Congress, NASA

Senate appropriators to review NASA budget this week

Last week a House appropriations subcommittee questioned NASA administrator Charles Bolden about the agency’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal; this week it’s the Senate’s turn. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the NASA budget proposal this Wednesday, March 28, at 2 pm. As with the House hearing, Bolden is the only scheduled witness.

The Senate hearing may cover many of the same issues as both the House hearing last week as well as a Senate Commerce Committee hearing earlier this month, especially since Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who grilled Bolden on SLS and Orion funding at the Commerce hearing, also serves as ranking member of this appropriations subcommittee. The subcommittee’s chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will likely query Bolden on the status of and funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Incidentally, another member of that subcommittee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), held a town hall meeting Saturday at the United Launch Alliance (ULA) factory in Decatur, Alabama. Shelby talked about broader political issues and didn’t appear to devote much time to space issues despite the setting, based on a Huntsville Times article about the event.

13 comments to Senate appropriators to review NASA budget this week

  • SpaceColonizer

    Why aren’t they inviting any witnesses from the OMB? Some of the House appropriaters (which is apparently not a word according to spell check, but I’m going with it) were quick to shift blame from Bolden to them for certain decisions… seems like it would make sense to have them represented.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Philip Horzempa wrote @ March 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I too want to focus on the upcoming Sequestration. T

    that was a great post Philip and I am sorry that I was to busy to say so at the time…IN the end any hearings on NASA’s budget are goofy until this is sorted out… RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ March 25th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Why aren’t they inviting any witnesses from the OMB?

    I’m no expert in the realm of arcane political theater, but it would seem to me that the NASA Administrator is the face of all things NASA, regardless the machinations that it took upstream to arrive at his budget numbers.

    When the boss hands you a budget, regardless who whipped it up, you either decide to own it as part of your job responsibilities, or you leave. That’s the way it is in management, and I’ve had my share of budgets that stank – just part of the job.

    My $0.02

  • Jeff Foust

    SpaceColonizer: Traditionally such hearings before appropriators (note spelling) feature the heads of agencies and departments, and not OMB officials. OMB does testify before Congress regarding the overall federal budget proposal.


    “Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will likely query Bolden on the status of and funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).”

    Oink. Oink. The Supercollider Redux.

  • SpaceColonizer

    @Jeff Foust

    I guess that makes sense.

    Re: Spelling

    You’d think spell check would be smart enough to suggest that correct spelling with only one letter off… the closest option it was giving me was “appropriates.”

  • If you watch the video of last year’s hearing, at the beginning it’s just Mikulski and Hutchison, with a whole bunch of empty chairs, all staring at Bolden.

    Mikulski is gracious, then Hutchison goes off on one of her nutty anti-SLS conspiracy tirades.

  • ArtieT

    Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will also likely query Bolden on how much money NASA if funneling to APL (the 11th NASA Center).

    Got to hand it to B. Mikulski, she knows how to feed her constituents at the trough !

  • Malmesbury

    “Why aren’t they inviting any witnesses from the OMB?”

    The important thing when calling witness for this type of political theatre is to make sure that –

    1) You know the answers in advance
    2) The answers are the ones you want.

    Someone from the OMB stating – “Program X was y*100% over budget and the schedule was slipping at more than 1 month per month – of course we recommended termination” isn’t what they want to hear.


    @Malmesbury wrote @ March 26th, 2012 at 3:55 pm


  • Coastal Ron

    Interesting article over at that relates to some future budget topics.

    The article (NASA Advisory Council: Select a Human Exploration Destination ASAP) outlines the work of the Human Exploration & Operations Committee (HEOC) of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) – a body that provides the NASA Administrator with counsel and advice on programs and issues of importance to the Agency.

    I thought this excerpt was interesting:

    Major Reasons for the [future HSF exploration] Recommendation: The current mission objective for [SLS] EM-2 is listed as, “Demonstrate crewed flight beyond LEO.” Crewed flight beyond LEO was demonstrated more than 40 years ago in the Apollo program,” the HEOC group added. “NASA needs to show how EM-2 fits within the architecture for future human exploration beyond LEO and ensure that the objectives for a crewed lunar mission are consistent with the cost and risks involved.

    “Consequences of No Action on the Recommendation: NASA leaves itself open to public criticism and loss of Congressional support if it cannot sufficiently justify the need for conducting a mission such as EM-2.

    In other words, don’t just fly around the Moon just because you want to show off your new rocket and capsule.

    A couple of things are are starting to come together which will eventually force Congress to address NASA’s overall budget, and budget priorities.

    1. If NASA does recommend a human exploration plan, or at least a destination, what does that do to NASA’s budget? Spending on the SLS and MPCV will continue for the next decade, and there is already not enough money to fund other NASA budget priorities such as Planetary Science.

    2. What ever plan is proposed, any proposed budget that goes with it would have to show a very slow schedule if they assume the SLS will be used (which they have to for now). I think this will shock people how little we can do beyond LEO because of the sustaining costs of using the SLS.

    3. I doubt a budget increase is being planned for NASA any time soon, so will the few in Congress who care about NASA (for many reasons) decide to double-down on the SLS to the detriment of other NASA programs? Or will this force a reassessment of the SLS?

    I don’t think we’ll see much happening with NASA this year, but next year, regardless who is President, could be eventful.

  • Well, this event was the predictable train wreck.

    Queen Bee Kay Bailey Hutchison was off her rocker again, repeatedly insulting Bolden, accusing him of secretly conspiring to cancel SLS. Bolden simply smiled and took the high road, complimenting her on her service. He replied with facts; it made her look quite nutty.

    The rest of them just kept asking about pork for their states. Sherrod Brown from Ohio wants NASA to force ESA to use a test stand in his state.

    They all want more money for SLS but not one of them said a word about what it would be used for.

  • Engineer in Houston

    Hutchison is being very poorly advised. SLS is not about exploration, and everyone knows it. If she and the others were concerned about exploration, they would take the $20 billion to be spent on SLS over the next ten years and buy 100 Atlas V or Falcon 9 launchers and some payloads.

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