This afternoon we convene our second hearing on NASA’s budget request for fiscal year 2001. We would like to welcome Dan Goldin, the NASA Administrator, as well as the Associate Administrators responsible for the management of NASA’s numerous space and aeronautics programs.

Although NASA continues to pull off some amazingly successful missions, the recent Hubble repair mission and NEAR spacecraft rendezvous with the Eros asteroid come to mind, the past year has been very difficult for the space agency and the american taxpayer. Many high profile programs continue to be plagued with problems, but hopefully the worst is behind us.

The on again, off again assembly of the International Space Station has been put on hold for a year and a half. I’m sure you can understand our Committee’s skepticism of Russia’s promise to launch the long delayed Service Module in July. We remember hearing testimony concerning their intention to de-orbit the Mir back in 1998 and again in 1999.

I don’t know if there is a communication problem, but I’m beginning to wonder if we are talking about the same Mir. This morning, two Russian cosmonauts docked with Mir for what Russian officials are describing as the beginning of a new lease on life for the aging space laboratory. Something to do with turning the place into a hotel for wealthy adventurers. I believe Mir will eventually fall from orbit, but only after the forces of nature overtake its ability to remain aloft, not by the deliberate actions of the Russian government.

I, along with many of my colleagues, have serious doubts whether a cash strapped Russia can support both the Mir and International Space Station programs. This week’s mission to re-awaken Mir used the Progress and Soyuz vehicles the United States paid for and were originally dedicated to the International Space Station.

If Russia fails to launch the Service Module this Summer, NASA must be prepared to fly the Interim Control Module in December and accelerate the design and construction of the U.S. propulsion module. We will not allow the program to be held hostage indefinitely.

Space station delays have negatively impacted other NASA operations. Much of the Space Shuttle fleet, which was grounded for almost six-months due to maintenance problems, sits idle waiting for Russia to fulfill its commitment to the ISS program. Meanwhile, opportunities to fly shuttle research missions have been lost.

For the past two years, this Committee has been lectured by NASA and the President’s Office of Management and Budget on how there is no room on the shuttle fleet’s tight manifest to fly an additional research mission or schedule once a year dedicated research missions. It’s time for NASA and OMB to start managing the shuttle fleet more effectively by taking advantage of delays in the space station program and filling the gaps with research missions. It would seem to be in their best interest and the scientific community’s interest.


NASA sold the $60 billion Space Station program to Congress promising that valuable scientific research will occur on the Station. With the shuttle dedicated almost exclusively to space station construction flights for the next four years, and no science research beyond the flight in January 2001, I wonder if there will be any scientists left who will be interested in doing space-based research. If the Space Station is to fulfill its promise of being a cutting-edge scientific laboratory, the Life and Microgravity programs need to become a higher priority for NASA.

Another high profile program is under review. Recently, two important missions to Mars were lost, calling into question some of the fundamental management practices of NASA and its paradigm of “faster, better, cheaper.”

The Mars Program Assessment Team, chaired by Thomas Young, issued its report to NASA on March 22 and to the public on March 28.

The Team found significant problems with the management of the Mars program, including inexperienced project managers, inadequate budgets and inflexible schedules all leading to excessive risk.

Let me state for the record that this Committee and the Congress provided the funding NASA requested for these two projects, and a review of NASA operating plans for fiscal years 1995 through 1998 indicated that the Committee approved increases totaling $19.3 million.

If the Mars Program has been underfunded, that problem originated in the Administration, not in the Congress. Perhaps we were not aggressive enough in questioning NASA’s cost estimates, but we tend to give you the benefit of the doubt when you are trying to test the limits. This is clearly a case where the limits were exceeded.

We look forward to working with you throughout the summer to reevaluate the costs of all your programs and make adjustments where necessary. That may mean we will have to add significant amounts of money to the President’s Budget Request. Or it may mean that we must cancel some projects to ensure priorities are adequately funded.

If your management is spread too thin, we will add people. We are trying to do that with the additional funding we put in the fiscal year 2000 supplemental which passed the House last week. But if the Senate does not deal with the supplemental, then we must seriously consider canceling programs or projects so management will not be stretched further.

We will not allow NASA to be spread so thin that projects are not adequately managed or risk is inappropriately increased.

In sum, while NASA has managed to realize its program goals of “faster” and “cheaper”, it cannot claim that the Mars program is better. “Better” cannot be achieved without mastering the basics. It is clear to the Committee that in its rush to meet inflexible schedules, the Agency neglected the fundamentals. The Young Report findings can be distilled to one important factor having nothing to do with money: a failure to communicate.

A lack of honest and frank discussion between JPL and NASA Headquarters concerning the program’s budget, schedule and expectations, cost us the Mars Climate Orbiter, the Mars Polar Lander and the Deep Space 2 probes. This is ironic because NASA’s Office of Space Science and JPL are the experts in operating extremely sophisticated equipment allowing them to communicate with the Voyager spacecraft over 7 billion miles away.

Before any new programs are started, the piece of communications equipment NASA, JPL and all the Centers need to master is the telephone. No program should be doomed by fear or intimidation.

We have many questions for NASA and will spend this afternoon exploring the answers. For example:

Why did it take two mission failures and an independent review board to discover the lack of communication and misunderstanding between JPL and NASA Headquarters?

Does this communication problem exist with other science programs at other NASA Centers and other contractors?

And most importantly, is the safety of our Human Spaceflight program at risk?

I will recognize Mr. Mollohan for opening remarks and allow

Administrator Goldin some time to digest those questions before he responds. At this time I would like to yield to the ranking member of the Committee, Mr. Mollohan.