Statement of Sean O'Keefe before the Subcommittee on VA-HUD Independent Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations 8 April 2003 (Part 2)

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003

Part 1

To be successful, we will transform ourselves as follows:

  • All investments will contribute to our goals and traceable to the Vision and Mission. Every NASA program and project must be relevant to one or more of the goals, and perform successfully against measures.
  • Human space flight capabilities will be enhanced to enable research and discovery. We will continue to expand human presence in space -- not as an end in itself, but as a means to further the goals of exploration, research, and discovery.
  • Technology developments will be crosscutting. We will emphasize technologies with broad applications, such as propulsion, power, computation, communications, and information technologies.
  • Education and inspiration will be an integral part of all our programs. We will track performance of our education programs like that of any other NASA activity.
  • We will operate as One NASA in pursuit of our Vision and Mission. We will reinforce the shared commitment of all NASA employees to our common goals.
  • As Only NASA Can: We will pursue activities unique to our Mission -- if NASA does not do them, they will not get done -- if others are doing them, we should question why NASA is involved.

Strengthening our Foundation

This building block and stepping stone approach already has one important brick in place: the FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by the President on February 20. The FY 2003 appropriation contains many of the needed elements that will help NASA address important constraints in power, transportation, and human capabilities. The FY 2003 budget contains funding for NASA's:

  • Nuclear Systems Initiative to develop new power and propulsion technologies that will enable solar system exploration missions that are inconceivable with current conventional chemical propulsion systems. This initiative has been incorporated in Project Prometheus as part of our FY 2004 Budget request.
  • International Space Station (ISS), including full funding to assure we can successfully reach the milestone of U.S. Core Complete-which will enable accommodation of International Partner elements--maintain progress on long-lead items for enhanced research, and continue to build out this research laboratory platform for overcoming human limitations in space. It also includes authority to proceed with establishment of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) for ISS research. This funding and authority builds on our major achievements over the past year. We have received endorsements by two independent cost teams that deemed the program's cost estimates as "credible" and the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) independent task force, chaired by Tom Young, that commended our progress against their recommended management reforms. We have revamped our science program towards the highest priority research as identified by the Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMAP) independent task force. We have put in place a new management team to control program content, ensure science requirements are met, and refocus program from development to operations. Finally, we are implementing new financial management tools to better manage our resources.
  • Space Transportation Plan (ISTP) that will address our Nation's near and midterm requirements in human space flight by making investments to extend the Shuttle's operational life for continued safe operations; developing a new Orbital Space Plane to provide a crew transfer capability as early as possible to assure access to and from the International Space Station; and, funding next-generation launch vehicle technology in such areas as propulsion, structures, and operations. Since providing our ISTP as part of the FY 2003 budget amendment in November 2002, we have moved out aggressively on this roadmap. We are refining the Shuttle's Service Life Extension Program to better identify priorities and long-term investments. We also have completed top-level requirements for the Orbital Space Plane and awarded contracts to address priority technologies and areas of risk. Finally, we are refining our investments in long-term launch technologies as part of our recently initiated space architecture activities. We believe the ISTP is a good plan, but we are committed to re-examining it if necessary in light of future investigation findings on Columbia.

We must ensure that we have a sound foundation -- our people, processes, and tools -- from which to build our programs. It is only from such a sound foundation that we can go forward to more ambitious plans. We have placed the highest priority on achieving the goals of the President's Management Agenda, which contain five Government-wide initiatives that promise to significantly improve our management foundation:

  • Human Capital: We have begun to implement our strategic human capital plan, including a tracking system to identify workforce deficiencies across the Agency. I will address this very important issue at the conclusion of my remarks.
  • Competitive Sourcing: We have achieved the government-wide, 15 percent competitive sourcing goal, and are pursuing, wherever feasible, new opportunities for competition, including the renewal of contracts.
  • Financial Performance: We have addressed all issues contained in the disclaimer opinion on NASA's 2001 audit and been given a clean opinion for 2002.
  • E-Government: We are addressing information technology security issues and reviewing and enhancing other IT capabilities.
  • Budget & Performance Integration: We are budgeting for the full cost of NASA's programs and have integrated our budget and performance plan starting with FY 2004 Budget.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to specifically highlight NASA's newest Enterprise, Education. The Education Enterprise was established in 2002, to inspire more students to pursue the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and ultimately to choose careers in those disciplines or other aeronautics and space-related fields. The new Enterprise will unify the educational programs in NASA's other five enterprises and at NASA's 10 field Centers under a One NASA Education vision. NASA's Education vision will permeate and be embedded within all the Agency's activities.

Linking Investments to Strategic Plan

Simultaneously with the submission of the President's FY 2004 budget request, we submitted to the Congress the Agency's new Strategic Plan, our Integrated Budget and Performance Document, and our Performance and Accountability Report. I believe the sweeping changes we are proposing in our FY 2004 Budget represent the most ambitious in our history and will enable us to vastly improve our ability to align our investments with our goals, assess progress, and make sound economic and technical decisions based on accurate and timely information. These improvements include:

  • Budget Restructure - In response to our new Strategic Plan, we have restructured our budget. NASA's new Strategic Plan recognizes that we are organized by those Missiondriven activities that deliver our end products-Space Science, Earth Science, Biological and Physical Research, Aeronautics, and Education-and by those activities -- International Space Station, Space Shuttle, Space Flight Support, and Crosscutting Technology -- that enable our Mission-driven activities to succeed. To mirror the organization of activities in our Strategic Plan into mission-driven efforts and supporting capabilities, and to recognize the reality that there is no arbitrary separation between human and science activities, the FY 2004 budget replaces the previous structure with two new appropriation accounts: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration; and, Space Flight Capabilities. For FY 2004, the request includes $7.661 billion for Science, Aeronautics and Exploration and $7.782 billion for Space Flight Capabilities. Furthermore, the budget is structured in 18 goal-oriented Themes, which aggregate programs to be managed as a business portfolio in pursuit of common goals and performance measures.
  • Full Cost Accounting and Management - In a landmark event, we have allocated all our costs by program areas. Throughout our history, NASA has treated the cost of institutional activities (personnel, facilities, and support) separate from the programs they benefit. This has made economic trades difficult to analyze. In this budget, we have placed all costs against programs so that, for the first time, we can readily determine the true total costs of programs and allow managers to make more efficient and effective choices.
  • Integrated Budget and Performance Document - We have revamped our Congressional justification with a new document that merges our restructured budget with our performance plan. The document highlights the 18 themes and associated performance measures. Moreover, it clearly identifies projects approved for full scale development, including promised cost, schedule, and technical parameters.
  • Integrated Financial Management System - After a decade of trying, we are successfully bringing online a new integrated financial management system. For the first time in the agency's history, we will have one financial system for all our Field Centers, a major step in our One NASA goal. The core financial module will replace the legacy systems at all our Centers by this summer. This new system implementation is critical for enabling successful management of the budget, cost, performance, and the accounting changes mentioned above. Moreover, this new system will significantly enhance our ability to maintain a clean financial audit opinion.

Pursuing Critical New Opportunities

At NASA, we are developing building blocks that open new pathways of exploration and discovery. Today, our telescopes peer billions of years into the past to witness the beauty and unlock the mysteries of the early universe. Our satellites view the entire planet from space, allowing us to study global change and its consequences for life on Earth. Our spacecraft travel throughout the solar system and into the uncharted territories beyond, exploring the processes that have led to the incredible diversity of the planets and the emergence of life. Our aeronautics research has given people the routine ability to travel safely and reliably all around the world. Our astronauts are living and working in space, and from them, we are learning how to expand our sphere of exploration far beyond the bounds of Earth.

But, our ability to fully achieve our Mission is constrained by the need for new technologies that can overcome our current limitations. We must provide ample power for our spacecraft as well as reliable and affordable transportation into space and throughout the solar system. We must deploy innovative sensors to probe Earth, other planets, and other solar systems. We must be able to communicate large volumes of data across vast distances, so that we can get the most from our robotic explorers. And we must learn to mitigate the physiological and psychological limitations of humans to withstand the harsh environment of space.

To address these and other challenges, we must build upon the strategic investments we are making in the FY 2003 Budget and pursue critical new opportunities. Consequently, our FY 2004 Budget request includes nine new initiatives:

  • Project Prometheus will use breakthrough nuclear propulsion and power systems to fuel an ambitious mission to Jupiter's icy moons, which astrobiologists believe could harbor organic material, and lay the groundwork for even more ambitious exploration missions in the coming decades. The FY 2004 budget request includes $93 million for this initiative, and $2.07 billion over five years.
  • Human Research Initiative will conduct biomedical research and develop technologies to enable safe and efficient long-duration space missions, including potential future missions beyond low-Earth orbit. This initiative will provide knowledge and technology for efficient life support on the ISS, and has potential medical benefits for millions here on Earth. The FY 2004 budget request includes $39 million for this initiative, and $347 million over five years.
  • Optical Communications Initiative will invest in revolutionary laser communications technologies that will allow planetary spacecraft to transmit large volumes of scientific information, and will be demonstrated on a Mars mission in 2009. The FY 2004 budget request includes $31 million for this initiative, and $233 million over five years.
  • Beyond Einstein Initiative will launch two Einstein Observatories: LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), a deep-space-based gravity wave detector that will open our eyes to the as-yet-unseen cosmic gravitational radiations; and Constellation-X, a mission that will tell us what happens to matter at the edge of a black hole. In addition, the FY 2004 budget request provides funding to initiate Einstein Probes, three spacecraft that will answer: "What powered the Big Bang?" (the Inflation Probe); "How did black holes form and grow?" (the Black Hole Finder Probe); and, "What is the mysterious energy pulling the Universe apart?" (the Dark Energy Probe). The FY 2004 budget request includes $59 million for this initiative, and $765 million over five years.
  • Climate Change Research Initiative is an interagency effort to accelerate research targeted at reducing key scientific uncertainties to help the Nation chart the best course forward on climate change issues. The FY 2004 budget request includes $26 million for this initiative, and $72 million over five years.
  • Aviation Security Initiative will develop technologies to help reduce the vulnerability of aviation to terrorist and criminal attacks. The FY 2004 budget request includes $21 million for this initiative, and $225 million over five years.
  • National Airspace System Transformation Augmentation will accelerate the development of technology to help address efficiency, capacity and security needs. The FY 2004 budget request includes $27 million for this initiative, and $100 million over five years.
  • Quiet Aircraft Technology Acceleration will develop technology to help significantly reduce community noise impact and achieve significant savings in amelioration programs. The FY 2004 budget request includes $15 million for this initiative, and $100 million over five years.
  • Education Initiative includes funding for NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, NASA Explorer Schools, NASA Explorer Institutes, and Scholarship for Service. The FY 2004 budget request includes $26 million for this initiative, and $130 million over five years.

While there has been additional funding provided to NASA's previous five-year budget runout to provide for these new initiatives, the balance of the funds for the initiatives has resulted from reprioritization of future funding to more appropriately pursue the Agency's Vision/Mission and goals. These initiatives will plant the seeds to enable future achievements. From them, we will continually advance the boundaries of exploration and our knowledge of our home planet and our place in the universe. We seek answers along many paths, multiplying the possibilities for major discoveries. The capabilities we develop may eventually enable humans to construct and service science platforms at waypoints in space between Earth and the Sun. Someday, we may use those same waypoints to begin our own journeys into the solar system to search for evidence of life on Mars and beyond.

Mr. Chairman, as I indicated above, there is one additional point that I wish to make. I would like to briefly discuss the state of our workforce, the lifeblood of this Agency. Last year, NASA submitted to the Congress a series of legislative proposals to help the Agency reconstitute and reconfigure our workforce. These provisions, for the most part, mirrored tools contained in the President's proposed Managerial Flexibility Act, and three of them have since been enacted on a Government-wide basis in the Homeland Security Act. NASA's workforce is an aging workforce. At the time of Apollo 17, the average age of the young men and women in Mission Control was 26 years; today, we have three times as many personnel over 60 years of age as under 30 years of age. Within five years, nearly 25 percent of NASA's current workforce will be eligible to retire. Since 1999, there have been at least 18 studies and reports concerning the workforce challenges facing NASA. The potential loss of this intellectual capital is particularly significant for this cutting-edge Agency that has skills imbalances.

Chairman Boehlert introduced H.R. 1085, the NASA Flexibility Act, which provides many of the human capital provisions that we feel are critical in our ability to reconstitute and reconfigure the NASA workforce. We support those provisions that are identical to the NASA human capital legislation submitted by the Administration in the last Congress; I am hopeful that these provisions will be enacted expeditiously this year, and ask for the Subcommittee's support of these important proposals.

In addition, the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government, Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Government Affairs held a hearing on March 6 on NASA's workforce challenges, and the Committee is moving forward with S. 610, which is critical to NASA's ability to reconstitute and reconfigure our workforce. We support those provisions that are identical to the NASA human capital legislation submitted by the Administration in the last Congress; I am hopeful that these provisions will be enacted expeditiously this year, and ask for the Subcommittee's support for these important proposals. Mr. Chairman, appended to my testimony, as Enclosure 1, is a chart displaying NASA's FY 2004 five-year budget request. Also appended, as Enclosure 2, is a summary of the significant progress that NASA has made in the past year on a number of important research and exploration objectives, and a detailed summary of NASA's FY 2004 budget request.

The Columbia accident has reminded me that we cannot stop dreaming. We cannot stop pursuing our ambitious goals. We cannot disappoint future generations when we stand at the threshold of great advances. Mr. Chairman, I believe that NASA's FY 2004 budget request is well conceived and worthy of the favorable consideration by the Subcommittee. I am prepared to respond to your questions.

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