Congress, NASA

This week: pass the budget, then talk about it

This week the full House is scheduled to debate and vote on the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill (HR 2847), beginning as early as today. Also available now is the text of the committee report with some more details about the spending plan. For example, this is how the report explains the creation of the new construction account in the bill:

The Committee proposes establishment of a new construction account to fund all institutional and programmatic construction. As shown in the Committee’s review, the longstanding arrangement of funding construction within other accounts without specifying an amount for construction has resulted in a lack of discipline in NASA’s planning for programmatic construction and a lack of transparency in presenting and justifying construction projects. The new account will fund discrete construction projects, minor revitalization and construction projects, facility planning and design, demolition, and environmental compliance and restoration. Appropriated funds shall be available for five years, as requested.

If debate remains on schedule, the House will vote on (and likely approve) the bill by tomorrow. On Thrusday, though, the space subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “External Perspectives on the FY 2010 NASA Budget Request and Related Issues”, which seems a bit oddly timed given the schedule for the passing the appropriations bill. The scheduled witnesses are:

Mr. John C. Marshall
Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP)

Dr. Kenneth M. Ford
NASA Advisory Council (NAC)

Mr. Robert M. Hanisee
Audit and Finance Committee
NASA Advisory Council (NAC)

Dr. Raymond S. Colladay
National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB)

Dr. Berrien Moore III
National Academies’ Space Studies Board (SSB)

Mr. J.P. Stevens
Vice President for Space Systems
Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), chair of the subcommittee, briefly discussed the budget during a Space Transportation Association luncheon last week. “I trust [approprations subcommittee] Chairman [Alan] Mollohan. I think he’s a very strong supporter of NASA and space,” she said, referring to comments made by Mollohan in the approprations bill markup earlier this month about giving exploration funding a “time-out” in the FY10 spending bill but continuing to express support for the overall effort. “I think his perspective is, yes, we had a mission, we had a vision, but we didn’t have adequate funding to go along with that.”

Later: “We are now entering a very difficult period of at least five years. We’re going to have think very creatively and strategically about how we explain that to the American people,” many of whom, she thinks, don’t realize that the shuttle is about to be retired, leaving NASA without its own access to the station for the next several years.

2 comments to This week: pass the budget, then talk about it

  • mike shupp

    Ummmm…. I’m missing something. The multiyear “gap” in which the USA will not have a launch vehicle for astronauts isn’t exactly news at this point, and for those who wish to indulge curiosity a wealth of unformation is already available on the internet and readily obtainable via Google and other search engines.

    Just why does this now need to be “explained” to the people, in any fashion at all, let alone in “very creative and strategic” ways? Is there something WRONG with reporting facts?

  • Doug Lassiter

    I think Gifford’s point is that this needs to be explained to the American public, not to space advocates. The American public largely doesn’t know, and overwhelmingly doesn’t care about this gap. She thinks they should.

    That’s a nice sentiment, but a short hearing in a congressional subcommittee isn’t going to make that happen. I’m sure she knows this, and perhaps just wants the witnesses to weigh in on this, though that’s certainly not conspicuous in the 20 page (!) charter for the hearing.

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