Six-year Term for NASA Administrator Dies in House Science Committee

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WASHINGTON — A proposal to give the NASA administrator a six-year term died in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on July 18 as three Republicans joined 17 Democrats to vote the proposal down during a marathon markup session.

The six-year term was struck out of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 by an amendment from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the committee’s ranking member. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Stephen Stockman (R-Texas) joined 17 Democrats to put Johnson’s amendment over the top by a vote of 20-19.

NASA administrators are appointed by the U.S. president, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and can be fired by the president at any time.

House Republicans floated the idea of giving the NASA administrator a six-year term last year as part of a broader bill that would have changed several other things about NASA’s leadership, including limiting the U.S. president’s choices for NASA administrator to a pool created by a new, congressionally appointed NASA advisory committee. Substantial portions of that bill were folded into the NASA authorization bill the House Science, Technology and Space Committee ultimately approved July 18.

While Johnson’s amendment stripped the six-year-term provision from the bill, it left intact the call for establishing a congressionally appointed NASA advisory committee to complement the NASA Advisory Council, a federal advisory committee whose members are appointed by the head of NASA.