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Volume 2, No. 12                August 7, 1998
August 5 House Science Committee Hearing
"International Space Station -- White House Response"

After several requests to appear at previous International Space Station hearings, a representative from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finally sat Wednesday morning before the House Science Committee and Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). OMB Director Jacob Lew testified before the Committee on how the Administration plans to deal with the cost overruns and Russian non-performance concerning the International Space Station.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Sensenbrenner announced, in response to the Chabrow report, the Administration is considering spending an additional $510 million, which would be used for a propulsion module and modifications to the Shuttle fleet so it can reboost the ISS to a higher orbit. The Chairman also revealed that Russia is seeking $50 to $100 million from the U.S. so it can complete work on the Service Module, an idea NASA appears to support and apparently has recommended to OMB. Alluded to throughout the hearing, although not directly discussed, is an alternative strategy to get those funds into Russian hands because, politically, it might be difficult to directly pay for the unfinished work. Clarified through sources following the hearing, it is reported that NASA has talked with Russia about purchasing two Soyuz CRVs at an inflated price which would be used until the U.S. CRV comes on line. This strategy would be a way to funnel the needed resources to complete work on the Service Module.

Ranking member George Brown (D-CA), in his opening remarks on the ISS, said "We cannot simply drift from one crisis to the next and hope for the best." He attributed funding problems in the ISS program to cutbacks NASA has sustained in its overall budget the past five years. "Every time it does a good job of reducing costs," Brown complained, "NASAäs reward is yet another cut in its budget." Unless OMB stops shrinking the agencyäs spending, the California congressman threatened to "quit being Mr. Nice Guy" and quipped he would "emulate the Chairman," who is known for his more forceful approach to committee oversight.

Testimony of OMB Director Jacob Lew

Jacob Lew announced OMB on August 4 approved NASAäs plan to modify the Space Shuttles so they can be used to reboost the ISS to higher orbit. Concerning the ISS budget for FY 1999, he said the Presidentäs request for $2.27 billion "is sufficient at this time." The House has recommended spending $2.1 billion and the Senate $2.3 billion.

In regard to the Chabrow report, the OMB director reiterated NASAäs position that "it would be premature to adjust [the] station budget plans until there is a greater understanding of the funding required to respond to the remaining risks."

"Although many in Congress are seeking a detailed plan today," Lew testified, "we must be careful not to act in haste, foregoing better approaches." If additional resources are needed for the ISS, Lew stated the Administration "will look for offsets first from within the $6 billion spent annually in the Human Space account." He said "additional funding outside NASA is not currently available." In concluding his remarks, Lew emphasized that the "Administration remains firmly committed to the success of the International Space Station."

Testimony of Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Associate Director Duncan Moore
According to Duncan Moore, the Service Module "was successfully shipped in early June to the Energia Enterprise to begin final assembly, checkout and testing prior to shipment to the RSAäs launch facility." Completing the module and having it ready for launch in April of 1999 is Russiaäs highest priority.

In addition to building the Service Module, Moore explained that Russia "is responsible for all ISS reboost, propulsion resupply and propulsive attitude control." Russia's ability to meet these obligations, however, are in doubt. Moore testified that Russiaäs revised budget provides "only partial funding of long-lead items for future Soyuz and Progress vehicles," which are needed to resupply and reboost the ISS. NASA is devising a contingency plan to replace some of the Russian scheduled flights. In addition to refitting the Shuttles for reboosting (which could meet 50 percent of the requirements), NASA is looking at the possibility of purchasing commercial vehicles on a firm-fixed contract, and building a propulsion module. Additionally, Moore said "the European Ariane Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and Japanese H-IIA Transfer Vehicle (HTV) could provide significant capability in the outyears."

Moore included in his testimony details about the U.S. CRV, which will not be available until 2003 "at the earliest." "To bridge the gap between a six- person crew and expected CRV availability," Moore said, "NASA is exploring the use of additional Soyuz vehicles to meet our own obligations. Approximately two to four Soyuz vehicles would be required to cover the gap."

Testimony of NASA Administrator Goldin
Goldin updated committee members on the status of the ISS. He said more than 100,000 pounds of flight hardware have now been produced. The Control Module (or FBG), dubbed "Sunrise," is scheduled for launch on November 20. The second element, a node, called "Unity," is slated for launch December 3. The Z-1 truss and Pressurized Mating Adapter have been delivered to KSC. And, according to Goldin, "the U.S. Laboratory module and remaining flight hardware for the first six flights [will be] delivered to their respective launch sites by the end of 1998."

Goldin said Russia has budgeted only $160 million of $340 million it needs for the ISS in 1998. "No funding has been provided to RSA since earlier this year," he explained, "and the total 1998 funding allocated to RSA to date is only $20 million." Because of the shortfall, he said "Production of Soyuz and Progress vehicles has virtually ceased due to non-delivery of components."

Regarding the ISS budget, as a result of assembly schedule slips, NASA projects it will have $450 million in uncosted carryover funds at the end of fiscal year 1998 -- equivalent to about "two and one half months at the current spend rate."

Finally, Goldin announced that NASA plans to build four operational CRVs to carry six crew members. Until the vehicle is ready, Goldin said "two to four Soyuz vehicles would be required to cover the gap."

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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