NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday he is not optimistic that Congress will pass a NASA authorization bill this year, and expects to start the 2015 fiscal year on a continuing resolution (CR).
Bolden, speaking at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) at the Langley Research Center in Virginia, said he was more optimistic about the prospects of an authorization bill last month, when the House passed its version of the legislation on a 401-2 vote. “That was not lost on me,” he said of the margin of passage. “My naïveté caused me to believe that, boy, things are going to change.”
However, the Senate has yet to take up the House bill or even introduce its own version. “They have talked off and on about an authorization bill, but we don’t see any serious movement there right now,” he said, adding that Congress was about to go on its summer recess and not return until early September. “I am not optimistic that we will get an authorization bill until 2015.”
On the appropriations side, Bolden said that that the increase in funding offered in the House bill over the administration’s request “was a very pleasant surprise for all of us.” He added that he was “disappointed” the bill didn’t fully fund commercial crew, offering $785 million versus the requested $848 million, “but we’ll take it.” He added he was also concerned about cuts in the bill in the request for Space Technology.
The Senate’s version of the appropriations bill provides similar funding levels, but has stalled out on the Senate floor because of unrelated issues. “There’s a strong possibility that the federal government could be funded through a continuing resolution for a period of time during fiscal year 2015,” he said. (Reports suggest that a CR would fund the government at least past the November elections.)
That’s a setback after the progress made though last month indicated a chance the appropriations would become law before the fiscal year begins on October 1. “Once again, we’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” Bolden said. “Everybody was really excited and looking forward to a really healthy budget.”
Bolden also offered a bit of news about the ongoing review of proposals submitted to the next round of the commercial crew program, Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap). “Our progress on commercial crew source selection deliberations has been evidently better than we anticipated,” he said. He said that those awards would come “much sooner than later this year,” but was not more specific. NASA officials have generally said over the last few months that the CCtCap contract or contracts would be announced in August or September.