Full Committee Markup -- H.R. 6063
Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Good morning. Today the Committee is meeting to mark up H.R. 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. H.R. 6063 was introduced by Chairman Udall, and I was pleased to be an original cosponsor of the legislation. I was even more pleased that Mr. Hall and Mr. Feeney have joined as original cosponsors. This is a bipartisan bill in every sense of the word, and I want to thank them and their staff for their productive involvement in moving this legislation forward. That constructive approach is reflected in their active participation in helping to craft the manager’s amendment that we will consider in a little while. I am emphasizing the bipartisan consensus we have on this bill because I think it is important that we send a strong message to the next Administration—whether it turns out to be a Democratic or a Republican one—that Congress believes that NASA is important and worthy of the nation’s support.
H.R. 6063 makes clear that NASA is relevant to the nation’s innovation agenda, that it has a key role to play in ensuring the future health of our nation’s aviation system, and that it is critical to the nation’s efforts to better understand our climate and the changes facing the Earth system. In addition, H.R. 6063 demonstrates that a properly structured human space flight and exploration program can provide dividends technologically, scientifically, and geopolitically—and is worthy of the nation’s investment in it.
Yet H.R. 6063 also demonstrates that a relevant space and aeronautics program is affordable. The baseline authorization for Fiscal Year 2009 represents simply an inflationary increase of 2.8 percent over the FY 2008 authorization level that was enacted into law in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. It also increases funding for NASA relative to the FY 2008 appropriation for NASA at a rate consistent with that applied to R&D agencies in last year’s “America COMPETES Act”. That is a reflection of the fact that NASA’s activities have an important role to play in the nation’s innovation agenda. It is also a reflection of the fact that we need to ensure that NASA has sufficient resources for all of the important tasks that the nation is asking it to carry out—and I believe that this bill does that.
There are a great many important provisions in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, including a special funding augmentation to help narrow the human space flight “gap” that the nation is facing after the retirement of the Shuttle.
Since Members have already familiarized themselves with the contents of the legislation, I will not take time now to restate those provisions. Instead, I will just close by saying that I think that H.R. 6063 is a good bill that will help prepare NASA for a relevant, productive future, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
Opening Statement By Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO)
Good morning. As Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, I am pleased to report that the Subcommittee approved H.R. 6063 on a voice vote, without amendment, at its May 20th markup. As Chairman Gordon noted, H.R. 6063 is a bill that has strong bipartisan support, and I want to take a moment to thank Mr. Hall and Mr. Feeney in particular—as well as their staffs—for all their efforts on this legislation. Their support and thoughtful input has made this a better bill.
I am also pleased to report to the Committee that since its introduction, we have received numerous letters of endorsement for H.R. 6063, including ones from the Aerospace Industries Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the American Meteorological Society, the Planetary Society, the Universities Space Research Association, IEEE, and ASME.
This legislation is in many respects the result of the testimony and constructive input of countless hearing witnesses, outside experts, and organizations, and I want to thank all of them for their insights. In particular, we have heard from witness after witness that NASA has not been given the funding it needs to successfully carry out all of the important tasks that the nation has asked of it.
Well, we’ve listened, and the funding authorized in H.R. 6063 will help point NASA towards a more productive and sustainable future. In addition to the baseline authorization, H.R. 6063 contains a directed funding augmentation intended to help accelerate the date when the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares Crew Exploration Vehicle can attain full operational status. Providing the additional funding in FY 2009 can help narrow the post-Shuttle human space flight gap that we are facing.
There are a number of other features of the legislation that I would like to highlight in these brief opening remarks.
First, a guiding principle of this legislation is that NASA should be—and I believe is--an agency that can be a strong catalyst for dealing with important national concerns. That is why the bill focuses on building a strong, vital Earth sciences research and applications program. And it’s why we have taken significant steps in this legislation to strengthen and focus NASA’s aeronautics R&D program, which will be so critical to our nation’s future aviation system. That’s also why we have focused on measures to ensure that the International Space Station will be utilized as productively as possible, and that the nation’s human exploration efforts will be carried out in a manner that maximizes our return on our national investment in it.
Finally, H.R. 6063 recognizes that America’s private sector has always been one of its great strengths. Thus this legislation includes substantive measures to help realize the synergies achievable between government and the private sector.
Well, while there are many other features of H.R. 6063 that I could mention, I know we all would like to proceed with the markup, so I will just close by noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the U.S. space program and the establishment of NASA.
I believe that H.R. 6063 will help ensure that NASA’s next fifty years will be as exciting and productive as its first fifty, and I urge Members to support it at today’s markup.