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NASA's Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request

Thursday, March 15, 2007 - 12:00am
Washington, DC

Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon

Good morning.  I’d like to begin by welcoming Dr. Griffin to today’s hearing.  We look forward to your testimony. 

You always have been straightforward with me and this Committee, and I appreciate it.

And in that same spirit of candor, I will say what I’ve said before--that I’m afraid that NASA is headed for a “train wreck” if things don’t change.

Your testimony outlines some of the challenges NASA is facing as a result of the FY 2007 Joint Resolution.  We will explore those in more detail during today’s hearing, but it is clear that NASA’s problems run much deeper.

Let me just list a few of them:

First, the FY 2008 budget request continues a pattern of Administration requests that fail to ask for the level of funding that the White House had said NASA would need to carry out the exploration initiative and its other core activities. 

Specifically, in the three years since the President announced his exploration initiative, the White House has cut NASA’s five-year budget plan by a total of $2.26 billion.  And based on this year’s budget submittal, that shortfall will worsen by another $420 million in FY 2009.

The impact of that $2.7 billion shortfall is compounded by the Administration’s underbudgeting of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs in that same five-year budget plan.  That underbudgeting forced you to take some $3.7 billion out of the rest of the agency’s programs to cover that shortfall.

Which brings me to the FY 08 budget request and its five-year budget plan.  That budget plan includes an estimated shortfall of $924 million in ISS crew and cargo services funding—a shortfall that will have to be made up one way or another.  The budget plan does not include funds to address Space Shuttle program termination and retirement costs past FY 2010, although NASA concedes there will be additional costs.

The budget plan doesn’t include funds for the required upgrade of the aging Deep Space Network, although NASA says it will need to start funding it in FY 2009.  The budget plan reduces the amount of Space Shuttle reserves available to address remaining Shuttle program threats during the remaining missions.

The budget plan contains almost no funds to initiate the series of new missions recommended by the National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.  The budget plan defers a significant amount of the research to be done on the International Space Station and provides no grounds for optimism that the research will be adequately funded prior to NASA’s planned withdrawal from the ISS program.

The budget plan continues the Administration’s underfunding of NASA’s aeronautics program.  The budget plan continues to cut back on NASA’s long-term exploration technology program.  For example, NASA will eliminate its lunar robotic program—the precursor program for its human lunar initiative after just one mission—LRO—has flown.

And even before the Joint Resolution impact is factored in, NASA personnel were looking at a six-month slip in the Crew Exploration Vehicle schedule to 2015.

I could go on, but I think it’s clear we have budgetary situation that bears little resemblance to the rosy projections offered by the Administration when the President announced his “Vision for Space Exploration” three years ago—a vision that is now increasingly blurred…

Dr. Griffin, in your testimony you mention the negative impacts of the Joint Resolution passed to deal with the unfinished FY 2007 appropriations left to us by the previous Congress.

I agree with you that those impacts are not good, and I urged that increased funding be made available for NASA.  However, I’m afraid you were left hanging by your own Administration when it said nothing about NASA in the Statement of Administration Policy that it sent over to the House.

The Administration’s silence unfortunately sent a message that was not helpful.

I will not kid you that it is going to be easy to get the funding you are requesting in this year’s request, especially if the White House remains disengaged.

Yet based on the items I’ve already listed, I’m worried that even getting the President’s requested level is just going to push the looming budgetary problem down the road until after the next election.

And so today, I’d like to find out at least the following:

Given your assessment of the negative impact of the Joint Resolution, did you ask the White House to weigh in with the House of Representatives?  If so, why didn’t they?

Do you think submitting a budget request with a shortfall of almost a billion dollars in ISS crew and cargo funding embedded in it makes sense?  Was it your idea or OMB’s?

Given the agreement I thought NASA had with OMB on ISS and Shuttle funding last year, why did this year’s budget request come over with shortfalls and reduced reserves in the Shuttle and ISS accounts—did you shift the money, or did OMB change the agreement?

Well, we have a lot to talk about today.  Once again, I want to welcome you to this hearing, Dr. Griffin, and I look forward to your testimony.

Opening Statement By Chairman Mark Udall (Space and Aeronautics)

Good morning. I’d like to join my colleagues in welcoming you to today’s hearing, Dr. Griffin. This will be the Committee’s first formal review of NASA’s FY 2008 budget request, and we look forward to your testimony.

You have a tough job, and we need to understand the basis of the decisions you are making, as well as any concerns you have about the budget.

I agree with Chairman Gordon’s assessment of the situation we are facing. It is going to be a tough year for space and aeronautics supporters to get the budgetary resources NASA needs, but we are going to try.

We are going to try because NASA’s space and aeronautics programs are a very important component of the nation’s R&D enterprise, and we need to be investing more in those areas—not less.

On Tuesday, this Committee held a hearing on Science and Technology Leadership in a 21st Century Global Economy. We heard a distinguished panel of witnesses stress the importance of investing in basic research if this nation is to remain competitive.

NASA’s space and Earth science basic research activities, along with microgravity research, are prime examples of research investments that can not only advance our knowledge but also benefit our society. And it should be noted that those investments play a critical role in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Aeronautics R&D is another area where the investments we make benefit our economy, our quality of life, and our national security. And when we fail to invest adequately in a range of basic and applied aeronautics R&D—as I fear we are in this budget—we foreclose future options and fail to meet future needs in ways that we are likely to regret.

Human space flight and exploration is another area that offers benefits—ranging from the intangible inspiration it provides to our public to the advanced technologies and research results that can come from those initiatives.

So, I strongly support a robust budget for NASA. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have been getting budget requests that are matched to the tasks we want NASA to undertake. And the stresses resulting from those past shortfalls are now reinforced by the funding plateau imposed in FY 07 by the Joint Resolution.

Dr. Griffin, I know that it is your job to put the best face on the budget that you have to defend. But this Committee needs to know where the stresses are, as well as the deferred opportunities that result from this budget request.

For example, last month we heard from the National Academies about their recommendations for future Earth Science research and applications missions—something I care deeply about. However, as I look at your outyear budget request, I see little that would give me confidence that NASA will be able to undertake any substantial fraction of the recommended missions for the foreseeable future.

Another example is the International Space Station. You have testified that NASA expects to cease funding the ISS after 2016. Yet your budget plan continues the deferral of any significant investments in ISS research through the five-year budget horizon associated with the FY 08 budget request. And your ISS research plan still contains no clear research objectives and associated milestones to complete the needed research during the ISS’s operational life.

That troubles me and raises questions about the Administration’s stewardship of this unique lifetime-limited orbital research and engineering facility in which the country has invested so much to build. Again, I don’t fault you for attempting to prioritize within a hopelessly inadequate budget. But we in Congress have to step back and consider whether the Administration’s approach to the nation’s civil space and aeronautics R&D enterprise is credible and supported by the needed resources.

Your testimony today will help us gather the information needed for the tough decisions that lie ahead. Again, I want to thank you for your service and I look forward to your testimony.



1 - Dr. Michael Griffin
Administrator National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Aeronautics and Space Administration
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NASA Administrator Griffin presents the FY 2008 budget request
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