Science Committee Democrats Express Concerns About NASA’s Budget and Programs
Senior Democrats on the House Science Committee made a number of recommendations after hearing testimony on NASA's fiscal year 2004 budget request today from Administrator Sean O'Keefe. At the hearing, O'Keefe discussed NASA's plans for maintaining the Space Station in light of the Columbia accident, discussed program cuts and enhancements contained in the FY04 budget submission, and responded to questions regarding NASA's role in the ongoing Columbia investigation.
Rep. Ralph M. Hall (D-TX), Ranking Member of the Committee, commented, "We need to focus a lot more attention on systems that could improve Space Shuttle crew survivability. I want NASA to take a serious look at what options we have and report back to Congress as soon as possible."
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, noted: "We learned today that we are one problem away - an unsuccessful Progress logistics mission - from abandoning the Space Station. In addition, I'm concerned that the budget assumptions for supporting the Space Station may be based on an overly optimistic view of our international partners' willingness and ability to pick up the tab. We need to follow this unfolding situation and its impact on NASA's out-year budgets."
Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX) stated, "The safety of our Space Station astronauts should be paramount. I've introduced a bill today to allow NASA to purchase additional Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles if the President notifies Congress that they are needed to support the Station while the Shuttle is grounded."
Rep. John Larson (D-CT) noted, "I am very disappointed that the President's budget for NASA projects continued cuts in aeronautics research and development for the next five years. Although NASA's first 'A' stands for aeronautics, this downward trend shows a lack of commitment by NASA to one of its core missions. I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to restore this important element of our Nation's aviation enterprise."
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) commented on the recent release of e-mails between NASA and contractor personnel, "Once more in the wake of a national tragedy we are left to ask who knew what when, and what should they have done about it. The issue is not whether the memos were right, it's whether they were read."