Headlines > News > Mikulski Calls for Bipartisan Summit with White House on Future of Space Program

Mikulski Calls for Bipartisan Summit with White House on Future of Space Program

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:56 pm
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Press Release; Pledges to reintroduce Mikulski-Hutchison $1 billion NASA amendment

At the final Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing focused on innovation, Chairman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) noted her concern for the future of NASA’s budget and the nation’s space program, pledging to fight again with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) for a $1 billion increase to NASA’s top line. At today’s hearing, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin presented his priorities as the subcommittee considers President Bush’s FY 2008 budget requests.

“With almost no real growth in NASA’s budget, there is no margin for errors. If there are cost overruns, other NASA programs will suffer. There is simply too much pressure on NASA’s budget – now and in the future,” said Senator Mikulski. “The only way to reduce the pressure on the budget, and maintain a balanced space program, is to raise the top line for NASA.”

Senator Mikulski called for a bipartisan, bicameral space summit with the White House. She cited a similar meeting 17 years ago, with then President George W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle, which paved the way for the creation of the Mission to Planet Earth.

“There is no more visible sign of American global leadership than our space program. To lose that position to other countries would be a tragedy,” said Senator Mikulski. “We need a new dialogue with the President and his administration. We need a national commitment to our space program to put it on a path for success. Only through the active cooperation of the White House and the Congress, can we have a healthy, robust and balanced space program.”

Senator Mikulski’s opening statement, as prepared, is below:

“Good morning and welcome. This is our final hearing on innovation. It is appropriate that we conclude this series of hearings with NASA. No other agency epitomizes the innovative and competitive spirit of America than NASA. Today we will hear from the NASA Administrator, Dr. Griffin about the agency’s budget and priorities.

“Since our hearing last year, a NASA civil servant – Dr. John Mather – won the Nobel Prize. The Mission to Pluto has given us magnificent new pictures of Jupiter on its way to Pluto, Cassini continues to give use dramatic images of Saturn and Hubble continues its extraordinary contributions to science. We have successfully and safely returned the Space Shuttle to flight, and laid the foundation to return to the Moon, and eventually to Mars.

“For 2008, the President’s budget funds NASA at $17.3 billion, a 6.8 percent increase over the FY 07 CR [continuing resolution] level. When compared to the President’s FY 07 budget request (as opposed to the CR), the budget request represents a 3 percent increase over last year. To put NASA’s budget in perspective, $17.3 billion represents just 7/10’s of 1 percent of the entire federal budget.

“In Science, the budget request totals $5.5 billion, a $300 million increase over the FY 07 CR and a $50 million increase when compared to the President’s 07 budget request. The budget for science includes funding for the Hubble servicing mission, and the continued development of the Webb telescope. While I’m pleased that these missions are properly funded in 2008, I see a significant problem with future science budgets. From 2008 through 2011, the science budget grows by just 1 percent per year.

“Even worse, the budget for Earth Science actually shows a cut in funding starting next year. By 2012, the budget for earth science will decline to $1.3 billion- $200 million less than the earth science budget in 2008.

“The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently released its report on the future of earth science, calling for 14 new earth science missions by NASA over the next decade. Yet, NASA’s budget will not accommodate any of these new missions. At a time when we are facing possibly the significant threats to our planet earth – like global warming and severe weather – we need sound science to inform our policy decisions, and we need NASA to provide that science.

“In 1998, the aeronautics budget at NASA was $1.5 billion. Today, it’s just $554 million. Every commercial aircraft flying today uses technology developed by NASA. If we are going to continue to dominate the aerospace industry, then we should be increasing our investment in aeronautics, not decreasing it.

“The President’s budget for the Space Shuttle is $4 billion, the same as the FY 07 funding level. The Administration’s budget calls for 14 additional flights to the space station by 2010 and one flight to service the Hubble Telescope. As our space shuttles returns to flight, the safety of our astronauts must remain the number one priority for NASA. I will continue to do everything possible to ensure the safety of our astronauts as we continue to fly the Shuttle and develop the next generation launch vehicles.

“For FY 08, the President’s budget provides $3.9 billion for exploration, a $500 million increase over the 07 CR funding level. I am absolutely committed to the goal of returning to the Moon and staying there. With the emergence of other countries expanding their presence in space, returning to the Moon now has strategic significance. NASA estimates it will cost $16 billion to build the Ares and Orion launch system by the year 2012. While this is a significant investment, there will still be a four-year delay between the retirement of the space shuttle and the launch of Orion and Ares. This delay is not caused by the Congress, but by the Administration’s own budget, because under the President’s budget, Orion and Ares won’t be ready until 2014.

“For FY 08, the Space Station will receive $2.2 billion, an increase of $300 million over last year. The 2005 NASA Authorization bill designated the Space Station as a National Laboratory. We should make full use of the Space Station for science and to fulfill our international commitments. We also need to solve the issue of how to re-supply the station once the Shuttle is retired. I fully support the COTS program, which is funded in this budget at $236 million to develop a commercial re-supply capability for the space station once the shuttle is retired.

“With almost no real growth in NASA’s budget, there is no margin for errors in NASA’s budgets. If there are cost overruns, other NASA programs will suffer. There is simply too much pressure on NASA’s budget – now and in the future. The only way to reduce the pressure on the budget, and maintain a balanced space program, is to raise the top line for NASA.

“Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and I are firmly committed to increasing NASA’s top line by $1 billion this year. NASA has still not been re-paid for the costs of repairing the space shuttle following the loss of Columbia. The agency was forced to cut $2 billion from science, aeronautics and the space station programs to help pay for the shuttle repairs. This put NASA in an even deeper financial hole. The Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment would fill this hole and help repair NASA budget. But this is a short term solution. We need a longer term solution to fix NASA’s budget shortfall.

“The long term solution is to have NASA included in the Administration’s Competitiveness Initiative. Whether it’s inspiring our next generation of scientists or creating cutting edge technologies with civilian applications, NASA is the original innovation agency. The America Competes Act, recently introduced by Senator Hutchison and Nelson and of which I am an original co-sponsor, authorizes NASA’s inclusion in a national competitiveness initiative. While we together to move this legislation forward, we need the Administration to come to the table.

“That is why I believe it is time for space summit with the President. Seventeen years ago, I went to the White House and I met with then President Bush and Vice President Quayle to talk about our space program. We set out an agenda for space – an agenda that was bipartisan and had broad support. The Vice President was put in charge of overseeing our space program. That summit paved the way for the creation of the Mission to Planet Earth. Today, with countries such as China, Iran and other seeking to establish their footprint in space, with a four-year delay in our ability to launch astronauts into orbit, and the need to maintain a balanced space program and promote innovation, we need a new dialogue with the President and the Administration. We need a national commitment to our space program to put it on a path for success. Only through the active cooperation of the White House and the Congress, can we have a healthy, robust and balanced space program.

“I hope we will be able to meet with the President, the future of our space program depends upon it. There is no more visible sign of American global leadership than our space program. To lose that position to other countries would be a tragedy. I will do everything in my power to see that doesn’t happen. But I can’t do it alone, and neither can my colleagues sitting here today.”

Melissa Schwartz – http://mikulski.senate.gov 202-228-1122

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