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Opening Statement by Rep. Mark Udall - House Committee on Science and Technology Hearing: NASA's Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request

Status Report From: Rep. Mark Udall
Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2007

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March 15, 2007

Good morning. I'd like to join my colleagues in welcoming you to today's hearing, Dr. Griffin. This will be the Committee's first formal review of NASA's FY 2008 budget request, and we look forward to your testimony.

You have a tough job, and we need to understand the basis of the decisions you are making, as well as any concerns you have about the budget.

I agree with Chairman Gordon's assessment of the situation we are facing. It is going to be a tough year for space and aeronautics supporters to get the budgetary resources NASA needs, but we are going to try.

We are going to try because NASA's space and aeronautics programs are a very important component of the nation's R&D enterprise, and we need to be investing more in those areas—not less.

On Tuesday, this Committee held a hearing on Science and Technology Leadership in a 21st Century Global Economy. We heard a distinguished panel of witnesses stress the importance of investing in basic research if this nation is to remain competitive.

NASA's space and Earth science basic research activities, along with microgravity research, are prime examples of research investments that can not only advance our knowledge but also benefit our society. And it should be noted that those investments play a critical role in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Aeronautics R&D is another area where the investments we make benefit our economy, our quality of life, and our national security. And when we fail to invest adequately in a range of basic and applied aeronautics R&D—as I fear we are in this budget—we foreclose future options and fail to meet future needs in ways that we are likely to regret.

Human space flight and exploration is another area that offers benefits—ranging from the intangible inspiration it provides to our public to the advanced technologies and research results that can come from those initiatives.

So, I strongly support a robust budget for NASA. Unfortunately, I don't think we have been getting budget requests that are matched to the tasks we want NASA to undertake. And the stresses resulting from those past shortfalls are now reinforced by the funding plateau imposed in FY 07 by the Joint Resolution.

Dr. Griffin, I know that it is your job to put the best face on the budget that you have to defend. But this Committee needs to know where the stresses are, as well as the deferred opportunities that result from this budget request.

For example, last month we heard from the National Academies about their recommendations for future Earth Science research and applications missions—something I care deeply about. However, as I look at your outyear budget request, I see little that would give me confidence that NASA will be able to undertake any substantial fraction of the recommended missions for the foreseeable future.

Another example is the International Space Station. You have testified that NASA expects to cease funding the ISS after 2016. Yet your budget plan continues the deferral of any significant investments in ISS research through the five-year budget horizon associated with the FY 08 budget request. And your ISS research plan still contains no clear research objectives and associated milestones to complete the needed research during the ISS's operational life.

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