Senator Murray: Maintaining Our Competitive Edge Means Investing in Scientific Discovery

***WATCH: Senator Murray speaks at hearing on NASA and NSF budget requests***


Washington, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the President’s FY24 budget request for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and for the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighted the importance of passing timely, bipartisan spending bills that invest in the kind of innovation that NASA and the NSF help drive—which, in turn, strengthen our defense, economy, and global leadership.


“As we continue full steam ahead in our bipartisan work to return to regular order, for the first time in many years, and pass funding bills in a responsible, timely way—these hearings are really an important opportunity for us to assess what we need to keep our country competitive on the world stage, and keep folks back home safe and sound,” said Senator Murray. “And they are also an important reminder that defense is just one part of the equation. If we want to maintain our competitive edge, we have to stay at the forefront of scientific discovery—and NASA and the National Science Foundation both have long, storied histories of helping our country do that.”


“The list of times our nation has made its mark on history, the list of ways it has established itself as a world leader is much more than a list of military achievements,” continued Senator Murray. “It’s a story of inquiry, invention, innovation, exploration, and discovery of new frontiers. Our country has seen, time and time again, how those investments really payoff: they strengthen our defense, they strengthen our economy, they strengthen our global leadership.”


At Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Murray made clear that NASA and NSF have both delivered concrete progress across a wide range of fields and that their benefits strengthen U.S. competitiveness and national security in countless ways.


“Innovation and inquiry—I don’t have to tell either of you—isn’t just an abstract ideal—it makes our lives better, it makes our nation safer in tangible ways: cleaner energy, faster, more sustainable manufacturing methods, better understanding of new technology like artificial intelligence, or preparing us for rare but serious risks like asteroids or solar flares,” noted Senator Murray. “And those investments also keep America competitive in ways that are harder to measure, but are very important that we don’t overlook.”


“The moon landing didn’t just affirm our leadership in space and science, it inspired a new generation of kids to study STEM, as Mr. Nelson has told me many times, and helps us push the bounds of what was possible,” said Senator Murray in closing. “Just look at how the latest photos from the James Webb telescope—it is lighting the imaginations of kids right now. So at the end of the day, these investments that we make in this Appropriations Committee really are an investment in our country’s future.”


Following her opening statement, Senator Murray gave NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan the opportunity to discuss how House Republicans’ proposed spending cuts would severely harm research and STEM workforce development efforts—as well as the NSF’s ability to implement many of the goals and objectives of the bipartisan CHIPs and Science Act.  


Senator Murray also asked NASA Administrator Bill Nelson how the agency envisions expanding its footprint in the Pacific Northwest in order to capitalize on the recent growth in aerospace innovation happening in Washington state.


“Washington state, as you know, has seen an incredible growth of space related companies, suppliers, researchers, and innovators. And those companies have really been able to capitalize on the talented workforce graduating from our universities and use the infrastructure in place to become a hub for space exploration technology. How do you see NASA expanding and partnering with companies and universities in the Pacific Northwest?” asked Senator Murray.