House SS&T To Markup New NASA Authorization Bill Next Week – UPDATE

House SS&T To Markup New NASA Authorization Bill Next Week – UPDATE

Update:  The committee has posted a summary of the bill on its website.

The House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee will mark up a new NASA authorization bill for FY2016 and FY2017.  The markup will be on Thursday, April 30.

Details of the bill have not been publicly released, but the title of the bill is National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act for 2016 and 2017.  The House already passed a bill for 2015, so that would effectively make a three-year authorization, similar to NASA’s previous authorization bill that covered FY2011-FY2013. 

The agency has been working without an authorization since the end of FY2013.  The House passed a bill for 2014, in addition to the 2015 bill, but neither was acted upon by the Senate.  Sen.Ted Cruz, chairman of the Space, Science and Competitiveness
Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Committee, has said that he is working on a NASA authorization bill, but
no timetable for consideration has been announced.  Cruz held a hearing on NASA’s FY2016 budget request last month.

Authorization bills set policy and recommend funding levels, but do not provide any money to an agency.  Only appropriations bills provide money.

Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of House SS&T’s Space Subcommittee, held a hearing on the NASA FY2016 budget request last week.  Palazzo recently was named to become a member of the House Appropriations Committee and assigned to the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee that funds NASA.  A House SS&T committee spokeswoman confirmed today that the House Republican Conference granted Palazzo a waiver from the rule that members of the Appropriations Committee may not serve on other committees and thus he retains his position on House SS&T.   As a member of both NASA’s authorization and appropriations committees, he is in a unique position to influence NASA’s policy and budget. 

Palazzo is a strong proponent of the Space Launch System, whose engines are tested at Stennis Space Center in his district, the Orion spacecraft, and most of NASA’s science programs.  He is less enthusiastic about how NASA is implementing the commercial crew program, NASA’s earth science program, and the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).  He supports development of an American capability to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but does not agree that NASA needs to support two companies (Boeing and SpaceX).  Instead, he insists that an Orion spacecraft launched on an existing launch vehicle could serve as a redundant ISS transportation capability and therefore only one commercial crew system is necessary.  Regarding earth science, he believes NASA’s budget for those programs are receiving a disproportionate increase and that NASA is being asked to take on programs that should be funded by NOAA and USGS.  As for ARM, he points out that it has not received support even from NASA’s own advisory committees and without consensus or a clear explanation of how it fits into a broader exploration architecture, it is difficult to see how it will persevere.

The House SS&T committee markup is on April 30 at 11:00 am ET.    

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