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NASA Excerpts from Senate Report 109-088: Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2006

Status Report From: Senate Appropriations Committee
Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005

Senate Report 109-088 - DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE AND JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2006

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION

Appropriations, 2005 $16,070,400,000
Supplemental appropriations, 2005 126,000,000
Budget estimate, 2006 16,456,400,000
House allowance 16,471,050,000
Committee recommendation 16,396,400,000

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $16,396,400,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]. The recommendation is $326,000,000 above the fiscal year 2005 funding level, excluding emergency supplemental appropriations, and $60,000,000 below the budget request.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-568) to conduct space and aeronautical research, development, and flight activities for peaceful purposes designed to maintain U.S. preeminence in aeronautics and space. NASA's unique mission of exploration, discovery, and innovation is intended to preserve the United States' role as both a leader in world aviation and as the pre-eminent space-faring nation. It is NASA's mission to: advance human exploration, use, and development of space; advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the Solar System and the Universe; and research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies.

The President has announced a vision to return man to the Moon and eventually to Mars. This vision has provided an overall direction and focus for NASA. NASA has had over 18 months to formulate its plans and to begin implementation of this initiative. The Committee hopes that current work by NASA will come to fruition soon, and that the details of how to pursue the exploration vision will begin to take shape. The Committee is supportive of the vision, but also has reservations about fully moving forward to implement this ambitious undertaking without comprehensive authorization legislation.

The Committee has modified the internal programs within the account structure as proposed in the budget request. The Committee has transferred the appropriate activities to reflect the two accounts of Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration and Exploration Capabilities. The account of the Office of the Inspector General will remain unchanged. These account revisions are being made to accommodate NASA's exploration vision. NASA has made substantial changes to its account structure each year and this has made it difficult to do year-to-year comparisons for funding. The Committee expects NASA to make no changes to the themes within each account or to the programs within each theme in its fiscal year 2007 budget request.

The Committee is extremely disappointed in the lack of detail provided in the fiscal year 2006 congressional budget justification document. Budget justifications are critical to the Committee's ability to make informed decisions concerning the administration's funding and must be submitted in a format with the greatest level of detail possible. In order for the budget justifications to be of value to the Committee, NASA is to present the fiscal year 2007 budget justification with detailed information on the prior year, current year, requested funding levels, and funding levels for the subsequent 4 fiscal years for each program, project, or activity funded within each division and directorate in each account, and provide detailed information on all proposed changes being requested. NASA is directed to submit to the Committee, not later than October 15, 2005, a template for its fiscal year 2007 budget justification document that complies with this direction.

The Committee understands that NASA is undertaking several extensive studies to define the activities and schedule necessary for accomplishing the initial stages of the exploration vision. The Committee commends NASA for the work being done, but notes that the results may not come in time for consideration during the deliberations of fiscal year 2006 appropriations. The Committee is open to considering funding adjustments as details are provided to the Committee.

In past years, NASA has chosen to make major programmatic decisions through the operating plan process. While such changes are allowed, it is not the view of the Committee that this should be a regular occurrence. Instead, such changes should be for minor adjustments as they arise and only in exceptional circumstances should comprehensive changes be made. Such changes disrupt the planning of ongoing activities and create unplanned workforce management difficulties.

NASA's new vision maps out an aggressive role for the United States in both manned and unmanned space exploration. However, the potential out-year costs are substantial and will likely be very difficult to sustain at the estimated levels. In addition, there must be a commitment by NASA to those activities that are already underway. The Shuttle program and the construction of the International Space Station [ISS] continue to be the primary focus of the Nation's manned space flight activities. Nevertheless, a replacement for the Space Shuttle's manned and heavy lift capabilities must be considered as part of any plan for continued human access to space.

NASA now must lay the groundwork for the successful implementation of the proposed vision. The Committee expects NASA to take steps toward implementing the vision in fiscal year 2006 and to provide year-by-year budgetary and developmental goals related to the vision for the next 5 years, along with 10-year summary budget totals, in the fiscal year 2007 request.

The Committee is concerned that NASA will neglect areas that will only tangentially benefit from, or that do not fit within, the proposed vision. Within the fiscal year 2006 budget request, programs and infrastructure are proposed to be deferred or cancelled in such areas. These programs appear to be the sacrifices for the near-term budgetary resources needed to facilitate the implementation of the Moon/Mars vision.

The new National space policy to proceed with human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond has profound implications for all of the science conducted by NASA. While the Committee applauds those goals, it is concerned that the strong, balanced science program that has served the Nation so successfully for many years could be left behind instead of being nurtured and sustained. That science program has been based on a set of carefully crafted scientific strategies that are founded on scientific and technical merit, relevance to overall national needs, and broad consultation with the scientific community. NASA is encouraged to look for ways to maintain a balance with the productive science NASA is known for and currently has underway, while taking the steps to fulfill the exploration vision.

Finally, for fiscal year 2006 and each year thereafter, the Committee directs NASA to include the out-year budget impacts in all reprogramming requests. Future operating plans and all resubmissions also shall include a separate accounting of all program/mission reserves and impacts on estimated carry over funds.

SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS, AND EXPLORATION

(INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)

Appropriations, 2005 $7,680,610,000
Supplemental appropriations, 2005 126,000,000
Budget estimate, 2006 9,661,000,000
House allowance 9,725,750,000
Committee recommendation 9,761,000,000

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $9,761,000,000 for the Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration account. The recommendation is $35,250,000 above the fiscal year 2005 funding level and $100,000,000 above the budget request.

NASA's Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration [SAE] account provides funding for the Science, Exploration Systems, and Aeronautics Research Mission Directorates and Education Programs. The SAE appropriation includes both the direct and the indirect costs of supporting the Mission Directorates and Education Program, and provides for: research; development; operations; salaries and related expenses; design, repair, rehabilitation, and modification of facilities and construction of new facilities; maintenance and operation of facilities; and other general and administrative activities supporting SAE programs.

Within this account, the Committee directs NASA not to charge any administrative expenses to congressionally-directed spending on specific projects. These costs should be absorbed within the funding provided in this account. The Committee has provided $50,000,000 within this account for initiatives terminated in the fiscal year 2006 budget request.

A servicing mission to the Hubble Telescope is a National priority. The National Academy of Sciences affirmed this view in its report to the Agency late last year. The NASA Administrator has echoed this view and announced a formal internal study to determine the feasibility of a shuttle based SM-4 mission once the shuttle fleet is safely returned to flight. The Committee reiterates its strong support for an appropriate servicing mission to Hubble to ensure the continued operation of the telescope into the next decade. Therefore, in preparation for a potential shuttle based servicing mission, the Committee recommends an increase of $250,000,000 above the budget request for an SM-4 mission to be completed by the end of 2008, pending a final decision by the NASA Administrator.

The Committee recognizes the potential for fulfilling some future planetary exploration, mapping, positioning, and communications requirements at greatly reduced cost through microsatellites. Of the funds recommended for Exploration Systems, $20,000,000 shall be used for the evaluation of alternative small spacecraft technologies with the potential for dramatically lowering planetary exploration costs. These funds shall be applied to developing low cost payload and satellite bus technology in a pathfinder mission demonstrating high impact exploration technologies. NASA shall work with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other Federal agencies in sharing data collected from this pathfinder mission in order to evaluate small spacecraft technology's potential for fulfilling multi-agency applications.

The Committee supports the independent review of the Discovery 11 selection process and expects a favorable decision in order to proceed with a Discovery 11 new start. The Committee is concerned about potentially escalating costs associated with future Discovery missions. Therefore, for all future Discovery missions following Discovery 11, the Committee caps the Discovery program at not more than $350,000,000 per mission. Further, the Committee expects NASA to proceed as well with the Discovery 12 announcement of opportunity as quickly as the Discovery 11 selection is resolved. This is to ensure that proceeding with Discovery 11 does not jeopardize Discovery 12's funding.

The Committee recommends the requested level of $234,000,000 for the Living With A Star [LWS] program. This program is one of NASA's most important space science programs. The Committee expects NASA to issue an announcement of opportunity for the Geospace Radiation Belt Storm Probe no later than July 29, 2005. In addition, the Committee directs NASA to develop a plan to guarantee launch of this Geospace mission and the Solar Dynamic Observatory [SDO] as close to 1 year of each other as possible, with the Solar Sentinels to follow thereafter within a reasonable timeframe. The Committee remains concerned about SDO's cost growth over time and expects NASA to take steps to manage it so as not to adversely impact the future launch schedules of Geospace and the Solar Sentinels.

The Committee recommends $78,800,000 for NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program, the same as the budget request. Funds provided herein should support an early 2006 launch of Solar Stereo as well as robust funding to commence phase C/D work for the magnetospheric multiscale [MMS] mission, with the expectation that MMS will have a funding profile to launch no later than 2011.

Earth science has been a critical part of the balanced space program long advocated by this Committee. The Committee remains fully committed to a robust Earth science program at NASA notwithstanding the recent headquarters reorganization plan. The Committee expects NASA to remain fully committed to Earth science, with future missions that reflect a serious commitment to Earth science as a vital part of the Nation's space program. The Committee further recommends $102,837,000 within this account to supplement activities within the areas of earth science and exploration.

The recommendation includes an increase of $15,000,000 above the budget request for the NASA Earth Science Applications Program. This funding increase will be used to support competitively-selected applications projects. These projects will integrate the results of NASA's earth observing systems and earth system models (using observations and predictions) into decision support tools to serve applications of national priority including, but not limited to: Homeland Security; Coastal Management; Agriculture Efficiency; and Water Management and Disaster Management.

The Committee is encouraged by the efforts of the National Academy of Sciences to devise an earth science decadal survey, as has already been done for the other science disciplines funded by NASA. The Committee expects NASA to have an implementation plan, with new start funding attached, to initiate the highest priority missions from the decadal survey in fiscal year 2007. In addition, the Committee fully expects this implementation profile to have a continuous mixture of small-, medium-, and observatory-class earth science missions that guarantee regular and recurring flight opportunities for the earth science community.

In addition, the Committee notes the continued success of the earth observing data information system [EOSDIS] and the EOSDIS core system [ECS] which has successfully handled record amounts of data for storage and distribution to the scientific community for the EOS mission series. The Committee directs NASA to ensure that the EOSDIS and the ECS remain the operational foundation of the evolutionary ground system to implement all of the new missions funded as a result of the earth science decadal survey.

The Committee notes that over the past several years the technological maturity of U.S. manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] has increased substantially. The Committee believes UAVs could offer NASA a potentially low cost alternative to traditional earth science research missions, thereby opening up new opportunities for research that do not currently exist. In addition, the use of UAVs offers similar opportunities for NOAA to utilize new, low cost technology that could improve weather and severe storm prediction capabilities. Therefore, the Committee directs the NASA Administrator, in consultation with NOAA, to report to the Committee on the potential use of UAVs to operate in the near space environment for a variety of science and operational missions, including weather prediction, climate change, global-scale vertical resolution and profiling, atmosphere-ocean-land exchange processes, land surface and ecosystem monitoring, storm tracking, coastal zone imaging and sampling, range safety patrol, launch vehicle tracking and telemetry relay, satellite verification, and ground truth measurements. The report shall be completed no later than March 17, 2006.

The Committee recommends the budget request of $30,900,000 for continued operation of the Independent Verification and Validation [IV&V] Center in Fairmont, WV.

The Committee is concerned with the steady decline in the aeronautics research and technology request. Even more alarming, NASA's budget projections indicate that this trend will continue. Further, the United States faces major foreign competition in the commercial aviation arena. The Committee is committed to the research NASA conducts in aeronautics, and to the benefits, both in terms of safety and economics, that will be made available to the public through NASA-led research.

With U.S. competitiveness under pressure from other countries, it is imperative that NASA honor its historical role in civil and military aeronautics research. The Committee is troubled by the budget request's proposed dismantlement of the Vehicle Systems Program by concentrating its resources on a narrow set of flight demonstrations that have not been the subject of any peer review, whereas the seven major projects of the existing VSP were found by the National Academy to be of good quality a little over 2 years ago. For this reason, NASA is directed to halt any transition to the proposed `four flight project' architecture for the VSP, and instead shall maintain the existing program structure in place, along with its people and facilities. While the Committee supports the establishment of a new national aeronautics policy, any such policy must be guided by the data provided in the recently completed National Institute of Aerospace [NIA] report, `Responding to the Call: Aviation Plan for American Leadership'. Any prospective new policy must be driven by scientific merit and industrial need and baseline data for such a policy, and the funding profile flowing from it, should be taken from the NIA report rather than some new collection effort or study.

Based on the success of the X-43 program, the Committee recommends $25,000,000 to continue the research being conducted on hypersonic engine technologies. The Committee also continues to encourage joint NASA and Air Force cooperation and collaboration in advancement of aeronautics technologies in the National interest.

NASA has a long history of supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematical education. This support reaches all levels of education from K-12 to graduate level. For NASA to embark on its vision for exploration there must exist a general workforce that is technically skilled as well as a wide range of scientists and engineers for NASA to draw upon. This will require exciting young minds in the areas of science, and then sustaining this excitement through college and beyond. To help accomplish this task, NASA has dedicated funds toward many education activities. Within the education programs provided for within this account, the Committee recommends $12,000,000 for the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR], $29,550,000 for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant), and $54,233,000 for other education-related activities. The Committee also encourages NASA to continue its cooperative educational programs with the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium in New York. The Committee directs, to the extent possible, that education funds within this account address the education needs of women, minorities, and other historically underrepresented groups.

The Committee is prepared to commit funds to the Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV], but is concerned that the current plans for accelerating the schedule for the CEV could have a dramatic impact in the funding profile of the program. NASA is encouraged to find ways to mitigate the impacts of such a change in fiscal year 2006 funding for the CEV if this becomes necessary.

As NASA begins to consider another manned vehicle program, it must not repeat the mistakes of the Space Station, where poor management and lack of independent oversight resulted in major cost overruns. At this early stage in the development of the CEV, it is essential that these mistakes not happen again.

The Committee acknowledges the desire of NASA to attempt to replicate the efforts of the X-Prize in the proposed Centennial Challenges program. The Committee is concerned that NASA is asking for a lump sum of funds for the Centennial Challenges program and only then will NASA identify the challenges and assign prize levels for completion. In future budget justifications, NASA shall identify the challenges being proposed for prize funding, and the specific amounts to be awarded for each challenge. No funding is recommended for this program. The Committee notes that unexpended balances for this program remain from last year. These balances should be applied to the Centennial Challenges program for fiscal year 2006. Finally, the Committee reiterates that no funds shall be expended for this program until it is authorized.

In accordance with the President's stated expectation of exploration furthering not only U.S. scientific leadership but also our security and economic interests, the Committee directs that the funding for the Research Partnership Centers and the University Research Engineering and Technology Institutes be funded at the same level in fiscal year 2006 as they were in fiscal year 2005. The Committee further directs NASA to provide, as a part of the fiscal year 2007 budget submission, a fully developed plan for developing and funding sustained viable university/industry partnerships in areas of technology that are critical to the success of the Exploration Vision.

The Committee notes that future launch vehicles and spacecraft will require extensive use of advanced materials beyond anything currently in use. Further developments in fracture control/failure analysis, composites, structural design and testing, and advanced manufacturing are absolutely critical to the future missions of the exploration vision. Developing a fundamental understanding of the extended use of composites in the design of new vehicles and spacecraft will also be critical to the development of any new structural systems. Equally important to NASA's future usage of these materials will be the ability to utilize or develop inspection techniques which are consistent in detection capability with the requirements for variability reduction. For these purposes, the Committee provides an increase of $30,000,000 to the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing for research to extend the use of advanced components and materials in the design of new vehicles and spacecraft.

The Committee notes that numerous components have been developed for use in the International Space Station [ISS] Environmental Control and Life Support System [ECLSS]. Although these components have performed admirably for short-duration subsystem tests, there is little long-range operational data available. It is important to know how long a subsystem is anticipated to perform or the problems that can be expected should subsystem components fail. Such information will be vital for future lunar habitation modules as part of the exploration vision. The Committee therefore recommends $10,000,000 for research and development for integrated radiation shielding protection, regenerative environmental control and life support systems, advanced life support air revitalization, and integrated vehicle health management through the ECLSS Life Test program office.

Within the funds provided, the Committee recommends $20,000,000 for the Propulsion Research Laboratory to perform nuclear thermal propulsion systems development and for other advanced nuclear power propulsion research for application to the exploration vision through the Prometheus Nuclear Systems and Technology program.

Finally, the Committee recognizes the National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center's role as a resource to multiple agencies, providing legal research and outreach on critical space and aviation law issues. The Committee recognizes a growing need for objective and timely space and aviation law support in areas that include deployment and operation of satellites, commercial infrastructure, data policies, intellectual property, privacy, liability, international law, use of imagery as legal evidence, environmental issues, and licensing. As public and private entities continue to expand their presence in space, this research will increase in importance. The Committee therefore directs the NASA to report to the Committee by March 1, 2006, on the need for continued and expanded research into these areas. This report should include guidance on the expansion of the National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center.

EXPLORATION CAPABILITIES

Appropriations, 2005 $8,358,443,000
Budget estimate, 2006 6,763,000,000
House allowance 6,712,900,000
Committee recommendation 6,603,000,000

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $6,603,000,000. The recommendation is $1,755,443,000 below the fiscal year 2005 funding level and $160,000,000 below the President's request for these activities.

NASA's Exploration Capabilities [EC] account provides funding for the Space Operations Mission Directorate. The Space Operations Mission Directorate includes International Space Station [ISS], Space Shuttle Program, and Space and Flight Support. The Committee notes that NASA has chosen to fund certain activities under Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration that were previously funded under this account. As a result, funding in the EC account has been significantly reduced.

The EC appropriation includes both the direct and the indirect costs supporting the Space Operations Mission Directorate, and provides for all of the research; development; operations; salaries and related expenses; design, repair, rehabilitation, and modification of facilities and construction of new facilities; maintenance, and operation of facilities; and other general and administrative activities supporting the EC programs.

There is no higher priority than improving the safety and reliability of the remaining Shuttle orbiters. The Shuttle remains the cornerstone of our Nation's heavy launch capability and is critical to the future of the ISS and scientific research. The future of the ISS, and other U.S. manned space flight missions for the rest of the decade are contingent upon having a working Shuttle fleet that is safe and reliable throughout the remaining years of the shuttle program. The Committee is concerned that as the Shuttle and the Shuttle infrastructure continue to age, further challenges in operating the fleet may arise.

The Committee recommends $4,530,600,000 for the Shuttle. This is identical to the budget request. The funds provided within this account are dedicated solely to shuttle funding needs.

The Committee reminds NASA that it must request a reprogramming, in writing, to move or alter the purpose of any funds related to the shuttle program, and that NASA must include the out-year impacts on all activities involved in such reprogramming.

Finally, the Committee expects consultation by NASA on all proposed changes to investments in the Shuttle program. These consultations must occur before final decisions are made.

The Committee notes that the ISS continues to operate at a reduced level with future construction not expected to begin until later this year, at the earliest. Despite the ability of international partners to fill the gap created by the grounding of the shuttle fleet, the capabilities of the ISS have been dramatically diminished.

As construction of the ISS resumes, revised plans for the future of the ISS must also be set. If there is to be a redirection of the research to be conducted onboard the ISS, any revision shall be done in consultation with the ISS partners. These partners will be affected by such actions, and their participation to this point has been crucial. If NASA intends to have international partners for future space exploration, then NASA should be sure not to exclude its current partners in making decisions involving the research direction and construction schedule of the ISS.

NASA is reminded that it must provide the Committee with a plan detailing the steps necessary to complete construction of the ISS. This plan may include completion of the ISS by only using the shuttle, or a combination of shuttle and unmanned flights for delivering components to the ISS. The cost implications associated with the revised schedule must be included in the report.

The recommendation does not include the requested amount for crew and cargo services. The Committee notes that the total amount appropriated for fiscal year 2005, $98,000,000, has not been expended and will be carried over in its entirety into fiscal year 2006. This funding is sufficient for any initial activity that might be initiated for this activity in fiscal year 2006.

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriations, 2005 $31,347,000
Budget estimate, 2006 32,400,000
House allowance 32,400,000
Committee recommendation 32,400,000

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $32,400,000. The recommendation is $1,053,000 above the fiscal year 2005 funding level and identical to the budget request.

The Office of Inspector General [IG] was established by the Inspector General Act of 1978. The Office is responsible for providing agencywide audits and investigative functions to identify and correct management and administrative deficiencies which create conditions for existing or potential instances of fraud, waste, and mismanagement.

The Committee commends the NASA IG's diligence in addressing issues of fraud and abuse.

The Committee also directs the NASA IG to continue its efforts to review NASA's contract procedures and conventions to determine if there are ways to reform the process and reduce the costs of NASA programs and activities. In particular, many NASA contract provisions require NASA to pay for significant cost overruns in cases of program delays. These costs are substantial and, in some cases, may be unwarranted or unnecessary. As a result, implementation of contract reform should be considered a priority as part of any overall restructuring at NASA.

ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS

The Committee recommendation includes a series of provisions, proposed by the administration, which are largely technical in nature, concerning the availability of funds. These provisions have been carried in prior-year appropriations acts.

The Committee has removed the transfer authority that NASA was granted as an extraordinary measure in fiscal year 2005. At the time of enactment of the fiscal year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Public Law 108-447), NASA and the Committee were in the difficult position of having to prepare funding estimates for the Shuttle fleet for return to flight with very preliminary estimates of the costs involved. In order to assure proper funding levels for the Shuttle program, extraordinary flexibility for transfers was allowed by the Committee. Now that the Shuttle program has returned to regular funding patterns, the need for comprehensive transfer authority no longer exists. NASA shall abide by the guidelines provided in section 505 of this Act for future requests to reprogram funds.

The Committee is concerned that NASA has not utilized independent cost verification early in the process of estimating costs for its programs and missions or in assessing the appropriate funding levels of sole-source contracts. By not using this tool, NASA cannot be certain that potential contract costs are accurately represented. In allocating resources for current and future needs, effective cost estimation is crucial. NASA is directed to incorporate independent cost verification as part of the process by which contracts are selected. These shall be used as a guide for assessing when costs have exceeded expectations and to help identify projects for termination.

Finally, NASA shall notify the Committee 15 days prior to allocating funds, modifying, or extending existing contracts that are in excess of 15 percent of the original contract value. Within this notification, the contractor, with the concurrence of NASA, shall justify the additional expenditure of funds, and NASA shall identify the source of any additional funds. It is critical that NASA be able to control costs for its activities. The Committee will not look favorably upon the use of contractors that repeatedly have cost overruns unless these cost overruns have been justified.

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