Constancy of Purpose at NASA a Top Priority of House Committee

Constancy of Purpose at NASA a Top Priority of House Committee

The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee laid out its top five priorities for the 115th Congress today.   Fifth on the list is “constancy of purpose within NASA.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said in a press release that an “active two years lay ahead” for the committee and identified the following priorities:

  • Cutting Government Red Tape, Emphasizing Sound Science at EPA
  • Reforms to Department of Energy Programs
  • STEM Education and Reauthorization of NSF and NIST Programs
  • Oversight of FDIC Cybersecurity Failures, FISMA, and Ongoing Investigations
  • Constancy of Purpose Within NASA

Although not on that list, at a Space Transportation Association (STA) event on Monday Smith stressed the need to pass NASA authorization acts for 2017 as well as for 2018.  A 2017 authorization act is in the final stages of drafting and may be taken up by the Senate soon.  Smith also said that the first NASA hearing will take place in mid-February.  It will be aimed at acquainting the committee’s new members with NASA’s past, present, and future activities.

Today’s press release said that the committee will “continue to ensure” that NASA “pursues a balanced portfolio of programs reinvigorated with bold exploration objectives.  Building upon the progress made towards the development of the Space Launch System, Orion, and the commercial crew and cargo programs, the committee will ensure NASA stays the course and leads the world in not only space exploration, but also space science.”

No mention is made of earth science.  Smith and other congressional Republicans have argued for several years that agencies other than NASA should be responsible for earth science research so NASA can focus on space exploration.  Advocates for NASA’s earth science program point out that NASA is the only agency that launches earth science research satellites, which are critical for understanding the Earth and its environment.  The debate over NASA’s almost $2 billion per year earth science program is expected to be a major source of contention between Republicans and Democrats this year.

Smith announced Republican subcommittee assignments yesterday.   Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who represents the Texas district that includes Johnson Space Center, will continue to chair the Space Subcommittee with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) as vice-chairman.  Brooks’ district includes Marshall Space Flight Center.  Twelve other Republicans will serve on the Space Subcommittee, most from districts with government and/or commercial space interests:  Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Frank Lucas (OK), Bill Posey (FL), Jim Bridenstine (OK), Stephen Knight (CA), Barbara Comstock (VA), Ralph Lee Abraham (LA), Daniel Webster (FL), Jim Banks (IN), Andy Biggs (AZ), Neal Dunn (FL), and Clay Higgins (LA).

Biggs will chair the Environment Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NOAA’s satellite programs.  He replaces Bridenstine, who chaired it in the 114th Congress.  Banks will serve as vice chair.  The eight other Republicans on this subcommittee are: Rohrabacher, Posey, Brooks, Randy Weber (TX), Babin, Gary Palmer (AL), Barry Loudermilk (GA), and Higgins.

The other three subcommittees — Energy, Oversight, and Research and Technology — have little or no direct involvement in space issues.

Democrats have not yet announced their full committee or subcommittee members.

Smith also made staffing announcements yesterday.  Among them:  Jennifer Young Brown will continue as the committee’s chief of staff; Tom Hammond will continue as staff director of the Space Subcommittee; and Joseph Brazauskas will serve as staff director of the Environment Subcommittee.

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