Bolden Doubts NASA Authorization Bill This Year

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said July 30 he is not optimistic that Congress will pass a NASA authorization bill this year, and expects to start the 2015 fiscal year on a continuing resolution.

Bolden, speaking at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said he was more optimistic about the prospects of an authorization bill in June, when the House passed its version of the legislation on a 401-2 vote. “That was not lost on me,” he said of the margin of passage. “My naïveté caused me to believe that, boy, things are going to change.”

However, the Senate has yet to take up the House bill or even introduce its own version. “They have talked off and on about an authorization bill, but we don’t see any serious movement there right now,” Bolden said, adding that Congress was about to go on its summer recess and not return until early September. “I am not optimistic that we will get an authorization bill until 2015.”

On the appropriations side, Bolden said the increase in funding offered in the House bill over the Obama administration’s request “was a very pleasant surprise for all of us.” He added that he was “disappointed” the bill did not fully fund commercial crew, offering $785 million versus the requested $848 million, “but we’ll take it.” He added he was also concerned about cuts in the bill in the request for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

The Senate’s version of the appropriations bill provides similar funding levels, but has stalled out on the Senate floor because of unrelated issues. “There’s a strong possibility that the federal government could be funded through a continuing resolution for a period of time during fiscal year 2015,” Bolden said. 

That is a setback after the progress made through June indicated a chance the appropriations would become law before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1. “Once again, we’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” Bolden said. “Everybody was really excited and looking forward to a really healthy budget.”