From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2005
Hearing: "Status of NASA's Programs"
Committee on Science
United States House of Representatives
Hon. Sherwood L. Boehlert [R-New York],
Chairman of the Committee, presiding
HON. MICHAEL D. GRIFFIN, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
10:00 a.m. through 12:00 a.m.
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Rayburn House Office Building
[TRANSCRIPT PREPARED FROM A WEBCAST RECORDING.]
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The hearing will come to order.
I want to welcome Administrator Griffin back to the Committee. After about 6 months on the job, I want to assure you, you are still our hero. You have retained your candor, and you have been remarkably successful at fulfilling the commitments you have made.
Dr. Griffin has put in place a topnotch management team, has put meat on the skeleton of the Vision for Space Exploration, has taken seriously the criticisms of NASA's culture, handled the Shuttle's return to flight responsibly, has proposed tough but needed cuts in several programs, and has demonstrated his commitment to ensuring that NASA has robust programs in aeronautics, space science, and earth science. This is precisely what NASA has needed and just what we had hoped for from Dr. Griffin.
We are I think seeing the dawning renaissance of NASA, inspired by the leadership of Dr. Griffin and his team, but a renaissance costs money, and I don't see any Medicis waiting in the wings to underwrite NASA.
So, while NASA may have relatively smooth sailing right now, we ignore the clouds on the horizon at our own peril. Here is what I mean, and I will be blunt. There is simply not enough money in NASA's budget to carry out all the tasks it is undertaking on the current schedule. That's a fact.
The estimated shortfall between now and fiscal 2010 is probably between 4- and $6 billion, and that is assuming that the current cost estimates for NASA's missions are on the money, which is unlikely even with the most careful cost estimating.
NASA has gotten in trouble repeatedly in the past by making promises that are beyond its financial means to fulfill. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board, among others, have described that folly in excruciating detail. I don't want to see us go down that path again.
Before NASA promises that it can accelerate development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and complete construction of the Space Station and have worthwhile aeronautics and science programs, it ought to be able to demonstrate where the money will come from, and right now it can't.
And let me reiterate as a supporter of the Vision, NASA cannot use aeronautics and science as a piggy bank to fund human space flight, and I know Dr. Griffin shares that view.
The closest I have heard to an answer about these financial facts is, in effect, that we will address this financial shortfall in fiscal 2008, not all that far away, and as far as I can see, the only thing that 2008 has to recommend itself is that it hasn't happened yet.
I don't know why anyone would assume that we are going to be flush with cash in 2008. This wait-til-next-year mantra may be soothing for baseball fans, particularly so to me as a Yankee diehard, but it's a poor motto for budgeting. Yet, we are starting to hear it more and more.
We are hearing it, for example, from officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when we asked how they are going to get their key satellite program back on track, but that's another subject for another hearing.
I want to see NASA succeed. I want to see Dr. Griffin succeed, but we can't premise that success on money that doesn't exist and isn't all that likely to exist, and the time to discuss those hard facts is now.
Congressional debate on NASA is dominated by two factions, neither of whom trouble themselves with this budget problem. The first and larger faction are those who don't care much about NASA and are particularly unimpressed with the Vision.
A smaller but more effective faction thinks NASA as a high enough priority that it should get additional money, no matter how tight the budget is.
I'm in neither camp. I support the Vision, but I think that it can't be allowed to break the bank or into NASA's other programs, and I hope we can get some guidance today about how folks like me, folks in the middle, the swing votes who can determine the outcome of debates, how we can and how we ought to proceed in this budget climate.
It's a good time to have that discussion. As we are beginning negotiations on our NASA authorization bill with our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol and as Congress nears agreement on fiscal 2006 appropriations, these are tough questions, but we've got the right man for the job at the helm at NASA to help us answer them, and that's why I think this hearing is particularly important.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As I listen to your remarks, I am reminded that in the turn of the century, there were brothers that ran for governor of Tennessee, Alf and Bob Taylor, and they called it the "War of the Roses." It really wasn't a war, but one of them wore a red rose and the other wore a yellow rose sort of as their symbol, and during the campaign, they debated across the State, normally staying together at guest inns or hotels wherever, and even to the point at sometimes changing their speeches.
So they would give the speech that the other one gave the night before, and I could have just as well taken your statements today. And I want the audience and our Committee to know that we are very much in sync both in terms of our appreciation for Dr. Griffin's ability as well as for our concerns about the direction of NASA.
So there are divisions, legitimate maybe and not legitimate, in Congress on a variety of issues, but in this Committee, at least from these two folks, there are no divisions on the statement that our chairman has just made. So let that word go out.
Now let me welcome Administrator Griffin to our hearing today, and again, with all the good things we all said about you, I want to point out something that is not so good. I don't think that it is so much your fault, but you ultimately are responsible, and that is that the testimony, your testimony today, was not delivered until 4:53 yesterday afternoon for a 10:00 a.m. hearing.
I know that OMB has to, I guess, clear these things. I want you to know that if this happens again, I will recommend to our chairman that we follow Jim Sensenbrenner's role with NSF sometime back and cancel the hearing. We simply can't do our job if we don't get that information sooner.
It has now been 4 months since Administrator Griffin first appeared before this Committee as the NASA Administrator. Since that time, there has been a lot of changes, both to the NASA programs and to the NASA institution. We need to hear about these changes.
In addition, there were a number of important questions left unanswered at the hearing, and NASA's attempt to answer them have raised additional questions, some of which I hope will be addressed at today's hearing.
When this Committee held a hearing earlier this year on NASA's FY2006 budget request and the President's Exploration Initiative, I said I for one support the President's proposal if it is paid for and is sustainable. I stand by that statement.
However, I am very concerned that this administration may not be willing to pay for the Vision that it presented to the Nation 18 months ago, and I fear that the approach being taken to move the Vision forward over the near term may make it very difficult to sustain the initiative beyond 2008.
The result is that I believe we are no closer to a national consensus on the President's Vision for Space Exploration than we were 18 months ago, and that is unfortunate, but I believe that it is a reality, and why do I say that?
About a month ago, NASA released its plan for carrying out the Exploration Initiative. From a program management standpoint, it seemed to me to be very sensible, It maximized the use of existing technology. It narrowed the focus of the exploration program to achieving the President's goal of putting American astronaut boots back
on the moon by 2020, and it appeared to fit within the administration's proposed exploration budget.
Given the constraints laid down by the administration, it appeared to be the most efficient ways of meeting the President's goal, and I think that Administrator Griffin and his team are to be commended for their efforts. Yet, it leads to the basic question of are we doing the right thing or just doing the thing right; that is, should simply getting to the moon under the administration's timetable be the Nation's goal, or should the goal be to craft a long-term human robotic exploration program that spawns new technologies, engages the best and brightest in our universities, and nurtures the R&D capacities that will be needed to meet the long-term exploration goals as well as carry out NASA's other important missions?
Those are not all the questions, given that NASA is proposing to spend more than $100 billion over the next 15 years to get those astronauts' boots back to the moon and given that the leader of the NASA's exploration system's architecture study recently acknowledged that $100 billion doesn't fund more than a couple of brief visits to the moon.
He also confirmed that the assumption of limiting NASA's exploration budget beyond 2010 to inflationary growth, something the administration cited when he announced the Exploration Vision to demonstrate its supportability, won't get anyone to Mars.
To quote him, "When you try to fit within a wedge like that, you are not going to have a human Mars program if you extend that out. If that is the case, then it puts a premium on NASA having compelling answers to the questions, why do we need to go back to the moon on NASA's proposed schedule and what are we going to do when we get there.
I hope the Administrator Griffin can provide those answers today, but I would caution him that it is likely to face a skeptical audience in the Congress as a whole. That skepticism is likely to increase when the benefits of following NASA's plans are weighed against its cost to NASA's other programs.
For example, why it is certainly commendable the Administrator wants to carry out the Exploration Vision within the budgetary profile that he has been given by OMB,
that profile puts NASA's aeronautics programs on a path of continued significant decline through at least the remainder of the decade, and while this -- why his intent is to not take money from NASA's science programs to support the Exploration Vision, the reality is that NASA's life sciences programs are being gutted as we speak, and non-exploration-related research is being eliminated from the International Space Station program.
In an attempt to reduce the size of the gap between the forced retirement of the Shuttle and the eventual deployment of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the agency is slashing its commitment to a variety of research and technological programs.
Finally, just weeks after NASA announced its goal of essentially completing the International Space Station, it appears that OMB guidelines to NASA is putting the goal in serious jeopardy.
My intent in citing these examples is not to criticize Administrator Griffin. Rather, it is to make clear that only 21 months into the Vision, NASA has already had to make major cuts to the programs and contemplate additional restructuring simply to have the hope of meeting the President's timetable for returning U.S. astronauts to the moon. That does not bode well for the sustainability of the Vision, and it raises the fundamental question, is the Vision for Space Exploration an administration priority or simply a NASA priority.
As you know, just one year after the President announced his Vision for NASA, the White House cut NASA's out-year funding plan by over $2.5 billion. That simply worsened an already-existing mismatch between NASA's programs and its budget.
When the administration put forward its SANCHART [ph] 21 months ago to demonstrate the affordability of the Exploration Vision, it assumed deep reductions in funding required to the Shuttle program in the years prior to the retirement.
The realism of achieving those Shuttle cost reductions are questionable, but OMB and NASA kept them in their budget plan, and what's the result? NASA now has more than a $3-billion budget shortfall in the Shuttle account to deal with over the next several years as a result of OMB's and NASA's desires to construct a budgetary plan that would support the Vision.
In the shortfall, it could have a major impact on NASA's ability to meet its commitments to the International Space Station program, among other things. Is the White House going to find resources to correct for earlier low- balling the Shuttle budgetary requirement? Is the White House going to ensure that the ISS is a facility that truly is an integrated part of the Vision and meets our commitments to our international partners? If not, it will be a telling sign that this administration is distancing itself from its commitment to Exploration Vision and leaving it to NASA to pick up the pieces.
We'll hope that Administrator Griffin will be able to shed some light on these issues today, and again, I welcome him to this hearing.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much.
The chair recognizes the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, and before doing so, I would like to observe that Chairman Calvert has been tireless and has visited the NASA centers. He just never stops, and that is what we expect of the chairman because he succeeded his fellow Californian, Chairman Rohrabacher, who was just as indefatigable and just as energetic.
I say that so that everyone will know this is a team up here, and now it's Chairman Calvert at the helm at the subcommittee that is working day in and day out to ensure that we have the success that we all expect from NASA.
REPRESENTATIVE CALVERT: Well, thank you for that kind introduction, Mr. Chairman, and I hate to do this to you, but I want to remind you that I am an Angels fan, and I am sure you were reminded of that last month. But also I am from the City of Angels originally, and of course, the Angels play in Anaheim, but they call themselves the "Los Angeles Angels," but by that, I am an optimist, and it is great to chair the Space and Aeronautics Committee. So I come at this with a spirit of optimism, and I certainly do that this morning as I welcome Administrator Griffin as I know that he went into this job with a spirit of optimism that this country can and will succeed, and welcome you back to update the Committee on the latest developments at NASA since you appeared before us last June.
You have had a lot on your plate. A lot of things have happened. As you know, last week we were out there at Johnson Space Center and met with you after you had an all-hands meeting, and we are certainly, as you are going to mention I suspect in your testimony, anxious to see the Shuttle return to flight, which hopefully will be in May of '06.
We certainly want the Shuttle to fly when it is safe, and we certainly understand that the hurricane season has undermined the planning to return to flight, but as you know, each month in delay of the Shuttle flight certainly affects NASA's credibility.
I also understand that an old friend of ours, Shana Dale, who has been nominated to be your deputy, has sailed through her first step of the confirmation process. She will be completing her confirmation hearing I understand next week, and even though I know you are a high-energy person, we know that you will be happy to have her on board and part of the team. She is a great addition, and we certainly look forward to working with her certainly since most of us know her and have worked with her in the past.
The Committee is anxious to have you update us on a number of areas that you have changed over the last few months, and I think properly so. Since we met last week, three of the NASA centers suffered through the Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. The agency has come out with its exploration system, architectural studies. NASA just recently sent up a new operations plan as well as a new budget amendment.
Your deputy administrator named by the White House, you have appointed new associate administrators for all your mission directorates under NASA, aeronautics research, exploration systems, space operations, and science. In addition, some of your centers are being reorganized to fit with the new Vision. We are anxious to learn how you will be moving forward on this over the next year or so.
In my capacity as chairman of the Space Aeronautics Committee, I have enjoyed working with you and to move NASA towards what I describe as the "second space age." As you know, the first space age was born of the cold war and was maintained only so long as we were competitive with the Soviet Union.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. space program limped along for three decades lacking vision and leadership. I believe the second space age, we must feature the exploration of the universe, while achieving synergy among our civil, commercial, and national security space programs. With your leadership, we now have the vision and leadership to provide this impetus for the second space age.
Recently, a panel of experts led by retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, issued a report stating what we already know. There has been an erosion of the United States' competitive edge in science, engineering, and mathematics. Increasingly, we are seeing strides in Asia and Europe rival or exceed America's competitive edge in those critical areas of science and innovation.
Last year, according to Fortune magazine, more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher learning in China, 350,000 in India, compared to just 70,000 in the United States.
As you know, Mr. Administrator, the best way to get our students interested in studying these hard subjects is to have exciting things for them to work on.
NASA provides the impetus for future scientists and engineers by giving them exciting projects with which to work and about which to dream. So I look forward to your success because it's not only your success, it's America's success, and quite frankly, I'm an optimist, as I mentioned in the beginning. You know, we will find the resources because this country must succeed, and we must continue I think to do the hard things.
And for that, I look forward to your testimony.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much, Chairman Calvert.
The distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Udall.
REPRESENTATIVE UDALL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Since we're discussing baseball analogies this morning, we were talking about what a great team we are, I do know our goal is, with all due respect to the New York Mets, not to be where one of our colleagues suggested the New York Mets are at this point in time, which is they are in the sixth year of their 4-year plan.
REPRESENTATIVE UDALL: It's important to hear from Dr. Griffin today. So I don't want to belabor many of the points that have been made, but I did want to make it clear that I remain a strong supporter of NASA's exploration program.
I want to echo the concerns, but also the optimism of the three previous Members and their comments, Dr. Griffin, but I think I do share the concerns we all have about the cuts that NASA appears to be making to other vital NASA missions, and I want to just cover a couple of examples that I think are important to discuss this morning.
The first is the situation facing NASA's life science program, and in particular, the Space Station research in general. NASA has decided to eliminate the life sciences centrifuge that it had until now considered a centerpiece of the ISS research program as well as the U.S. commitment to the international partnership, and it appears that NASA is also making deep and perhaps irreversible cuts to NASA's life science program, and NASA has decided that it will no longer support fundamental and other non-exploration-related micro gravity research on the ISS, even though NASA has long justified the Nation's investment in the ISS in part on the basis of the terrestrial benefits to be derived from such research.
Second, despite your best intentions, Dr. Griffin, I am worried that NASA is going to have great difficulty in keeping a vital and robust set of space and earth science missions on track in a tightly constrained NASA budgetary environment. I hope I'm wrong because these science programs as well as the university research activities that they support are in many ways NASA's crown jewels in the eyes of the general public, but I do remain worried.
And then finally, I want to express my concern over the state of NASA's aeronautics program. You've once again changed the management of the program, and I want to wish the new associate administrator well, but it is clear under the administration's current budgetary plan that her task will be to manage a budget that will continue to decline for the rest of the decade, and I know NASA recognizes the importance of rebuilding its fundamental research and technology program in aeronautics. These budgetary constraints that are imposed on the program appear to make that rebuilding come at the cost of significantly shrinking NASA's R&D that I believe is more directly relevant to the needs of the aviation industry.
It doesn't make much sense to me, and I hope that NASA can embrace a more balanced portfolio. In that light, in that spirit, there is a lot more to discuss. Again, welcome, Dr. Griffin. I look forward to the spirit of exchange I'm sure that we will have today and to your remarks.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much, Mr. Udall. Thank all of you for your participation, and I would just point in the record that other Members are invited to submit any statement they wish to make, which will be included and the statement in its entirety.
So that you don't think this is a complete love- in, there are some issues where there is disagreement up here.
I have heard Mr. Gordon's statement and Mr. Udall's statement, and there is one area where there is a difference of opinion. I fully support, Mr. Administrator, your proposed cuts in Space Station research and technology development programs. Those aren't the science programs that I am most worried about. So I think you are right on line with the way in which you are proceeding, and so I want to make sure that is clarified for all.
Let me start by saying -- you know what, I was going to skip you.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Actually, that would be just fine.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: No, it wouldn't be.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: With that, let me welcome the Administrator of NASA, Dr. Griffin.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Thank you, Chairman Boehlert, Ranking Member Gordon, Subcommittee Chair Calvert, Ranking Subcommittee Member Udall for inviting me to appear before you to provide an update on NASA's plans and programs since I appeared last June.
I do respectfully request that all sports analogies from here on out, however, be golf analogies, so that I can understand the metaphor being used.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Without objection, so ordered.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Thank you.
A lot has happened since last June, and I believe that NASA, with your help, has made some steady progress. It has not been easy. The NASA family has suffered setbacks, especially in the aftermath of Katrina. A lot of work needs to be done, and we need this Committee's help in maintaining our progress.
That includes the difficult progress -- difficult yet steady progress we are making in NASA's financial management system, the subject of Chairman Calvert's hearing last week.
Chairman Boehlert, in your letter of invitation, you asked me to provide the Committee with an update on a number of issues. We are working in a dynamic environment. I hope the Committee will understand that we are still in the throws of numerous issues arising from the Shuttle program following our first test flight in the Return to Flight sequence, the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Shuttle program, and the formulation of the '07 budget.
That said, I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.
But first, on behalf of NASA, I do wish to thank the many Members of this committee and Congress as a whole for helping us resolve certain legislation restrictions that were placed on cooperation with Russia that would have prevented crew rescue support for the Station and necessitated U.S. astronauts de-crewing the Space Station.
The administration maintains our Nation's non- proliferation objectives, but does recognize the value of effective cooperation with our Space Station partners. We just recently celebrated our fifth consecutive year of continuous human presence on board the ISS. With your help, we hope to celebrate a sixth.
We are now working with the Senate on this legislation, so that our astronauts can continue to train on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. So, again, thanks to you and to your staff for helping with this problem.
Now to your questions. Since last June when we met, NASA conducted the first of our Return to Flight missions with the Space Shuttle Discovery commanded by Eileen Collins. The flight was safe, but not without surprises. Cameras on board the external tank showed that we still had not completely solved the foam-shedding problem.
We chartered a new and independent Tiger Team to look into this problem. We think we understand what went wrong with our workmanship on the external tank foam and that we will be able to fly our second flight with the Space Shuttle Discovery commanded by Steve Lindsey next May.
Since the last Shuttle flight, NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, both facilities critical to the Space Shuttle program, suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.
NASA is, in fact, forever in debt to the 37 volunteers who stayed behind to ride out the storm at the Michoud facility. The ride-out crew positioned sandbags, reinforced doors, and most importantly operated four diesel generators when municipal power failed in order to protect the facility and the space flight hardware from the storm.
Most importantly, these diesel engines pumped more than a billion gallons of rain water away from the levee to prevent flooding of the 830-acre facility. The 14 inches of rain and 150-mile-per-hour winds, every building on the Michoud facility suffered structural damage, while the surrounding area was completely devastated.
Today, there are almost no businesses or habitable homes within a 10-mile radius of Michoud. Almost three-quarters of our personnel, 1,500 out of 2000 who work there, have returned even though some of them have slept in offices and hallways because they have no homes to which to go.
In addition to Michoud, Stennis Space Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, was the FEMA command center in the region after Hurricane Katrina and provided medical care and food to over 3,000 evacuees. Men and women at Stennis were instrumental to the search-and-rescue as well as recovery operations in the devastated region.
All NASA centers have contributed resources and people to this effort. These efforts are nothing short of heroic. Both facilities are critical to Space Shuttle operations as Michoud manufactures the external tank and Stennis test-fires the engines.
Because of their dedication to human space flight, we are still able to conduct the modifications needed on the external tanks for the next Shuttle mission, and last week, Stennis test-fired a Shuttle main engine in preparation for that flight.
Last week, the administration submitted to Congress a supplemental appropriation for NASA of approximately $325 million to deal with the damage to Michoud and Stennis, and the administration may seek future supplemental appropriations as we continue to deal with the aftermath of Katrina.
But NASA has many other uncertainties remaining with the cost of operating the Shuttle, and we are dealing with these issues on a daily basis. We, therefore, ask Congress for some measure of transfer authority between budget accounts in order to deal with unforeseen Shuttle costs and day-to-day problems in returning the Shuttle to flight.
We need this Committee's help in granting that transfer authority, and I promise you that NASA will keep the Congress fully informed if it is granted.
Mr. Chairman, in your letter, you asked me to address the impact of the hurricanes on Return to Flight. While I am confident of our technical ability to return the Shuttle to flight next year, I am concerned about longer-term consequences of the hurricanes over the next several years.
There remains uncertainty about whether or not we will have an adequate work force to return to Michoud. NASA's external tank production capability depends on that work force, and we still need to manufacture several more Shuttle tanks to achieve NASA's desired 19 flights, which consist of 18 for Space Station assembly and one for the Hubble Space Telescope between now and the end of September 2010.
For this reason, our plan flight sequences ordered such that less critical logistics flights are at the end of the sequence, and we are not focusing solely on the exact number of Shuttle flights to achieve the goal of assembling the Station and providing adequate logistics before commercial ISS crew cargo capabilities or the CEV come online.
Moving to some of the other questions you have had, last September NASA provided to the Congress our Space Exploration Architecture plans with the Crew Exploration Vehicle and the launch systems supporting missions to the International Space Station, moon, and Mars.
We have briefed many of you and your staff on the details of this architecture. As the President articulated in his budget amendment for NASA last July, NASA is redirecting funds to accelerate development of the CEV. I wish to emphasize this is not new money. It is not a plus-up for NASA.
We are redirecting resources within NASA to make the CEV available as soon after Shuttle retirement as possible. We realize that there are many pressures on the Federal budget, and we have adopted a go-as-you-can-afford-to-pay approach towards space exploration, but it is important to recognize that the Vision for Space Exploration is not about new money for NASA. It is about redirecting the money that we have.
Now, this philosophy also means that NASA must set priorities among the goals of the exploration architecture itself. As I have said to this Committee and as you, Chairman Boehlert, said moments ago, NASA simply cannot afford to do everything on its plate today. We must focus our efforts on those technologies which support the urgent requirements of the exploration architecture. Thus, we are descoping, discontinuing, or deferring several research and technology projects, including some I believe we will eventually need, like surface nuclear power systems, but these projects do not support the CEV and its associated launch systems and so must be deferred.
We are also deferring a number of research activities on the Space Station until after the CEV comes online, we hope by 2012, because we cannot afford to do that research today.
Over the long run, our research efforts, as well as the research of other Government agencies likes the National Institute of Health, commercial industry, and our international partners, will benefit from the expedited development of the CEV and accompanying ISS commercial crew and cargo capability.
So let me be clear. The primary objective of the exploration architecture for the next several years is not an immediate return to the moon, but is to develop a new capability to carry humans to low-earth orbit and beyond following the orderly retirement of the Space Shuttle. This is absolutely essential if we wish to maintain our leadership role in space exploration. Painful choices must be made, and we must suborn other priorities to that primary objective.
Mr. Chairman, you also asked me to address NASA's proposed plans to revamp aeronautics research. We are working closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate this national aeronautics research policy with other agencies, like Department of Defense and FAA.
Our primary goal is to reestablish our dedication to the mastery and intellectual stewardship of the core competencies in subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic flight, and we will work closely with universities and industries where appropriate to do that.
We plan to invest in our in-house expertise to ensure that NASA remains a world-class resource with personnel with knowledge and experience, ready to be drawn upon by the civilian community, other Government agencies, and industry.
NASA's new Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, Dr. Lisa Porter, has briefed several Members of Congress and your staff, and she will continue to keep you informed as NASA further develops our aeronautics research plans and budgets, including our stewardship of NASA wind tunnels that span the range of flight regimes.
Our Nation needs to remain on the cutting edge of aeronautic research. We will need your help as well as that of our partners in turning that goal into a reality.
NASA's science program has accomplished a great deal since I last reported to you. On the 4th of July, we created our own fireworks display when the Deep Impact Mission slammed into a comet at 23,000 miles per hour. We launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last summer, and we hope to soon launch Calypso and Cloud SAT Earth Science Missions.
After the next Shuttle mission, NASA will determine and will convey to you whether we believe we can conduct another servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope with the Space Shuttle. The Hubble continues to unlock the mysteries of the universe, such as earlier this week. NASA's scientists discovered two moons orbiting Pluto using the Hubble Telescope.
NASA also plans to launch new horizons to Pluto early next year. As I reported to this Committee earlier, we are conducting an in-depth review of the technical challenges and cost projections of the James Webb Space Telescope. I will report back to you early next year about our plans with that mission.
A lot has happened since I appeared before your Committee in June. We have been busy at work, and we are making steady progress. I would like to leave you with this thought. To me, space is the frontier for societies of the 21st century and beyond. Americans have pioneered frontiers of land, sea, and air in the past. We must accept the challenge of this new frontier as well. Where others go, America must be prepared to lead.
There is a lot more to discuss with you and the Members of this Committee. So I will stop here and answer your questions more directly.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much, Mr. Administrator.
Well, the challenges ahead, you know, I'm reminded of the Academy Award-winning actor who uttered the famous lines, "Show me the money." I think if all of us who expect you to pull the rabbit of the hat were able to give you path for the money you wanted, I'm confident you could use it wisely and accomplish everything we want, but I don't know where the hat is, let alone the rabbit, and I do know the money is a challenge.
So I ask you this. What are the consequences if we start down a path to accelerate CEV and then find out that we don't have the money in FY08 to remain on that path, are we worse off than if we just set 2014 as the date today? And parenthetically, just let me say I think CEV acceleration would be great, but only if it doesn't eat into other vital programs that I also think are very great.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Clearly, the best thing to do for any program is to pick a date that is achievable and to provide the funding as it is required in the different phases of the program consistent with the overall ceiling that is provided.
We believe we budgeted adequately for the CEV. We believe that if the President's budget is approved that it can be delivered in 2012. We believe that if it is delayed further, we risk losing critical competencies between the end of Shuttle retirement and the onset of operations of the CEV. We also risk taking America out of manned space flight for 4 critical years following the completion of Station assembly at a period of times when the programs of other nations are in their assemblancy.
I believe this to be strategically the wrong thing to do, and so I have stated that replacing the Shuttle with an equivalent capability through the use of the CEV as soon as possible after Shuttle retirement is our real highest priority, and if other adjustments need to be made to respect that priority, I would respectfully recommend that those adjustments be made.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: You don't now have the money in the projections ahead to pay for Shuttle -- CEV acceleration. So what happens if we get started on CEV and have to slow it down? What are the consequences of that?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: If we start on CEV at a certain pace and then have to slow it down, we will become less efficient in that program and absolutely will cause it to overrun.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: So I get back to the basic question. Are we being too ambitious right now in setting the 2012 date, given the circumstances that exist that I think we all agree are there?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Sir, I think -- I think that our plan is sound. I think that our plan for CEV development includes adequate cost reserves against unknowns. We are working to understand and contain Shuttle costs, and we propose maintaining a robust program of space science while we complete the CEV.
All plans have uncertainty.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: No, I understand that.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: But we have advanced to you the best plan that we have been able to craft.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The Stafford-Covey report -- and I have had some discussion with you outside of the Committee hearing room on this -- the Stafford-Covey report included several minority reports, and one minority report stated that NASA has not yet learned the lessons of the past.
I know you examined that minority report very carefully and have been addressing that in your public statements. Do you agree with the conclusions of that minority report specifically, and are there observations in the minority report that you don't agree with? And the changes you have made in the personnel, do you think that would satisfy those who identify with the minority report that you get it and you are now moving in a direction on a course that they think is prudent for you to follow?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: There are many questions there. I will try to answer them. Remind me if I fail.
I read, I believe, the particular minority report you are talking about -- is the 19-page report by authors Dan Crippen and Chuck Daniel --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: That's exactly right.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: -- and several others. These are people whom, by an large, I know and respect. I read their report very carefully with yellow highlighters and underline marks and also conveyed the report to others whom I deeply respect and asked for their comments.
When I had done all those things, I found that I could not agree with each and every specific remark in the report. Broadly speaking, I did believe that it was correct. "It rang true" is the words that I would say, and others agreed with me. It rang true.
Accordingly, I discussed it in detail with our new AA for Space Operations, Bill Gerstenmaier. Bill also felt that, broadly speaking, the report rang true, and we have shredded that report out into -- there is much prose, and then there are many actionable specifics. We have shredded out the actionable specifics, and we have put together -- we are putting together, I should say, a plan to deal with those, and when we have that -- when we have that ongoing, we will be happy to review that with you or with your staff.
Separately, I have chartered a team, a separate independent team, much like the Exploration Systems Architecture team that you discussed earlier today, to look at NASA safety and mission assurance from the broadest possible perspective and across the entire agency. This special team is being run out of our Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate. They will report directly to me, and they will take a look, again, in the broadest possible sense about what it means to have safety and mission assurance at NASA. So that is the two-pronged attack I have on the issues raised by the minority report.
I would also say that in some cases, where particular friends of mine who authored that report have been contacted, that they have been very positive. I don't want to put words in other people's mouth because I have had that done to me and don't appreciate it, but broadly speaking, I would say the people I have talked to on the Minority Committee strongly approve of the people that we have put in place in running the mission directorates at NASA. I hope that that will continue.
Culture change takes a long time. Clearly, when we lost Challenger, there were management culture issues in play. When we lost Columbia, 17 years later, there were management culture issues in play, and in some cases, they were the same issues.
I have, in fact, reorganized the engineering and programmatic structure of how we do business in NASA in order to obtain the kind of independent technical authoritative excellence that we want. I have made technical excellence proven in the field a nonnegotiable criteria for having a high-level management position in NASA from this day forward.
I believe that these changes, although they need time to take effect, when and as they take effect will bring us the kind of National Aeronautics and Space Administration that you and I and all of us want to see.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: To honor your request, Mr. Administrator, I will no longer use baseball analogies. You just birdied that one.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Mr. Gordon?
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Griffin, in listening to your testimony, I have a couple of quick -- one thought and one question.
The comment that the CEV, that you were prepared to do whatever it takes to get it up and going, I think is a dire warning to the rest of NASA. I am concerned about that, but I let that warning, I guess, go out to everyone.
The question also in your testimony -- well, I thought the servicing of the Hubble was pretty much a done deal, but you said that was still in play. Is that still in play, whether you are going to do it or not, because of budgetary reasons or because there are still some questions as to the mechanics of the ability to do the job?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Let me answer the second question first.
The Hubble decision, I have not changed my thoughts or my wording on that since the day of my confirmation hearing. If NASA can technically perform a Shuttle servicing mission to Hubble, it will be done.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Okay. So it's a high priority.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Right. It is the -- frankly, it is my highest priority for the Shuttle program.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Good. I just misunderstood that. And when do you think you will make a decision on the technical aspect of that?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I have always said we needed the second -- we needed the two Return to Flight missions because, following the loss of Columbia and the Return to Flight sequence, we have new entire constraints on usage of EDA time because some of it may need to be preserved for tile inspections and repairs like we did on the last mission.
We need to understand that full operating profile to know if we have time in the mission sequence to perform and effective --
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Thank you. I want to move on.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I'm sorry. I wanted to answer your question.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: I'm glad we got that clear. So we're still in sync. Thanks.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We are.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Dr. Griffin, I'd also like to follow up with some more questions regarding your current budgetary situation. The FY2006 budget request that NASA submitted to Congress included a 5-year budgetary run-out through FY2010. As of now, how much are you short relative to what you will need through FY2010?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I'm not trying to evade your question. I'm not sure I understand -- I'm not sure I fully understand it.
The '06 budget request had a run-out through '10, through fiscal '10.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Yes. And it's my understanding that to do what you are proposing to do, you are going to be, as I think -- well, our chairman earlier said he thought it was in the $6-billion range. A conservative estimate is 3- to 5 billion.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I understand. I understand your question.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: So what is your opinion as to that shortfall?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Relative to the '06 budget request, we are, I would say, several billion dollars short in the Shuttle operations line.
I would remind the Committee that the out-years projections for Shuttle operations costs when they were made at the time, a couple of years ago now, were labeled as placeholders, that we did not fully understand on the administration side, we did not fully understand what it was going to take in the discipline and orderly and effective way in 2010.
We have now looked at that over the summer as part of the Shuttle Station operations exercise. We believe we understand that, and it is several billion dollars more --
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Would it be fair to say in the 3-to-6 range?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I would say the 3-to-5 range.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Three-to-5 range. Okay.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: And now let me also add, we are -- that is an estimate. We are not just taking that as a "for granted." We are not taking it as a given. We are scrubbing the program hard. We are doing that today.
We were doing it yesterday. We will be doing it next week.
We are looking for savings in the Shuttle program because, as we retire the Shuttle, of course, we will want to put as much money as necessary to operate it safely, but no more. But where we are today -- where we are today in comparison to our run-out as projected in the '06 budget that you mentioned, we are a few billion dollars down.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: And if I could follow up with some questions on that.
Are the components -- or could you tell us what are the components of the shortfall? Does it assume an accelerated CEV delivery by 2012, and is it assumed that NASA will essentially complete the assemblage of the Space Station by the means of another 18 Shuttle flights, and how much of the budget shortfall can be allocated to the Shuttle program? And finally, with respect to the Shuttle, is it accurate to say that the FY2006 budget request prepared by OMB and NASA assumed reductions in the Shuttle FY08 to FY10 funding requirement that did not have an analytical justification?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Again, sir, the '08, '9, and '10 run-out for the Shuttle -- we are okay in '06 and '7, as best we understand it. The '8, '9, and '10 numbers were at that time labeled as placeholders. We now have an analytical basis for that, that we did not have at that time.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Can you provide that to us for the record? Because we don't have that. You don't have to do it right now, but will you provide -- or have your staff provide that to us?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Those projections currently are part of our fiscal '07 budget formulation and as such are presently embargoed. So we will provide you what we can as soon as we possibly can, but --
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Well, again, I'm not asking for '07, and I understand the embargo, but rather that analysis for the '08 to '10.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Let me take your question for the record, and we will get back to you as soon as we possibly can.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Good. Okay. That's fine.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: And I forgot your other questions.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: What are the components of the shortfall?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: The components of the --
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: You say you assume an accelerated CEV delivery by 2012.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: The shortfall is entirely within the Shuttle operations line. The Exploration line in which the CEV is being developed closes. The Exploration architecture was developed subject to the constraint that the budget must close within that line. The science budget line closes, and aeronautics closes. So the shortfall of which you speak is entirely in the Shuttle line.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: We have a lot of folks interested today. So I will conclude my -- at least my initial round now.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Griffin, as you know, the House just recently passed the Iranian Non-Proliferation Act, as you mentioned in your testimony. Hopefully, it will pass in the Senate, and hopefully, this participation by the Russians will continue until 2016.
Saying that -- and obviously we didn't want to be there, but the Russians are in the critical path at this point. We need them in order to continue our mission of the International Space Station, but how soon do you think we can get or move away from reliance on Russia and grow a United States industry in crew transportation and cargo resupply for the International Space Station? Do you think it is reasonable to expect something in the future? You probably understand the technology on that better than anybody.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes, sir, I do think it's feasible, and to that end, NASA has two initiatives, one much larger than the other, in space flight over the coming years. The first we discussed, maybe more than some of you want to, is the CEV and trying to bring that online by 2012, and that system does have the capability. It is primarily designed to go to the moon, but as with the Apollo and Skylab capability, it has a leave-behind or a residual capability to service the Station.
Our preferred outcome, however, for servicing the Station is to obtain crew -- well, initially cargo supply and later crew rotation services through more arm's-length commercial transactions. To that end, we will be subsidizing, over the 5 years of the budget run-out, approximately a half-billion-dollar commercial cargo crew resupply capability.
I do believe that that kind of a financial incentive for purely commercial industry, not developed on a Government prime contractor relationship, will be sufficient to allow substantial providers to emerge.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Do you have any guess as far as how soon that can be done? Two year? Five years?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: All entrepreneurs will tell you that if we just give them the money, they can have it the day after tomorrow. My honest technical estimate would be that their time frame will not be substantially quicker than the Government CEV time frame, but that if they are successful, it will be at greatly reduced cost. So I would anticipate 4 or 5 years. I hope that industry, if put to the test, can do better, but I do not expect it.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: You mentioned also we had a hearing last week, a joint hearing with Government Reform, relating to the financial management at NASA, and your CFO Gwen Sykes was present, and I asked her a question, "If
NASA were held to the same rigorous accounting requirement that U.S. corporations face under Sarbanes-Oxley, would you as NASA CFO sign off on the annual fiscal report?," and her response was no.
So I guess with that, when do you think that NASA will have its fiscal house in order to meet the same standards that we in Congress are requiring of corporate America?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, first of all, let me say I strongly endorse the requirement that NASA be able to account for its funds at least as well as its contractors be required to do, and I am appalled, as with all of you, that we find ourselves in this situation.
I have made it a priority since coming on board, and we have made progress. We have made progress as measured by independent advisory teams, to include one which was led by the Comptroller of the OMB. We have made progress. We are not there.
We will -- I have already been advised before they even did the audit that our auditing firm -- we will still be red this year. So they haven't yet done the audit, and they know that we're red. So it will not be this year. I hope that by '08, we will be in good shape. That is my plan.
We are --I will record a certain amount of progress which as been made. I believe I have passed out to your staff this particular sheet which shows that in June in one of, I think, nine categories, counting here eight categories of financial management, we were red in two and yellow in four and green in only three. In July, we were red in one, yellow in four, and green in four, and today -- well, as of August, we had no reds, three yellows, and the rest green.
We are making progress. We really are. We are taking it seriously. We have added resources that I would rather spend on spacecraft, but, first, we have to get our financial house in order.
We have responded to 45 recommendations from the GAO. We have closed only three, but 19 are significantly on their way to closure, and we are responding to the balance. The remaining 23, we will respond to.
Outside advisors have said that our strategy is correct, the planning is correct, we just need to stay on course, and that is what we are going to do.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: I appreciate that.
Next, I will recognize the gentleman who is rarely in the rough, the Ranking Member, Mr. Udall.
REPRESENTATIVE UDALL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It depends on the day of the week, frankly, whether I'm in the rough or not.
Administrator Griffin, again, great to have you here. I want to thank you before I direct a couple of questions at you in regards to the Exploration Architecture and some of the impacts on small businesses and universities -- commend your focus on Hubble. We have had conversations along these lines, and it is such a tremendous asset for NASA, for the country, and as we have discussed, the man on the street, the woman on the street know about Hubble. There is such potential here across the board. So thank you for your attention to it and commitment to it.
We were talking about the Exploration Architecture, and several contractors, small businesses, universities this week received notice that their systems research and technology contracts had been terminated effective immediately, and specifically, I am aware of three contracts in my district that total nearly $12 million that have been placed in that status just in the last week.
I am sure that my district is not the only one that has been hit hard by these cuts, and so in that spirit of looking across the board, I want to direct a couple of questions to you.
You have stated you want to strengthen your partnerships with the universities, but the claim NASA is making is that determination of these projects is necessary to allow for new technology development in NASA centers, not in the universities themselves, and of course, you put forth the point of view that the Moon-Mars initiative will not come at the expense of important science projects. Yet, I believe I can identify at least one terminated project in my district that is performing fundamental life science research under human research and technology that happens to be useful for exploration as well.
How do you explain the contrasting priorities, and what are NASA's plans under the Exploration Architecture to strengthen its work with universities and ensure that this initiative doesn't come at the expense of science programs? A question you've heard before, but nonetheless, a very, very important question.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Let me try to do my best.
We had earlier on before for some reason -- before we had developed an Exploration Architecture, we at NASA had put out a very broad cast -- casting it very wisely on a research and technology program, unfortunately leaving many firms and many researchers to believe that we could sustain all of those.
In fact, the technology development and the research that we should be conducting should be oriented toward in an appropriately time-phased way those projects which we are actually doing.
So, when we finished developing the architecture which the chairman has very kindly praised for its efficiency, part of that efficiency means that we should limit our research and technology efforts to those things which support the requirements of that architecture, and that required canceling a number of things which we either did not need or did not need right now, given our overall funding priority as a Nation.
Now, I have run for the Defense Department a very large multi-billion-dollar -- multi-billion-dollar technology program in the past. It's fun. I would love nothing more than to have within NASA the kind of money to run a broadly based technology program, but given the many priorities we have in this Nation and the priorities that the administration has for domestic discretionary funding, we simply in NASA are not at this time able to run that kind of a broadly based technology program and say we have winnowed the field to those things we believe we can afford.
With regard to science, when I speak of science, I am speaking of the science being done in the Science Mission Directorate, broadly speaking, space, earth, and planetary sciences, and astronomy.
The human life science research of which you spoke is there to support human exploration. It seemed to me that it was getting the cart before the horse to be worrying about money for human or other life sciences when we could not assure ourselves the continued capability to be able to place people in orbit in the first place. So my priority became assuring that the United States would have as close to continuous capability to put people in space first and then conducting the research on them after that.
REPRESENTATIVE UDALL: As I mention this, I think this is a fairness question, and it cuts across the country. And I don't think that my district is alone in suffering some of these proposed cuts.
What can we do to help these universities and businesses now that have been stranded, and do you have plans in the future to -- in regard to the situation we face right now if those situations arise in the future?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: For the next several years, I have tried to be -- I have tried to be very honest with the university department chairs and presidents who have contacted me and, in fact, including one in your district.
REPRESENTATIVE UDALL: I'm sure.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I have tried to be honest with them.
For the next several years, our resources that we can devote to Space Station will be utilized to assemble Space Station, and the focus on utilization of it for the next several years for research or technology or any other purposes will have to be minimized in favor of the priority of first getting it assembled.
The priority after that, in keeping with the President's Vision, is to provide a reliable, robust, sustainable successor to the Space Shuttle, and when we have those two components in place, a completed Space Station and a successor to the Shuttle, then we can begin to focus more heavily on utilizing the Space Station, but that will be several years in the future.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The gentleman's time has expired.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to go to my old friend, Mike, and --
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Good day, sir.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: All right.
I would like to, first and foremost, introduce to you, Mike, and to other Members of our Committee, Mr. Kaslovski [ph] who is a Member of Parliament from Russia and joining us today. He was engaged in a meeting downstairs with the International Relations Committee, and
I asked him to join us because some of the questions I had asked today will deal directly with Russian-American space cooperation.
And to that end, I would like to ask you, Mike, about whether or not the legislation that we just passed through Congress will, indeed, permit us to have the type of cooperation we need with Russia, the amendments that we made to the Non-Proliferation Act that will enable us to maximize our benefit of the Space Station or is there something that is more that is going to be needed and why that is important.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I believe the legislation that you have passed will allow us to do what we need to do with Russia to continue our cooperation with them in the Station program. I think we are fine.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: Okay. So mission accomplished as far as our end of it.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes. Yes, sir.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: Okay. That's short term. Short term was making sure that we could handle our obligations to the International Space Station Coalition in cooperation with the Russians and that we didn't find ourselves in a situation where Americans weren't going to be on the Space Station that we paid for. That was the short term.
In the long term, I note that China and Russia are now entering into an agreement on space cooperation, perhaps an agreement that will result in moon missions by the Chinese in cooperation with the Russians to the moon.
Doesn't this indicate and doesn't the fact that Russia went to Iran to do business indicate that since the downfall of Communism in Russia that we have not been engaged with Russia at a high enough level and an intense enough level to prevent them from going into directions that are contrary to our national interest?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, that may be so. I don't believe it is up to me to define our national interest, but I will observe that other space-faring nations of the world, while not having the discretionary resources that we have to bring to bear on the subject, are very interested in the development, exploration, and exploitation of space, and if we choose to lead, the Space Station programs provides ample evidence that we can lead and that we can form coalitions of nations to do great things in space. We can form partnerships and alliances, and heaven knows, the United States would rather have partners and alliances than enemies and adversaries.
If we step away from a leadership role, if we are not willing to pledge the commitment, the resources, and the cooperation to assume a leading role in space, then others will fill that vacuum, and I think that is what you are observing. And I think it is incumbent upon us, as I said in my opening statement -- Americans are a frontier society, and where there is a frontier, Americans must lead.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: But to achieve that goal, this is a very costly goal we are talking about. Anything we do in space is very costly, especially dealing with space transportation which you are trying to make up for right now with your plan.
Won't Russia -- isn't a cooperative effort with Russia vitally important for us to meet our own potential because it brings down the cost?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, surely, and Russia has been an excellent partner. They have stepped up to the plate, referring to the baseball analogy. They have stepped up to the plate on the Space Station in providing critical crew and cargo transportation services in the time that the Space Shuttle has been down.
All of that said, even as significant a space-faring nation as Russia does not as present, nor in the nearly foreseeable future, have the capability to provide the kind of heavy lift crew and cargo supply that the United States had been doing, can do, expects to do in the future, and must do if it is to be done at all.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that we keep an eye on plans of what we are -- you know, our long-term plans in space, and that if we are duplicating, if we are trying to build technology that duplicates what Russia can already do, that that is a waste of resources and actually a deterrent to the type of cooperation that will serve both of our countries, and that we should utilize those things that Russia can provide to save money for us and use that money to develop new technologies that neither country has.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We are not re-duplicating capability, and certainly not a parallel capability and offers a redundancy -- when one is a committed space-faring nation, we need a certain amount of redundancy because, as you have seen, we can have accidents. They have had accidents in the past. If we are single-string on our access to space, we are going to be in trouble.
REPRESENTATIVE ROHRABACHER: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The gentleman's time has expired.
I would point out to the gentleman that we are constantly working with the Administrator towards the objectives that you have outlined. We want to continue to promote international cooperation, but we want to minimize dependence on others for our core missions and capabilities.
With that, the gentleman from California, Mr. Honda, you are recognized.
REPRESENTATIVE HONDA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I welcome the Administrator Griffin for being here.
Let me just cut real quickly to the chaise. It feels like we are interrogating the Administrator for a situation that he had nothing to do with, but he's come in at a point where we needed him to sort of fix things and realign our projects based upon science rather than based upon the bottom line. I think that was the reason why I was elated to have him as Administrator.
Mr. Administrator, I think that we have to accept the idea that it is not your budget. You didn't create the budget. You didn't create the allocations or the appropriations. We did, and this administration did.
So, you know, to my colleagues, if we are going to be pointing fingers, we have to look at the administration and how we appropriate the money to this program over the years. That is number one.
I think President Kennedy didn't take this kind of an approach when he challenged our Nation to put a man on the moon. In fact, he noted -- and I quote -- "The facts of the matter are that we have never made a national decision or marshal the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule and managed our resources in our time so as to ensure their fulfillment."
Kennedy understood that to get to the moon, we needed to specify long-range goals and commit the resources that would be needed to achieve them, and he recognized that, and I quote, "If we are to go only halfway or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all."
I think this is worthwhile going forward, and I think that we ought to put the resources out there. If we are saying "show me the money," then we haven't shown him the money so he can do the work that he needs to do.
And our plan, as our colleagues said on the other side, to meet our own potential and to ask -- to raise the question about relationship with other countries, how do we expect to get international partners to work with us on going to the moon and Mars when we have broken our own agreements with them on the ISS?
From what I hear, the Europeans and Japanese researchers are quite upset and do not intend to do any more collaboration with us, due to the fact that we are throwing away billions of dollars they invested in 20 years of work by scientists and engineers. Why should they ever want to work with us again?
I think we ought to keep our word and our agreements and our treaties and also create more relationships with countries like Russia and China, so that we can get there as global communities and make sure that we do this.
Having said that, Mr. Administrator, I have to, you know, really ask the question about the comments about the design of our Space Shuttle -- the design of our vehicle in absence of the biological and life sciences. I don't know how you send up astronauts to the moon or to Mars without that kind of research? And the centrifuge issue is of great importance.
And I'd like to know, you know, how you, you know, align the kind of decision you are making. In a press conference about a month ago, you said, "In our forward plan, we do not take one dime out of the science program in order to execute this Exploration Architecture." However, the reality is that there have been major cuts to NASA's life science program as well as elimination of almost all non-exploration-related scientific research on the International Space Station. How do you square that statement at the press conference with the actions taken by NASA to cut those activities?
The other question is many life science research communities have expressed alarm over NASA's decision to terminate the ISS centrifuge program, despite finding by the National Academy of Sciences that the absence of a centrifuge would hinder NASA's ability to gain the fundamental knowledge essential to maintenance of the astronaut health on long-duration space missions.
Why did you decide to terminate the program, and how do you intend to answer the research questions that the centrifuge was designed to address?
And in response to one of Chairman Boehlert's questions from the record of last year's February 12th hearing on Vision for Space Exploration, NASA stated, quote, "The Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM) still provides unique capabilities. The ability to simulate a full Mars mission, including one long-duration micro gravity followed by a period of time at three-eighths gravity to followed by a more longer-duration micro gravity in which we can test bone loss, immunology, and other reactions to gravity changes, in situ dissections and detailed anatomy, physiology, after exposure to fraction gravity, this information is needed to determine the mechanisms of the observed changes and guide the development of new econo-measures," and I think -- I suspect the design of vehicles, so that the folks who are wanting it are going to be taken care of or, you know, be healthy as they go along their trip.
I would like to submit more detailed questions for the record and get some responses to those questions, and if you don't mind trying to, with my three or four questions, though, formulate a response.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We certainly will take, of course, your questions for the record and answer them in full detail.
More broadly, let me say, first of all, that I certainly understand the rumors that are flying, but at this -- the United States has not broken its agreements with the international partners and hopes not to do so. We have not done that.
The Centrifuge Accommodation Module is built for the United States as part of a barter agreement with Japan, and the flying or not flying of the centrifuge is not an international partner agreement. It is a matter at our discretion.
We have chosen not to fly it because we do not have -- in looking ahead in the sequence, we do not have a
Shuttle flight available in the sequence that can put that module up -- it is not a small module -- and because the life science research that would be done on it is of a more fundamental nature, again, associated with fundamental organism behavior in fractional gravity.
Now, that is a very interesting subject. It is a key part of long-term life science research, but it is not immediately and directly associated with the health of astronauts in orbit or on the moon in the near future.
REPRESENTATIVE HONDA: To the chair, how do you project physical impacting -- physiological impact, anatomical impact on humans without that study?
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The gentleman's time has expired, but I will give the courtesy to the Administrator to answer the question.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, quite frankly, the best fractional gravity laboratory that we are going to have in the near future is the moon. That will be a very -- putting astronauts on the moon and leaving them for a lengthy of period of time will tell us much of what we need to do about going to Mars.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you.
The distinguished vice chairman of the Full Committee, the gentleman from Minnesota, Mr. Gutknecht.
REPRESENTATIVE GUTKNECHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and, Mr. Griffin, welcome to the Committee. I hope that you will make many appearances and brief us from time to time.
Sticking with the analogies, I am not here to tee off on you today, but I think there are some issues that need to be addressed.
First of all, my own feeling right now is that especially after -- in the aftermath of Katrina, I think Americans are somewhat skeptical of the Federal Government's ability to do the things that we claim that they can do.
I also believe that they have become convinced that just simply throwing more money at problems does not guarantee acceptable results.
I think taxpayers are rightly demanding more accountability. I applaud you for this matrix, but I have to say, not only your department, but most Federal departments, to have this many red squares is just unacceptable.
We certainly wouldn't accept that from corporate America, and American taxpayers should not accept it from any Federal agency as well.
One of the things that -- one of the first things you said was with the last launch of the Shuttle, we saw chunks of the -- chunks of the foam coming off, and you said we haven't completely solved the problem. I think we really deserve more candor. I mean, the truth of the matter is we haven't solved the problem. I mean, that's my perspective, and I think that's what we have to tell the American people.
Finally -- and I guess this really does get at my question -- we have met with private entrepreneurs who believe that they can launch vehicles and put payloads and even human beings into space at a fraction of the cost that it cost NASA to do the same thing.
I am wondering as we go forward, can we look -- I mean, the key words that Americans are looking for is they are looking for "reform," they are looking for "restructuring," they are looking for "accountability." I mean, those are words that I think -- they're not just words. I think they are things that the American people now expect and demand more of from those of us in Congress, but more importantly from Federal agencies in general.
So I wonder if you could comment on your vision of how we look at ways that we can achieve the same results at significantly less cost, as at least some in the private sector believe that we can.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes, sir. I do understand that the public is skeptical of Government programs.
I would say that NASA's programs historically have an overwhelmingly high success rate and an overwhelmingly high, positive impact.
A very recent Gallop poll conducted showed that when asked if at a budget level of less than 1 percent of the budget, did the public approve of or support the Vision for Space Exploration, which included finishing the assembly of the Station, replacing the Shuttle, and continuing on to the moon and Mars, that over three-fourths of Americans in a highly bipartisan way supported those goals, and as you well know, NASA gets about seven-tenths of a percent, not even a full percent of the budget. So I think public support of NASA by recent measurements is, frankly, at an all-time high.
With regard to improving accountability, again, I can only say I can't agree with you more. I could not agree with you more that our financial accountability must reflect that which we expect of our contractors, and I am working to restore it. My team is working to restore it.
With regard to foam, unfortunately NASA flew 113 Space Shuttle missions before seriously attempting to reduce the rate of foam loss from its tanks to an acceptable level. It simply was not understood. It's unfortunate. It was not understood that a piece of foam could punch a hole in a wing.
We then spent 2-1/2 years trying to reduce that foam loss to nearly zero. We came close. We didn't quite get it. We believe, again, that we do understand it, and we believe that the fixes we have put in place for this next flight will solve the problem to the level that we need it solved.
Foam loss will never be zero, but we believe we have fixes in place that will contain it to a level that is not harmful. That is on us to prove, and I understand that. I am out on a limb here. I understand we have that to prove to you.
With regard to entrepreneurs, I have been an entrepreneur, a couple of times. It's fun. It's a very heady thing to do.
I am putting money at stake over the next several years to encourage those entrepreneurs to step forward and show what they can do. At the same time, NASA has mission requirements, Government mission requirements laid on us, that we cannot afford not to complete. So, while I am enlisting the entrepreneurial community to step forward and help meet those requirements, we cannot stop work on the, admittedly, less efficient Government systems in order that entrepreneurs either do or don't show up. That just doesn't work.
So we have to have a core Government capability to execute our mission. We will do that with the CEV following the Shuttle, and we will do everything in our power to encourage these entrepreneurial firms to step forward.
I must say, when you have never actually done anything, talking about doing it is a very easy thing.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The gentleman's time has expired.
Let me give you an assessment of the situation as we now understand it. The bells are ringing. We have about 10 minutes to go, which will afford us the opportunity for Mr. Miller to get his questioning in. We are trying to determine from the cloak room just what's going on. Apparently, the comity is dwindling, and the comedy is on the asset. So we will find out, but we will go to Mr. Miller.
Our desire, Mr. Administrator, is to give you a pause to get a drink or something. We will re-dash over and then come back and then continue.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I am at the Committee's service.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Will the gentleman yield?
REPRESENTATIVE MILLER: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, thank you very much for this hearing. I apologize for being late. I had another engagement, and I can't come back after the vote. I have an amendment on the floor.
But I did want to ask this question. I am sorry I missed a lot of your testimony, but I appreciate your leadership, and I really appreciate the research that NASA has participated in and the outcomes.
I am concerned about the building of the infrastructure for the future, and in that end, I would like to know what programs you still have going that would invest in some of the institutions and students to have exposure, so that we can continue to build the work force and the bright minds for NASA.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: NASA's educational activities are an integral part of what we do in the agency.
This year, we are spending, if I recall the figure correctly, $367 million on education, and if I don't have it exactly right, I beg your indulgence, but it was a number very close to that. That is enough to buy a whole scientific spacecraft easily every year that we're spending --
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Could you send me a copy of your breakdown of where that goes?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes, we certainly can do that.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: I'll appreciate that.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We are in the process of -- our education program has been criticized by many outside stakeholders in recent years. I have taken that into account, and we have put a new person, Ms. Angela Phillips, in charge of that.
We are crafting a new strategic plan for education. We are emphasizing commitments to university students, graduate research, exactly the kind of thing you are talking about. We are taking it quite seriously.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Thank you very much. I look forward to getting that soon.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We will be happy to provide it.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much.
With that, we will take a temporary recess to go answer the call of the House and see what we can do to contribute to restoring comity, and then we will be back.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Let's resume, and we will resume with -- Mr. Miller, you're up.
REPRESENTATIVE MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I recognize that you are assuming the other Members of the Committee would not feel cheated to have missed my questioning.
REPRESENTATIVE MILLER: Mr. Griffin, my own preference for sports analogies is for basketball analogies, but I'm afraid that George Tenet has ruined basketball analogies for politics for the next generation.
I want to follow up on questions that Mr. Gordon asked and Mr. Udall asked and Mr. Honda asked and that I asked back in June about science programs that have been eliminated, at least for the time being, and my concern about the vision about returning first to the moon is not that it is too ambitious, but perhaps it is not ambitious enough. It seems all the justifications that we have discussed have to do with updating our engineering, the engineering that put us on the moon a generation ago and simply updating that to show we can do it again, but I have not gotten a strong sense of what the science is, if any, that we plan to accomplish on the moon.
You mentioned that the moon is probably the best limited gravity environment available to us, but what is the science that we plan to accomplish on the moon by going there? Are we simply updating our engineering from the Apollo era, or are there scientific missions that we are going to perform on the moon that we think would be valuable?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Sir, I think those are great questions, and they are at least two-pronged, and let me take a whack at both prongs.
With regard to the engineering, no, we are not simply updating our engineering from the Apollo era, although some of that does need to be done. It has been not one, but almost two generations since we, the United States, owned the kind of space technology that will allow us to go to the moon.
So, on an engineering level, it is not about the Space Station for the moment. It is about the creation of a basic space-faring capability beyond earth orbit, and then when you have that, you can go to the moon, you can go to Mars, you can go to the near-earth asteroids, and that is what we are about.
With regard to why go to the moon along the way, I appreciate your point that it may not be ambitious enough and that we have been there before, but there is hardly anyone now still working in the space program who was part of those voyages. We have not invested in that avenue for almost two generations. So, to set off immediately to Mars without the experience of learning to live and work on the lunar surface a few days away seems to me to be foolish.
With regard to the science, the moon is an excellent laboratory for life science research in the effects of fractional gravity and deep space radiation environment on humans. At least in some respects, the radiation environment at Mars will necessarily be different from the radiation environment on the moon, and that again will be different from the radiation environment on the Space Station.
The moon itself is a record of the sun's behavior for the last 4 billion years. It may well be the only place in the solar system where we can capture that record which is embedded in the lunar regula. The lunar poles form a micro environment on the lunar surface that may serve as cold traps for billions of years of cometary impact, so that we can understand the constituents of the primordial materials that formed from which the earth and the other plants were formed. The moon is an excellent from which to conduct radio telescopy and optical astronomy.
The moon is a very -- an extraordinarily interesting place in and of itself. We will want to explore it. The extent to which we want to trade money spent on the moon from money spent going to Mars is a matter for future Administrators, future congresses, future Presidents.
What we are trying to do today is to put into place the capability to have those decision in front of us. Today, we have no decision that is possible. We do not have the systems that would allow us to explore either Mars or the moon or anywhere else.
REPRESENTATIVE MILLER: At some point in the next 5 to 10 years, this Congress is going to have to decide whether to invest in the research that would be necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that putting humans on the moon again will present to us.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I believe that is right. In about 6 years, we will have delivered the CEV. We will have the Station assembled. We will at that point be able to construct the heavy lift vehicle, again a Shuttle-derived vehicle, which will take us to the moon and which will take us to Mars, and then it will be up to the congresses, the administrations, and the Administrators of that time to decide in detail what to do with that capability.
We have put an architecture on the table by which any or all of those things can be accomplished, depending on the funding when one wishes to assign and the priority one wishes to assign to the task.
REPRESENTATIVE MILLER: A somewhat related question, I appreciate the savings that come from using, to the extent possible, existing technology, off-the-shelf technology, or updating the technology of a previous generation. I still like to think of it as just the last generation since I was in the ninth grade when we landed on the moon, and I'd like to think that two generations have not expired since I was in the ninth grade, but the cost of that -- and one of the great advantages of the first effort to put human beings on the moon was the other uses of the technology that we developed and what we did to stimulate research generally, particularly at our research universities.
Are we not cheating those other reasons, those other advantages from space exploration by our complete focus on the economies of using existing technology? Do you consider whether there is a balance to be struck by trying to develop push technologies, develop new technologies that may have the collateral benefits of research that can be used in other ways or stimulation of research universities? Is that part of your thinking at all?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I would like for that to be part of our thinking, but the realities are -- the fiscal realities are, first of all, that the creation of the transportation architecture to take people beyond low-earth orbit or even to replace the Shuttle's capabilities are a high barrier to entry. Most nations of the world cannot afford to get over those barriers to entry. The United States can, but barely so.
We are not as a nation able to allocate the priorities for space exploration that we did in the generation of which you speak.
To put numbers on it and to get away from pure dollar estimates which change with time, it is commonly acknowledged today that at least 400,000 people were engaged in civil space exploration during the Apollo years. Today, all of NASA's budget, not just the Space Exploration budget, purchases the services of only 75,000 people. So we are spending less than a fifth for all of civil space exploration, less than a fifth of what we spent during the Apollo years in terms of the number of people's engagement that we can have.
That said, if we wish to make other choices, that is always possible at the congressional and administration level, but with the budgets we can bring to bear today, we must concentrate on very narrowly defined, very carefully defined, very specific goals that produce for the United States the enabling capability we need to get beyond low-earth orbit because that, again, is a very large barrier to entry.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: The gentleman's time has expired.
I just want you to know that sometimes we deliver what we promise. I said before we were so rudely interrupted by the need to go to the floor to vote on a couple of -- a dispute over a procedural matter that we'd try to bring some order over there, and we have. We are in recess now. So now we're back here.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Let me try to bring some clarity to an earlier question because I am still sort of fuzzy about the specifics of your response.
If the Vision is go-as-you-pay, are we going ahead with the CEV acceleration when the NASA budget as a whole does not yet have the funds to carry out that acceleration?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We believe that there are substantial synergies to be extracted between the Exploration program as we have defined it that fits within its funding line and the Shuttle program as we have inherited it, which as you have observed does not quite fit within its funding line, but as far as the Exploration architecture necessarily is served, as Mr. Miller was just observing, from many of the Shuttle building blocks that we have available today, tanks and engines and things like that, we believe that there are substantial synergies to be extracted between the two programs.
Now, we need with the existing Shuttle and Station program and try to obtain all the efficiencies from those two things viewed as a combined program. We believe that we can do that. We believe that we can deliver the CEV to you with the Presidential budget request. We believe that we can deliver the CEV in 2012. If we can't, then as we have said, it is a go-as-you-can-afford-to-pay, and we will slip things in time, and yes, that will mean that we have sacrificed some efficiency.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: But synergies, $5 billion?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: As I said earlier, I don't believe that the total gap at this point is as much as $5 billion. I really believe it is somewhat lower on the order of a few billion.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: But that is very significant, a few billion.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: It is very significant. If I try to be more precise than that right now, I would be making it up, and I don't want to do that. I need --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: We don't want it make-up-as- you-go.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Right. I know, and we need the next 6 months to be able to figure out to blend the new Exploration Architecture with the Shuttle Program that is being phased out to see how we can get our budget under control.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Well, experience at least from the chair's vantage point has been that when you have said you need X amount of time -- in this case, you say 6 months -- to bring some clarity to it, you usually fulfill your promise to bring some clarity to it. So we will take that.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I thank you.
I did -- when I came in, I said in September, I will have an Exploration Architecture for you, and I have. People have criticized the architecture for being boring because it uses so many old and preexisting components, but no one has said it is inefficient. We tried to do that.
We said that we would define a Shuttle and Station architecture for you that fits within the number of flights we can expect the Shuttle fleet to have before it is retired. We have done that.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Is it your sense -- let's switch over a little bit. Is it your sense that the Webb, now that the schedule has been pushed back, can stay on budget, and what gives you that confidence?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, it's my sense, first of all, that the Webb telescope project is not overrun. It was underbid.
I have tried very hard. The reason why I keep emphasizing that we have applied appropriate cost reserves to the Exploration Architecture costing is because our industry and our agency has a history of underbidding, and I am widely known not to support that, nor want to do it.
We have had two independent assessments done of the Webb -- of the James Webb Space Telescope, and both have concluded that the program itself is actually doing rather well, but the funding allocated to it initially was underscoped by about a billion-and-a-half dollars.
We are remedying that in the out-years' budgets. We are slipping the telescope slightly to allow the required the technology developments to take place. We think we will get it on target.
I have got two completely independent cost estimates on the matter. They agree with each other, and they agree as to the symptoms that led to the problem. So we are going to fix those.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Let me ask you this. The White House has asked for $325 million for NASA to help pay for the Katrina-related costs at Stennis and Michoud. That's not nearly enough. That is about half of what you really need. Where is the additional money going to come from?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: As you know, in our last operating plan, we had requested $760 million, which was our best assessment of the damage that we had.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: And that was pared down considerably from the initial --
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, the initial estimate was -- we were still -- I think we were still cleaning up --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Okay.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: -- some of the stuff, and it was --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: So the 760 is a realistic estimate.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: The directions I gave to my folks we do not exaggerate the estimate. Every single thing that we put in the supplemental request must be accounted for. When we got done with that, that added up to $760 million, as we had indicated to the Committee.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: And the supplemental contains the request for 325.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: And that had a reserve on it of 20 percent for just us not knowing about what we were doing at the time of that supplemental.
So the supplemental that you saw had that 20-percent reserve removed. It also had removed consequential damages, as we would say them in the MBA world, consequential damages associated with delays to the Shuttle program and things like that. So, when those things were removed, you end up with the request that you got.
Now, bear in mind, the administration does -- is reserving the right to come in with another supplemental at a later time when things are more fully understood. So I don't believe that this is a dead issue.
We think for the moment, you know, we're fine with the three hundred and --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: So you fully anticipate a second supplemental, so you won't have the need to raid other programs?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes, sir. Exactly.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: You will have the ability to pay the Russians, for example, for Soyuz? And there are a lot of other things you have to pay for.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We have more Katrina damage, and again, the administration may very well bring another supplemental to the table.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: I am sure you would encourage the administration to do so, at least with respect to NASA's needs.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I will have my best begging face on. Yes.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank the Ranking Member, and I thank Dr. Griffin.
Doctor, it was great to be with you just recently.
Mr. Chairman, I had the great opportunity to go to the Johnson Space Center and to receive a tour and to have the benefit of Dr. Griffin's insight while I was there.
I also had the opportunity to actually go within the full-scale model of the Shuttle and to understand that it really is a no-frills operation, no creature comforts, and apparently a little space for the number of people who have to use the instrumentality.
I am interested in the $500 million that we will be spending for commercial space travel over the next 4 or 5 years, and my first question has to do with the many persons who are currently working with this endeavor.
As we make the transition to bring on board private enterprise, how will that impact the persons who are currently working in various positions?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: The folks who are currently working on the Shuttle, of course, will be, in some cases, moved over to the CEV, and in other cases, we will not be able to use their skills on the new systems, and in yet other cases, they will go on to do other things, but the overall NASA budget in constant dollars through the years in question remains about the same. So the total NASA and contractor employment remains about the same. I mean, there will be winners and losers, but at a national level, the total picture remains about the same.
For that portion of our budget, which is being used frankly in an effort to stimulate the entrepreneurial community, we are hoping that that will have leverage far beyond its amount, and it will actually increase the employment in aerospace by being able to attract the investors and the backers of these private entrepreneurial commercial enterprises to be able to participate with us in developing capability to ferry cargo and then later crew into space.
If that occurs, then there will be a net savings for us because we will be able, we hope, to purchase services now being provided by the Government at a lower price by commercial industry. We will then be able to take those resources and utilize them for the frontier role of exploration, which we think is really NASA's proper role.
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: Well, my concern emanates from the notion that we have downsized, and I don't like really using the term, but from 400,000 to about 75,000, as you indicated, and I'm concerned that this downsizing will continue and trust that it won't have an adverse impact on the scientists, the engineers, and the janitors, the persons who are working currently in these programs.
But moving right along to my next concern, the process by which we will make this transition, this election of companies, can you speak to this, please, in terms of how you propose that we do this, such that we can get the entrepreneurs in place on time?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, sir, we are going to -- shortly within the next couple of months, we are going to be putting a solicitation on the street, as we say. We will invite competitions. We will conduct a relative standard source selection, evaluating the promised offerings, and we will pick from among the best.
I don't have any special wisdom or knowledge to bring to that task. It is something we do fairly frequently.
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: We do it frequently, but have we done it for an endeavor of this magnitude before? Because literally, we are transferring something that we have held within our hands to private enterprise.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: This is a bit new for us, and so we are not putting all our eggs in one basket. We are actually developing a new basket, and I will be paying close personal attention to this one.
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: Well, I thank you for, again, the service that you render. It was an honor to have the opportunity to visit with you, and I am sure that we will talk more about these things as we progress.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: My only concern was when you were in the Space Shuttle simulator flying with Mr. Calvert, you know.
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: He was outstanding.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Who knew how that was going to come out?
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN: We had a safe landing.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE COSTA: Thank you very much, Mr.
Chairman. I, too, want to commend you and the Ranking Member for holding this hearing today. I think it is extremely important and fitting and appropriate that we together determine how the future of America's efforts for space exploration will be able to be continued over the next several decades. So the debate, the discussion, and the priorities that we establish are critical to that future.
Mr. Griffin, I, too, want to give you high marks, as everyone has indicated. You seemed to have taken to this new position like a duck to water of sorts, and everyone believes that you have returned a level of credibility and capability that is essential to NASA's long-term success.
I have two questions that I want to ask you, and since we are in the parlance here today of golf, the first one is somewhat of a "gimme." The second one may be a little more of a difficult approach shot that might require good chipping skills.
The first question really is based upon -- and I am trying to combine things that have been discussed here this morning as it relates to NASA's future, which is the science and the finances in terms of how we pursue the science.
The justification for -- with the CEV project to go back to the moon, obviously we have been there. We have accomplished that goal, but what sort of credibility are we all going to be able to talk about that is going to maintain the support through what undoubtedly will have to be successive administrations that may vary in terms of political partisanship in nature? I mean, this is a long-term project, as you have described it today, and therefore, I think the credibility on why we should go back is going to have to be essential, and we are going to have to be able to substantiate it in order to maintain the successive funding necessary to reach the goal.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: That is correct, sir, and I would be happy to provide for the record a brief point paper on what we think some of the scientific returns are from returning to the -- for returning to the moon, but beyond that, the point that I have tried to make in many venues, and I will try again in this one, is that we are already today spending a significant amount of money on human space flight, human space exploration.
It has for the past 30 years been limited to -- more than 30 years been limited to work in low-earth orbit. Many of us believe, I believe, the folks who put together the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report believed, and this administration believes that restricting the United States to operations in low-earth orbit at this time and for our future is inadvisable.
So, while obviously more resources to do that job are always better than fewer, we are not at this time talking about the addition of large new resources to the space program. Rather, we are talking about redirecting the money which today is being spent on human space flight into what we believe is a higher, better, more important, more strategically significant long-term goal for the United States. We have been, we will be spending money on human space flight. We want to spend it on different things that we believe are more strategically relevant. That is fundamentally what we are talking about with the Vision for Space Exploration.
It does require, in the short term, the next few years -- it requires some hard choices, some prioritization of goals. It requires things I don't like to do, like
canceling advanced technology and not doing some science that we would like to do because we are trying to phase out an older program and phase in a new one in such a way that we don't have jarring disconnects. It is a tough problem, but that is the goal.
REPRESENTATIVE COSTA: And I think you've explained that quite clearly.
As it relates to the finances -- and Congressman Rohrabacher inferred and talked a little bit about it as he related to our partnership with the Russians, and we have discussed it today as it relates to our partnerships with others in the International Space Station -- if, in fact, going to the moon provides a sort of important science to all of mankind that will have far-reaching benefits and if, in fact -- which is I think true -- and if, in fact, other countries are currently looking at trying to reach that goal, should we not be thinking about how we can combine resources with China, with Russia, to share the costs, notwithstanding the problems that have manifested themselves in our partnerships with the International Space Station, I would think that we could learn from those in terms of how we view the long term and combining finances and thinking out of the box to make those finances as effectively spent as possible?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I couldn't agree more, and on Tuesday, I gave a major speech on exactly that topic. I believe we provided record copies for some of your staff, and I would be happy to do that.
I have on many occasions said that I believe that the very best thing for our long-term future in space, to come out of the Space Station partnership is the partnership. It has had strains, and the amazing thing is it has endured those strains and remains solid today. That should be continued and should extend to the future.
REPRESENTATIVE COSTA: Mr. Chairman, I know I am out of time, but I beg the chairman.
I think this is an area that we need to continue to pursue and explore, given the nature of the challenges we face, and I would be very interested in reading your paper as it looks to prospective opportunities vis-a-vis thinking out of the box in terms of how we can share financial responsibilities as we go to the moon.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much, Ms. Costa, and you are a major player. So any speech you give is major, I would think, in terms of significance, but --
REPRESENTATIVE COSTA: You should talk to my wife about that. She doesn't share your view.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: I would welcome the submission if staff could provide a copy of that speech because --
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We can.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: And incidentally, when you give some of these major speeches, the staff might be well advised to share some of your pearls of wisdom with us because we always learn.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: They do.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Oh, they do.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Then my staff would be well advised to share some of your pearls of wisdom that you share with them with me.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We did provide the speech to staff. We really did. Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Now that we are mentioning pearls of wisdom, the chair recognizes the gentle lady from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: What an inviting presentation, Mr. Chairman, both in terms of the very erudite questions that the Administrator has been willing to take from our colleagues, and thank you for yielding to me.
Let me try to focus narrowly on points that have concerned me, and might I thank you for such an instructive visit to the Johnson Space Center just a week or so ago. And I invite my colleagues to visit all of the centers, but certainly come on down to the Johnson Space Center where so much activity is occurring.
I might also commend the NASA staff and cite what a breath of fresh air the recent crew continues to provide, and particularly Commander Collins who I know has a certain congressperson as her Member of Congress.
But I would like to focus on some of the testimony we heard last week by the CFO and the number of presenters, including the Inspector General and those individuals.
I am concerned that it is represented that 80 percent of NASA is contracted, and I say that with the great appreciation for the public-private collaboration that generates from many of our aviation research companies, and we know their names. So, when I begin this interest, I can imagine the frowning looks with respect to why change what is perceived not to be broken, but I am concerned it makes it a very difficult maze of accounting, which may be one of the issues that you will be confronting. But also there is something to value to have systems engineers, to have the next, if you will, group of scientists, engineers, and others be looking to the Government as a source to put their knowledge, at least the initial level of their knowledge.
I am told that China is graduating 600,000 engineers, and we are graduating 70,000. You may make that as a point, but that is the very reason why we need to be the recipient or the encourager of that kind of talent.
I understand that you may be over the next couple of months terminating 1,800 to 2,000 permanent employees. Why, if that is the case? And I will speak before hearing, and that is obviously always wrong to do, but I will do so and say that I oppose that. I don't understand it, and I think we are going in the wrong direction.
The other question would be on the issue of minority contractors. I still don't believe there is enough. There is always a question of ethical tampering or unethical tampering, and then that always leaves us without anything to say. The percentages are not high enough. I would like them to be high enough. I would like it to be a minority-only-based conference to show minority companies around the country. How do you effectively interact with the new contractual structure that NASA has when we have not had it? We have not had it, and when I say minority, minority and women. I think that is imperative.
And my last two points is your thought about a small grant to outreach to women and minorities as it relates to the sciences that generated the likes of a Mae Jemison and Colonel Bolden and others, and with that, I'd ask you share in your answers to me.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: With regard to work force, when I arrived in April, we had -- the term that we were using was "uncovered capacity," civil servants who did not have specific jobs to which they could be assigned by virtue of the funding available for programs at their locations.
We had an uncovered capacity of over 2,000 civil servants. This is a problem that had been inherited from many years, frankly not actively managing the match of our work force skills to the job requirements.
We are, as I said earlier, paying close attention to that in aeronautics. We are returning our aeronautics program to a program of fundamental aeronautical sciences research which will help the issue.
On the new work that we are doing, the CEV, the crew launch vehicle, we are assigning, as much as possible, work from centers that have surpluses of work to centers which have less work.
Through those strategies, we have reduced the uncovered capacity in the last 4 months, since we have been working the problem, down to about 950.
We announced one final buy-out to be conducted, ending in January of '06. We believe that will remove several hundred people from civil service roles. We are doing everything we can within the constraints of the type of work that we are doing today to match that with the types of skills we have and minimize any untoward actions.
By next June, any uncovered civil servants that we still have in place will have to be RIF'd. That will be our very last alternative.
I also, Ms. Jackson Lee, deplore such an action. I have encountered that twice in my own career in various circumstances. It's not fun. We will do what we need to do in order to be fiscally sound by next June.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: That will leave you with how many civil servants working for NASA?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Well, it depends, again, on how closely we are able -- we think we can get any RIF down to a few hundred people, but at the end of the day, if none of our other actions works, that might be left, and that would leave us with approximately 18,000 civil servants at NASA.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: And about 2,000 would be in the group that either was placed somewhere or --
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Most of the 2,000 will have been appropriately placed.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: And then a couple of hundred possibly if we are still remaining with uncovered job descriptions or no jobs available would be RIF'd around June of '06.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: That's correct.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: I just want to make sure we clarify this for the record, but the RIF might be announced in June. But it wouldn't be effective until the next fiscal year, beginning in October.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: In October. That's correct.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: All right. Fine.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: But there will be a couple of months of transition.
Could you speak to the issue -- because I think this is something I want to pursue with you in office, and I won't because of the time. Would you just answer the minority contractors issue and the focused effort in the present configuration?
Now, I know you are getting ready to say "we do this all the time," but hear me out. There are too many people that I interact with that suggest you don't do it all the time, there is just a confused maze on how to interact under this structure.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Well, let's hear a word from the Administrator what they do, do.
The gentle lady's time has expired, but this is a good question, and, Mr. Administrator, anxious to hear from you.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: I am going to have to respond for the record because I am not sure exactly what you are asking.
I attended just within the last few weeks a minority business conference where we were making awards to our important minority contractors. The impression I have come away with is that we are doing fairly well in meeting our minority- and women-owned contractor goals.
If you say we are not, I will take that under advisement. I will look at it, and I will get back to you for the record on how we are doing with our statistics. I had thought we were doing rather well.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: That would be helpful to all of us.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Yes.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Mr. Chairman, if I could just finish one sentence, which is thank you very much. I do disagree, and I was talking more about outreach because there is a pool of wide breadth that don't have the inside information how to plug in, and I would like to work with you on that, and I yield back.
I yield back.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Thank you so much. There is no time to yield back. We were very generous in extending the time.
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON LEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: But we appreciate your input.
The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Gordon.
REPRESENTATIVE GORDON: Well, let me just conclude by saying thank you, Dr. Griffin, for being here. Your predecessor and others in the past have taken Mohammed Ali's rope-a-dope to another level. You have not done that. You tried to be concise, and it makes our job better, and I thank you for that.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Thank you, sir.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Well, one final question, and this involves, and this involves aeronautics. We are pleased you are working to revive that area. That is very important, as I think, to all of us up here.
What are you going to do to make sure that the fundamental research NASA is planning to conduct addresses a legitimate unmet need that is marketable in the outside world?
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Our new Associate Administrator has already conducted a couple of very significant workshops with regard to exactly that question, and we are working as well with OSTP and with the FAA and DOD in the opening stages of crafting a, for a very long time since we have had one, strategic plans for aeronautics. We at NASA do not see ourselves being the only stakeholders in aeronautics in this country and seek very definitely to find a partnership of people who can help us say what it is that needs to be done and what is no longer required. So we will not be acting unilaterally in that regard.
That said, okay, we believe, I believe that aeronautical science in this country, that the fundamental types of research that NASA and NACA before NASA used to be known for has been missing for a while. I think we saw a recent example of that on the STS-114 flight with Discovery where we had -- you will recall we had the gap fillers that didn't come out from between the tiles.
There was some great concern about whether those might interfere the flow of air on the undersurface coming in. We were not able to answer definitively whether that would occur or not because the particular flight regime, very high mach number, very high altitude, verified flow, very high temperature gas dynamics involving as it does the transition from laminar to turbulent flow is an area of state-of-the-art research in the aeronautics community, and we, NASA, have not been funding that. We should fund it. Those are the kinds of fundamental sciences that we should be doing, and I am convinced they will always be relevant.
And if I could before I end make one final point on your Katrina supplement question, you know, you asked about the money, but with the money also went a request on our part to have the kind of transfer authority we need in order to be able to move money from where it is to where it needs to be to deal with the issues of recovering from Katrina. I would be --
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: We have given that authority.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: We are asking for it. I don't believe we have it from -- have it yet.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: In closing, just let me make a couple of observations. First of all, I hear words of praise for the new team you are assembling. The caliber of the people you have been able to attract was very important to the agency for all of the important missions you have, and also with some degree of pride, Mr. Gordon and I read the recent survey that sort of estimated what all the employees of all the agencies of the Federal Government think about their role, their job satisfaction, the purpose of their mission, et cetera, et cetera. NASA was number one in the Big Government complex.
I point out with some degree of pride that number two was the National Science Foundation. I point out that that is under the jurisdiction of this Committee, also.
So you have a most challenging assignment during a most challenging time, and we want to work with you, and we appreciate your approach to the job. We appreciate your availability, your candor, your willingness to consult, and your all-around general performance.
Thank you very much, Mr. Administrator.
ADMINISTRATOR GRIFFIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Gordon. I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today.
CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT: Hearing adjourned.
[Whereupon, the hearing of the House Committee on Science concluded.]
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