griffin, nominated to be administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We'd be pleased to have any statement you would wish to make.
Dr. Griffin : Sir, I'd like to enter my formal written statement for the record if there are no objections at this time and just take a couple of minutes for comments, if that would be OK?
Sen. Stevens We're happy to put all the nominees' statements in the record as so read and have your comments.
Dr. Griffin : Thank you, sir. And thank you very much for the opportunity to appear at this hearing. Also, I would like to convey my thanks to Senator Sarbanes and Senator Mikulski for those introductions, which were certainly somewhat over the top for a simple aerospace engineer from a small town.
So I'm very grateful for the sentiments I've heard also from Senators Hutchison and Nelson. They're very gratifying.
We're here today at a time which is a watershed moment for the space program. The timing was brought to us in the saddest possible way by the loss of Columbia, in February of '03, and our efforts since then to regroup from that loss and to move on. The timing is forced upon us, but it does produce a watershed moment and that watershed has been crossed.
In the wake of the failure investigation from Columbia, it has become clear that the United States needs to look in new directions and to look beyond where we have been with our program in the last several decades. In the words of the Columbia accident investigation board, the United States is not going to abandon human space flight, but for the foreseeable future, it will be expensive, difficult and dangerous. And the goals that we seek out should be worthy of the cost and the risk. And I think it is now understood that a human space flight program focused only upon the completion of the space station and the servicing of that station with the shuttle, does not qualify as a goal which is worth of the expense, the risk and the difficulty of human space flight.
President Bush has seen beyond that and has proposed a new program. It is the right strategic program, it is the right strategic direction for the United States civil space program, and I support it wholeheartedly.
I have no doubt that the members of this committee have had access to some of my written record on this point, and know that this topic is the one closest to my heart, with regard to the direction of the program. There are many who say that the program cannot be afforded - that the proposals that President Bush has made cannot be afforded. I did a little homework, and I would point out something which may not be generally realized.
We look back at the Apollo years as a time when the agency - when NASA received essentially all the money that it needed, all the money that it wanted even. I don't believe that that was actually the case, having looked at the record, but that is the mythology of the time, was that NASA was in a funding-unlimited period for the Apollo program.
Well, the Apollo years, viewed more broadly, spanned the period from 1959 through 1974, at which time we had finished the Apollo- Skylab missions. And so it's the early part of the agency - it's first 16 years, if you will.
If you compare the funding received, the funding which was made available on behalf of the citizens, to the space agency in that first 16 years, it is within a couple of percent of the funding which has been made available to the agency in the last 16 years of its existence.
You can mess around with that number a little bit, depending on which inflation adjustment you care to use, but it's not more than a couple of percent difference no matter how you calculate it. So NASA has been well funded by the nation in the last 16 of its existence, as well funded as it was in the first.
If we continue to receive the president's budget allocations, we can do the program that the president has proposed. We know that we can do it because we've done it. The Apollo years are often looked at as a period when the agency had a single mission focus. That, too, is mythology, and that, too, is incorrect. During the Apollo years, in addition to executing that program, which will forever remain as one of mankind's greatest achievements, we also executed a host of planetary missions in the Mariner, Ranger, Surveyor, Voyager and Viking Series. We executed earth science missions beginning with TIROS and NIMBUS and moving on to ESSA and other weather and earth resources satellite programs. We executed astronomy missions such as orbiting astronomical observatory, orbiting solar observatory.
We executive a robust, bold aeronautics program which featured 199 flights of the X-15 with only one fatality. We did fundamental work in the development of airline transport propulsion and air safety management. We did the fundamental aerodynamics work that led to the ability to design and build the space shuttle. All of the lifting body research done at Edwards to precede the development of the shuttle was accomplished during the late '60s and early '70s. So NASA has proved in its past that we can do more than one thing with the funding that you and your colleagues have provided to us, and I look forward to the opportunity to prove to you that we can do that again. Thank you very much, and I stand ready to take any of your questions.
Sen. Stevens Thank you very much, Doctor. Your predecessor was one of the assistants to the Appropriations Committee when I was chairman, and served also as my assistant on the Defense Appropriations Committee.
So in the past year, I've traveled around the NASA area considerably. When we heard that he was going to step down, I've got to say that everywhere I went, people told me I should look you up and make certain that you were interested and would take the position if we could convince the president to appoint you. So we welcome your appointment.
I'll say to the members of the committee, we've just checked with the floor, and if the members will agree and meet with us off the floor after the first vote, we will take the emergency action of reporting Dr. Griffin's nomination right away, because of the time frame that we've heard exists and the time for getting Dr. Griffin his credentials in order to proceed with the difficult job that he has. May I ask, Mr. Boardman, if you'd make your opening statement. Then we'll ask questions - let each member ask questions of each one of you as we go through the committee.
[BOARDMAN COMMENTS OMITTED]
Sen. Stevens I'm informed that we're now on the defense supplemental and Senator Inouye and I may be called. We'll continue the hearing though. If we do, I hope others will stay here. We have not been called yet.
Let me ask a couple of questions right now. Dr. Griffin, NASA currently takes a series of photographs from space to deal with the training of pilots, particularly in order to get through some of the mountain passes in our state. Until recently, one out of 11 pilots in Alaska died in plane crashes, and we have established what we call the Five Star Medallion Safety Program. We'd like to have you come up and take a look at that and see what you might do to further the goal of reducing that death rate. Are you willing to come up to do that?
Dr. Griffin : Sir, as a general aviation flight instructor and pilot, if confirmed, I would absolutely love the opportunity to come up and see that.
Sen. Stevens Thank you very much.
[BOARDMAN COMMENTS OMITTED]
Sen. Stevens Well, I'd like to accelerate your confirmation, too, but I don't think we have the ability to do so because we can only do this on an emergency basis. Senator Nelson?
Sen. Nelson : Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, in the interest of time I'm going to be brief, because our nominee for NASA is obviously the right person at the right time of leadership. I'm going to submit, with your permission, a number of detailed questions that I would like to have for the record. As Dr. Griffin leads this agency out of the wilderness - it has been wandering in the wilderness for a period of years and it needs the strong leadership that I think that he is going to offer.
I want to, if I may, just take a couple of moments here to have you state for the record what we have already talked about in private - which I find your views compelling - on such as using your ability in your new position to enable NASA to improve its decision-making process on, example, accepting certain risk before we return to flight. Would you comment for the record on that?
Dr. Griffin : Yes, sir. Obviously if confirmed, the very first issue on the plate, superseding all others, is to look into the return to flight work which has gone on in the last more than two years since we lost Columbia, to understand it, to understand who has done it, what has been done, to understand what the areas of concern still are.
I've been in the unfortunate position of having chaired accident boards -fortunately that did not involve people. But when a lot of money is at stake, one equally well takes such things seriously. And I'm very aware that accident boards make recommendations that seem good to them at the time but which may not in all cases be capable of implementation.
We will, of course, face that same thing with the return to flight. And in fact, those who pay attention to the space media note that there is a certain amount of contentiousness ongoing right now as to exactly what state of completion our shuttle return to flight exercise can reach before we decide to go and accept the risk remaining.
So nothing will be more important to me than looking into all that. And also, as the Columbia accident investigation board so early elucidated, one of the things we want to make sure is that we hear from all parties, that there is no information that needs to reach the top that fails to reach the top, and that will be a huge priority.
Sen. Nelson : And I confirm your concern as a leader - that I have often felt that the last two tragedies that we've had in NASA - first Challenger and then Columbia, although destruction for different technical reasons - really, it was a common theme, and that is that the top-level management was not listening to the engineers on the line. And that was, in fact, the case with Challenger in '86 and again with Columbia. So I thank you for that. Share with the committee your concern about the potential hiatus, where we would be without an American vehicle for human access to space, perhaps in a situation for years relying upon the Russians, and where geopolitics would take us in those years - that suddenly Russia might not be a reliable person, a reliable partner for access to space - for human access to space. Share your thoughts about that hiatus between the schedule of 2010 shutting down the shuttle and several years later, possibly before we would have the crew exploration vehicle ready to go.
Dr. Griffin : Thank you, Senator. As a matter of fact, my second priority, if confirmed, would be to address exactly the gap to which you refer, because I think this is an area that means a lot to me.
As a matter of what it takes to be a great nation in the 21st century, I do not believe that we would wish to see a situation where the United States is dependent upon any partner, reliable or unreliable, at any time for human access to space, or for that matter, any access to space. We need our own capabilities.
Two nations have now put people into space since the United States has last done so. I don't like that. The program that NASA has outlined so far features a new crew exploration vehicle - we can call it what we will - and it nominally comes online in 2014. I think that's too far out. President Bush said not later than 2014. He didn't say we couldn't be smart and do it early. And that would be my goal.
I would call the committee's attention to the fact that when the United States developed its Gemini spacecraft, it did so from contract award to first flight in a period of something like 38 to 39 months, a little over three years. Even the Apollo spacecraft, a much more challenging development, whose development was, in fact, interrupted by a fatal fire that killed three astronauts - even the Apollo spacecraft was brought from contract award to fruition in no more than six years.
It seems unacceptable to me that it should take from 2005 to 2014 to do the same thing when we already know how.
Sen. Nelson : Mr. Chairman, I would only ask at some point in the nominee's testimony if he might share his vision for the future of NASA, because I think we will hear a refreshing statement.
Sen. Stevens Thank you very much. It's my understanding the senator's questions, as submitted for the record, would not be intended to hold up the confirmation process?
Sen. Nelson : Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Sen. Stevens Senator Hutchison?
Sen. Hutchison Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I have been trying to work on the priorities of the subcommittee. And one of the priorities was the question that was just asked by Senator Nelson. It has, as I have discussed with Dr. Griffin, been of great concern to me that we would have a five-year hiatus on the books in which we would be able to put our own people in space. And I appreciate that that is also a concern of yours. I think it is, in addition to a potential problem in stopping the science that's done at the shuttle - I mean at the space station - I think it's a security issue for our country when we are seeing, as you pointed out, other countries going into space. So I will be looking - and we will be holding hearings. And certainly when I'm able to hold our subcommittee hearings, I will have you back and we'll be able to discuss these things more fully. But of the priorities that I have as to return to flight, the five-year hiatus is the biggest.
We have a commitment to international partners in the space station. You said something in your opening statement - that you support the space station, but we have to make sure that putting people in space is for a mission worthy of the risk.
And I agree with you, of course, that going to Mars should be the next vision. But I want to make sure that we also the commitment to our international partners to finish the space station, and that we look for the ways to enhance the science so that it is worthy of the efforts that we are making, both in the medical research which we're now doing, and potentially with geophysical research, from what we might get on the moon and then maybe into the long-term future, Mars. And I just wanted to ask you if you are committed to finishing the space station, and if you have other ideas about the kinds of science that we can do that would be worthy of the risk of manned space flight.
Dr. Griffin : Yes, Senator. Let me assure your first that your priority to - as I just said in response to Senator Nelson's question - your priority to reduce any gap in access to space by our nation after the shuttle retirement is also my priority. We are of like mind. It reminds to find ways and means, but we are of like mind on that.
With regard to the space station - yes, the president is pledged and I, as his nominee am pledged, if confirmed, to bring the space station to a level of completion consistent with our obligations to our international partners. The faith and credence of the United States in meeting its obligations means something to me. It means quite a lot to me.
We have undergone a trauma in our space program, as you know all too well, and we are still recovering to that. And there has been damage to the program and there have been delays to the program. But we are committed to meeting our obligations to our partners.
With regard to the science that can be done on the station, as I know that you're aware, it consists, of course, first and foremost, life science research in connection with the affect of zero gravity on the human body in preparation for longer voyages. It also serves or can serve as a test bed for engineering development hardware before that hardware is subjected to long journeys far from home. It can possibly serve, as you indicated, an observation or other type of scientific platform. The utilization of it remains yet to be fully fleshed out. But certainly having built it, it would be my commitment to use it for whatever makes sense to use.
Sen. Hutchison So you can foresee that there could be equipment testing, as perhaps we go back and forth to the moon, it could also eventually help us in knowing what it would take to go to Mars?
Dr. Griffin : I've often thought that the most valuable application of any space station would be simply a place to check out hardware that is in nascent stages of development not fully understood. It provides a lot more opportunity for interaction with that hardware than aerospace engineers usually get. Most of the time we design it, we build it, we launch it, and we hope we did it right.
[BOARDMAN COMMENTS OMITTED]
Sen. Stevens We will meet in the President's Room right after the next break or at 2:15 today, whichever occurs first. I now recognize Senator Pryor.
Sen. Pryor : Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My time is short here so, Mr. Griffin, I'd like to focus some questions - with you, first. Something that's been in the news recently is the Hubble telescope. And I'm hearing, I guess, conflicting reports - or maybe I don't understand exactly what's going on. I think that some are saying we should pretty much abandon it and let it die, and others are saying, no, we can send up some sort of robotic spacecraft and get it reworked for a longer life. Tell me the status of that, and tell me the value of the Hubble telescope if you can.
Dr. Griffin : Let me comment on the second issue first - the value of the Hubble. I guess the shortest way in which I could express it is that the Hubble, almost by itself, is the instrument which allowed us as a race of people, but our scientists in particular, to understand that it is quite literally true that we know nothing about 95 percent of the known universe. Seventy-five percent of it is dark energy, 20 percent of it is so-called dark matter, and the remaining 5 percent is what we can see. That is an understanding so profound as to rival with Einstein's development of theories of relativity and so forth. So it has been an extraordinarily valuable instrument.
Sen. Pryor : And is it your opinion that it would have value in the future?
Dr. Griffin : If it were working right, of course it would continue to have value in the future, yes, sir. The issue remains as to what we do, to answer now your first question second, sir - the ability to deal with it. A robotic mission has been studied. Actually, until I was nominated by the president to be his choice for administrator, I was the independent chair of the robotic servicing mission design review committee.
As you know, and as was in the news very recently, that committee now, without me as its head - that committee has concluded that the robotic servicing mission is not feasible within reasonable amounts for reasonable amounts of money and within the time we have available before the Hubble wears out, if you will.
So I would like to take the robotic mission off the plate. I believe that is a correct assessment. And so I believe that the choice comes down to reinstating a shuttle servicing mission or possibly a very simple robotic de-orbiting mission. The decision not to execute the planned shuttle servicing mission was made in the immediate aftermath of the loss of Columbia. When we return to flight, it will be with essentially a new vehicle, which will have a new risk analysis associated with it and so on and so forth. At that time, I think we should reassess the earlier decision, and in light of what we learn after we return to flight - in light of what we learn after we return to flight, we should revisit the earlier decision.
Sen. Pryor : OK.
Dr. Griffin : Did I answer responsively on that? I was rather long- winded and I'm sorry.
Sen. Pryor : That was good. Now let me ask you about NASA as an agency. I know there's been some financial management issues there. In fact, as I understand it, NASA's auditors have not been able to conduct an audit for three of the last four years, and there may not be a clean audit in FY '05. Is that your understanding?
Dr. Griffin : Yes, sir, that is my understanding.
Sen. Pryor : And what's the cause of that, and why is that happening in this agency? And understandably, Congress has a lot of concerns about that. And, you know, frankly you need to get your fiscal house in order, but tell me the cause of that and what you plan on doing to fix it.
Dr. Griffin : Sir, I in no way have the appropriate knowledge at this time to comment on the cause, so I will have to - and if confirmed, I absolutely look forward to getting back to you to explain what we have found when we know. But right now I don't know.
Sen. Pryor : I think that's got to be one of your top priorities, though.
Dr. Griffin : It is. It absolutely is. I have, as was pointed out in my introduction, I have been at NASA. I have been a contractor to NASA. When I was in the Defense Department, I have been a customer for NASA. Since I have been a contractor, I've been held to demanding accounting standards for how we spent our money, and as should be the case. It is not acceptable to NASA to do less well in accounting for its expenditures to the Congress.
I am given to understand that there is an excellent CFO in charge at NASA. I just met her this morning. I'm also given to understand that it may well be true that she has not received all of the resources necessary to accomplish her job. I plan to meet with her, literally on my first day, and understand what she needs to accomplish her task and to see to it that she can do. It is unacceptable that we cannot pass an impartial audit and account to you for how we've expended our funds.
Sen. Pryor : Yeah, I agree with that, and I'm glad you're going to make that such a high priority. And the last question I wanted to ask is not so much about space flight or even agency, but science and education. And you have the EPSCOR program. Are you familiar with EPSCOR?
Dr. Griffin : I am not, sir.
Sen. Pryor : Experimental program to stimulate competitive research.
Dr. Griffin : I am not familiar with it, I am sorry to say.
Sen. Pryor : I'll tell you what. I'll just write out a question for you for the record - and not to hold up your confirmation, but I would like your thoughts on that. Thank you.
Dr. Griffin : I would welcome the opportunity
Sen. Allen : Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to focus my comments to you, Dr. Griffin, and it has to do with the NASA budget. I intend to support you. But let me tell you, every time you come before this committee, I'm going to be concerned about aeronautics. I'm a competitive person, and I think everyone in this committee, whether they're from Alaska or from Virginia or from Texas or from anywhere else, is concerned about the aeronautics funding, and air travel affects us all.
One of the great strengths in the 20th century of America and its leadership was in aeronautics. We have fallen behind.
For the first time ever, from going from 90 percent of the commercial aviation market in the 1940s, we, for the first time, have come in second, last year, down to 45 percent of sales. I look at the funding for the aeronautics aspect of NASA in the previous administration - research and development was cut in half.
This current administration and this proposed budget proposes another cut in half, which is forcing some of our research centers to lay off very capable, uniquely skilled individuals who are not readily found in the market.
Moreover, there is a concern about young people in engineering, particularly aeronautical engineering. And I don't know what - this certainly doesn't send a positive message if we care to be a leader, which I think is important for our security and for prosperity in this country, with further cuts in research and development.
When one looks at all the developments and the improvements in aviation over the years, many of those, whether civilian or for military aircraft, came from the R D, the high-risk research that was done at our research centers - NASA research centers around the country.
Now, I understand that you've yet to be confirmed as administrator, but I would like for you to explain to me and to our committee the rationale behind the dramatic cuts in the space - excuse me - in the new vehicles systems program, which is conducting research on the feasibility of hypersonic flight - hypersonic flight is that of the speed above mach 5 - but also researching on the development of zero emissions aircraft.
Could you share with me and our committee the rationale for these further drastic cuts in aeronautics, and moreover, why the cuts in the new vehicles systems?
Dr. Griffin : Senator Allen, I can't share that rationale with you because I don't know it. If confirmed, I will take it as an action to study that, those issues, and to get back to you to work with you and your staff in explaining our rationale. But as of today I don't have it.
I share your view as to the cruciality of aeronautics research. And like you, I am a competitive person and also find it more than somewhat worrisome that last year we were below 50 percent of the market share, having once had 90 percent. We also have a statement on the record in the European Union that the goal of Airbus is to dominate the world market in air transport.
I think that the United States should be worried about that, and I am. But with respect to your question today, with what I know at this moment, I can't answer.
Sen. Allen : Well, in the event that we're going to address the concerted plan, which they are effectuating in Europe, to dominate by the year 2020 - and they are investing a great deal, billions of dollars in research and development, and they are producing quality aircraft - do you see cutting research and development for new vehicle systems and aeronautics as a way of addressing that competitive challenge that we're facing, which is important, again, for our military, for civilian aircraft, and it actually is also good for our balance of trade? And most of our balance of trade's not very good these days.
So do you see cutting research and development by half again so it's about one fourth of what it was 10 years ago? Do you see that as a logical, rational way of handling this or addressing it?
Dr. Griffin : Well, sir, as I don't have to explain to you, I'm the president's nominee, and I support the president's program. However, the president understands that the determination of the budget in the final analysis is an iterative process. And I look forward to working with you and your staff on those iterations to arrive at an approach which is acceptable to all parties.
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