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Volume 2, No. 7                April 29, 1998
"Exploding" ISS Costs Worry Senators
At the latest hearing (4/23/98) on NASAäs FY 1999 budget, Senator Kit Bond (R- MO), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD-IA, accused the space agency of "giving lip service" to cost growth problems in the International Space Station program. According to Bond, NASA has "done little to alleviate some of the concerns [the subcommittee] expressed last year," and has "only reiterated the need for transfer authority," which was denied in 1997.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the ranking Democrat, warned members are running out of patience and that budgetary troubles in the ISS program "could move to a crisis." "Yellow lights relating to the space station," she said, "...have flashed long enough and we must begin to solidify contingency plans on how to move the space station process forward and onto successful launches."

Testifying before the subcommittee hearing was NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. He diplomatically answered very difficult questions about the station, putting up a strong defense for the program. Goldin announced there would be no decision until late May at the earliest on what NASA plans to do about Russiaäs ongoing lack of performance. To assess the situation, Goldin is dispatching to Russia on Friday (4/24/98) Joseph Rothenberg, Associate Administrator of Space Flight.

Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR), the space stationäs most ardent opponent in the Senate, made a brief appearance at the hearing. (He is not a member of the subcommittee.) Bumpers pressed Goldin on details contained in the Chabrow Report, which estimates ISS cost overruns could reach $7 billion. Goldin said NASA would officially respond to the report in 30 days. He also said he does not accept the $7 billion figure. For now, the agency is sticking to the $19.7 billion number, which includes $900 million in cost overruns, about $700 million for the development of the Crew Return Vehicle, and contingency expenses due to Russian schedule slips.

Nine members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD-IA did not attend the hearing. This includes Conrad Burns (R-MT), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Larry Craig (R-ID), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (IA), and Barbara Boxer (D- CA).

Missile Proliferation
Mikulski also raised the issue of Russian nuclear proliferation at the hearing. She said the diversion of missile technology from Russia to Iran "could sink the space station." The Maryland Senator said she will be asking "NASA and other U.S. agencies do all they can to prevent the transfer of missile technology to Iran."
Transfer Authority
Still unresolved in Congress is pending legislation to transfer about $200 million from NASAäs Science, Aeronautics and Technology accounts to the ISS program. Bond said he did not think it "appropriate to rob other programs and initiatives to pay of the space station." According to Goldin, the money is not needed for any specific hardware, but will supplement reserves, and would probably be expended in FY 1999.

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.


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