Leadership Change in the House S&T Committee Could Make NASA a Priority

Leadership Change in the House S&T Committee Could Make NASA a Priority

Joanne Padr n Carney, Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS’s) Center for Science, Technology and Congress, said today that the results of the mid-term Congressional elections would bring a number of new faces to the House Science and Technology Committee. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), have reportedly expressed interest in assuming the leadership spots in the Committee, a change that Padr n Carney said could mean NASA will become a “high priority” for Congress in the next session.

Her comments were made during a AAAS webinar Election 2010: What Do the U.S. Mid-term Elections Mean for Science?, which covered issues such as R&D funding, energy, and biomedical policy and research. Padr n Carney identified several issues impacting the legislative process, including increased oversight, which Representative Hall has said would be one of his priorities. This could have a direct impact on the future of NASA human spaceflight, she suggested.

On a related issue, Padr n Carney said that “the scientific community [will] lose a number of champions,” including Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) and Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN). Gordon currently chairs the House S&T Committee and Baird chairs its Energy and Environment subcommittee. Both are retiring this year. Representative David Foster (D-IL), a physics PhD, is another loss. He lost his seat in the Illinois race.

With deficit reduction an important priority for the next Congress, budget cuts will probably begin next year, pointed out Patrick Clemins, Director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program. With funding questions still undecided, debate over the recently enacted 2010 NASA Authorization Act will continue “despite its passage,” said Padr n Carney in response to a SpacePolicyOnline.com question. “We don’t know yet whether there will be funding for another [Shuttle] flight,” she added.

At the end of the day, while NASA may well be the focus of renewed debate in Congress, its status will still depend on how much money it receives to carry out its programs – whatever those may be. An archived version of the webinar will be available on the AAAS Member Central website (membership required).

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