House Authorizers Write to House and Senate Appropriators

House Authorizers Write to House and Senate Appropriators

When House Science and Technology Commitee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) agreed to bring the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill to the House floor for a vote instead of his own version of the bill, he said that he would continue to work with the appropriators to make changes in what the Senate decided. He and other members of the committee’s bipartisan leadership have now written to the House and Senate appropriators outlining those changes.

As Rep. Gordon has said on several occasions, the key points that he and other committee members feel are critical for the appropriators to consider are the following:

  • the additional shuttle flight recommended in the Senate bill represents an unfunded mandate of $500 million and it should only take place if the Administrator certifies that it is safe and necessary;
  • NASA, not Congress, should determine the best approach to making use of existing investments in Orion, Ares and Shuttle for a new space transportation system;
  • safety is a fundamental concern and recommendations made in the aftermath of the space shuttle Columbia accident should be kept in mind;
  • priority should be given to commercial cargo and not to commercial crew, and “would-be commercial providers” should have to put some “skin in the game” if they receive taxpayer funding;
  • the government needs to build a backup system to commercial crew and language needs to be clarified that a “fully capable launch system” be ready by the end of 2016;
  • new initiatives in STEM education are needed and the authorizers are concerned that the Senate bill would force NASA to cut funding for the Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP); and
  • provisions on acquisition management, couterfeit parts and information security at NASA need to be strengthened.

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out its version of the appropriations bill that includes NASA (the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, S. 3636), but none of the 12 regular FY2011 appropriations bills has reached the Senate floor. The House Appropriations Committee’s CJS subcommittee marked up its version of the bill in June, but the committee has not taken any further action on it.

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