From: U.S. House of Representatives
Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2005
Congress of the United States
Washington DC 20515
December 9, 2005
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear. Mr. President,
AS you prepare your FY 2007 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), we strongly urge you to ensure the Space Shuttle program receives the full funding necessary to complete the entire assembly of the Space Station and, in turn, the first steps of your Vision for Space Exploration.
This request is even more vital as we understand that OMB is currently on a course that will under-fund the Shuttle program by $3 to $6 billion between FY07 to FY10. This would mean the immediate retirement of the Shuttle Atlantis and cut from the needed 19 shuttle missions to between 8 and 11 missions. This action by OMB would completely contradict the Administration's own space policy and appears to be driven by nothing but budgetary considerations, without regard to the massive policy ramifications and the long-term negative effects on your Vision for Space Exploration.
Specifically, the first two steps of the Vision are returning the Shuttle to flight and completing the Space Station - steps that in turn fulfill NASA's commitment t both our international partners and the American taxpayers. Reducing the Shuttle missions means failing to complete the Station or fix the Hubble Space Telescope. If this course is taken, completion of the Station will likely not proceed beyond what has been achieved to-date - only half of the planned configuration. This will gravely upset our international partners who are currently deciding whether to stick with the U.S. or join the Chinese space effort. AS it stands today, both China and Russia are closer to the Moon than the U.S. and both possess a manned space vehicle capable of reaching the moon.
From a workforce standpoint, this move would devastate the Vision by destroying the workforce and industrial base needed for the smooth transition between Shuttle and the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV)/Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV). Nationwide, several hundred companies in almost every state, combined with a number of NASA centers, currently employ over 30,000 highly skilled workers as part of the Shuttle program. Inadequate funding as we approach the transition will result in a substantial loss of the skilled workforce in human space flight along with a large number of aerospace small businesses. Workers will likely move into other industries or work for foreign competitors, resulting in a massive loss of critical skills that will take many years to recover.
We also urge you to maintain full funding for the expedited development of the CEV/CLV. Enabling exploration beyond low-earth orbit is a critical element of your Vision. We believe that this plan for going beyond low-earth orbit is bold and forward-thinking, and keeps with the American tradition of leadership in exploration and discovery.
A recent Gallup Poll shows that 75% of the public fully supports the Vision. Tossing the investment of tens of billions of dollars in the Station away at this point and crippling the transition from Shuttle to the CEV/CLV would undermine the confidence of the American people who even in recent polls continue to show their support for its development.
Last year, this same issue was a hard-fought priority and veto fight on your part. NASA now has clear support in Congress and in 2006, regardless of OMB's actions, the House and Senate are prepared to fight for the Vision. However, OMB's plan will fly in the face of both House and Senate versions of pending NASA Authorization legislation currently in conference, which will fully fund the Shuttle and the entire Exploration Vision. OMB is on a course to take defeat from the jaws of victory by completely contradicting your own stated priorities and what will almost certainly become the law of the land in the authorization bill.
We are at a watershed moment, not only for the success of the Shuttle and the Space Station, but also for the success of your own Vision. Congress is prepared to support fully funding the Shuttle program and the expedited development of the CEV/CLV, and we hope that your budget reflects your commitment to do so as well.
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