WASHINGTON, D.C., Thursday, April 25, 2013, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the top Republican on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, today delivered the following opening statement at a hearing with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency's FY14 budget request.
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"Thank you, Madam Chair.
"NASA is one of the most publicly-recognized agencies in the federal government and an inspiration to young people around the world motivating them to become scientists, engineers, and explorers. I look forward to hearing from Administrator Bolden about this budget and NASA's plans for the future.
"The fiscal year 2014 budget aspires to do many new, innovative, and exciting things, yet it proposes no additional funding. In essence, NASA is proposing to do more with less. I strongly believe that this country must continue to push the science and engineering envelope while maintaining focus on current investments in order to reap tangible benefits.
"I am concerned that the budget before us however, is an example of chasing the next great idea while sacrificing current investments. This country has finite resources to invest and while we are committed to NASA's mission, subjecting mission critical activities to shoestring budgets because a more exciting idea has come along is not wise.
"Based on the proposed budget, as well as previous budgets, I have serious doubts about NASA's dedication to truly developing a heavy launch capability. While your testimony Administrator Bolden, points out that NASA is building the world?s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, the budget does not reflect NASA's commitment to that goal. Instead, it shows cuts to SLS vehicle development as far as the eye can see.
"This budget focuses too heavily on maintaining the fiction of privately funded commercial cargo and crew vehicles which diverts critical resources from NASA's goal of developing human space flight capabilities with the SLS. Administrator Bolden, I have long been a supporter of public-private partnerships that use federal dollars to leverage private resources. In this case however, NASA has provided $1.5 billion dollars through Space Act Agreements to for-profit companies to develop low earth orbit launch capabilities but has no idea how much money these companies are investing themselves, and according to NASA's budget office, has no authority to ask. In addition, NASA has no ability to keep the projects on budget or on schedule because of the nature of the contract that was executed.
"It is troubling that NASA paid the companies developing cargo capability in spite of delayed milestones, shifting completion dates, and an altered final delivery schedule and then had to provide additional payments in excess of $200 million so these projects could be successful. This sounds like a great arrangement for the companies but I don?t believe it is a great arrangement for the taxpayer.
"There are many unanswered questions about NASA's vision for the future and how it plans to achieve that vision. With this budget proposal, we have a significant challenge ahead of us but I believe that with some direction and greater accountability, NASA's endeavors can be successful and inspire future generations.
"I look forward to working with the Chair and you, Mr. Administrator in the coming months."