Gordon Responds To "Nobel Prize" Letter; Says Loan Guarantee Language is Dead Because of CBO Assumptions

Gordon Responds To "Nobel Prize" Letter; Says Loan Guarantee Language is Dead Because of CBO Assumptions

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, has responded to the signers of the “Nobel Prize winners” letter that sought changes in the House version of the NASA authorization bill. The letter, dated September 3, explains and defends the position taken by the committee and reveals that the committee will delete provisions it included to establish a loan guarantee program for the development of “commercial crew.”

Saying that “NASA is at a crossroads” and needs a “balanced, sustainable, mission-driven and executable” path, Rep. Gordon calls for “a NASA budget that is honest.” He characterizes the committee’s bill as “a common-sense and balanced solution to a complicated situation that will help avoid future instability for the agency.”

Noting that in April President Obama added a “multi-billion dollar crew rescue vehicle program” to the FY2011 budget request submitted in February that would require “offsets of $1-2 billion per year over the next five years from other NASA accounts,” the letter asserts that “The hard reality is that the Administration has sent an unexecutable budget request to Congress, and we now have to make tough choices…”

One choice the committee made in writing the bill was to provide loan guarantees to companies wanting to develop commercial crew systems instead of direct government funding as proposed by the President. In the letter, Rep. Gordon reveals that when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) looked at that provision to determine how much the government might be liable for, the cost made the program “unviable.” Consequently, “we will need to remove the loan guarantee provisions” and instead will “look for ways to cost effectively fund commercial crew-related activities that can benefit the whole industry while ensuring that other critical missions are supported and within the overall budget constraints.”

Matching resources with program content is the overall theme of the letter. Mr. Gordon concedes that “this is not a perfect bill” and “just one step in the process,” but as negotiations move forward “it is important to keep in mind that increasing funding in one program will require a funding reduction in another program.”

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