Volume 2, No. 1 February 10, 1998
The opening bell for the FY99 NASA budget process on Capitol Hill began last Thursday with a broadside by House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). During opening remarks he raked the Clinton Administration and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin over the coals for failing to maintain the space station's budget and schedule. Sensenbrenner accused NASA of "writing budgets on the fly" and "juggling around programs," especially the shuttle. Sensenbrenner declared we can no longer "put any faith in the Administration's budget."
Gordon (D-TN) is the new ranking Democrat for the Subcommittee, replacing Bud Cramer (D-AL), who moved to the House Appropriations Committee. Gordon is the third ranking Democrat on the full Science Committee, behind Rep. Brown and Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX). Gordon, a moderate, represents the Third District. He opposed the space station from 1992-1995, but has since voted in favor of the project. Gordon's Republican colleagues, Rep. John Duncan and Rep. Van Hilleary, both oppose the station.NASA Budget
The Clinton Administration proposed to spend $13.465 billion in FY1999 for NASA, a $183 million reduction from current spending. When inflation is included, the total cut comes to $445 million. Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said we "should not be happy NASA is bleeding to death slowly."NASA at 40
In this 40th anniversary year of NASA, Rohrabacher announced the Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee will hold "one or two hearings" later this year to reexamine NASA's role in our society or, as he stated, the "vision thing." He said NASA should not "just be getting by" and could be more relevant if "it embraced the commercial space revolution." He said that, because the Administration has failed to provide a long-term vision for our nation's space program, it's up to Congress to make NASA "more inclusive, more relevant."Solar Space Power
Goldin announced that $2 million has been reprogrammed in 1998 to study solar space power; an additional $5 million is included in the FY99 and FY2000 budgets for study and research.Zero Gravity, Zero Taxes
To encourage investment in space, Rohrabacher briefly discussed the possibility of introducing legislation this session that would make space a "zero-gravity, zero-tax" environment for manufacturing and business enterprise. More to come.Administrator Goldin
Goldin tried to put the best face on NASA's FY99 budget, stating that "NASA has been given a vote of confidence from the President." As evidence, he explained: "Total funding in the FY99 budget request for FY98 through FY 2002 [the required five-year projection] represents an increase of $442 million over last year's runout." He added that next year's budget is a resounding success for space science and future space launch. Still, he stated he'd be open to more funding. Almost as if tipping his hat, Goldin mentioned the Weldon/Kucinich letter signed by 201 members of the House and by House Speaker Gingrich, supporting a four-percent increase in spending for NASA in FY99. [NOTE FROM NSS: This letter was produced during recess in mid-November 1997 by Reps. Weldon/Kucinich and presented to Speaker Gingrich in December. Gingrich signed a cover letter endorsing the House members' proposal and forwarded the document to President Clinton in January.]$200 Million Cost Overruns (ISS)
In the FY98 budget for NASA, Congress provided only $230 million of the $430 million NASA needs to pay for cost overruns associated with construction of the International Space Station. Goldin said the Administration "will shortly send forward a proposal to provide the remaining $200 million for FY98 through appropriations transfer and reallocation within the Human Space Flight appropriation." NASA is looking to gain authority to transfer $100 million from "infrastructure," $50 million from Earth Science (formerly Mission to Planet Earth) and $50 million from Space Science to pay for remaining cost overruns.Other Comments
Rep. Gordon expressed concern that NASA is "cannibalizing" programs to pay for the space station. Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) said he was "disappointed that the President again cut NASA." Rep. Roemer (D-IN) praised NASA for arranging a flight for Senator John Glenn aboard the space shuttle.
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000 members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization.