Bill will help transition workforce to save NASA jobs

(HOUSTON) The Greater Houston Partnership today praised the bipartisan Senate authorization bill, a compromise effort marshaled by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that would extend the life of the space shuttle program by a year; accelerate development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle; and preserve elements of the Constellation program.

GHP, the primary advocate of Houston’s business community and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said Hutchison’s co-sponsorship of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 strikes the right balance between commercial initiatives while maintaining U.S. space leadership. Hutchison led a broad array of civic and congressional leaders in reaching bipartisan agreement on the legislation. The job is not complete. With the Senate compromise in hand, the focus now must turn to getting a House bill that mirrors the Senate’s version. However, GHP leaders said, this is a significant first step in the process.

“We are extremely pleased with today’s development,” said Patrick Oxford, Chairman of GHP’s Board of Directors. “It took a prodigious push on the part of Sen. Hutchison to reach this moment. Sen. Hutchison’s incredible effort in negotiating this compromise was exceptional and illustrates her commitment to the Johnson Space Center, a true Crown Jewel in our region.” As negotiated, the proposed bill:

* Would extend full utilization of the space station through at least 2020.

* Authorize and direct NASA to fly the space shuttle Launch on Need (LON) flight pending results of a required assessment of safe means of return for astronauts if the shuttle is damaged or unable to return.

* Preserve space shuttle capabilities through 2011 to complete the current manifest. It would also prohibit termination of any contracts that would inhibit launching of the space shuttle.

* Direct NASA to continue the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program (COTS) in support of providing cargo services to the space station and would establish a requirement for the definition of milestones and minimum performance objectives to be achieved before procurement authority is granted for crew development capability.

* Direct NASA to initiate development of a government-owned, NASA-designed and operated ” Space Launch System” (SLS) – a heavy lift launch capability – as soon as practicable and would establish the end of 2016 as the goal for full operational capability while allowing for modification and/or extension of existing contracts.

* Require NASA to develop a multi-purpose crew transportation vehicle for use with the Space Launch System.

* Require a study to identify an approach for the most efficient use and maintenance of NASA facilities and infrastructure, paying specific attention to eliminating unneeded duplication or infrastructure.

* Prohibit NASA from making any movement or termination of contractors or civil servants or any reorganization or reduction in force for reasons other than cause, until Congress receives the required reports and legislative authority to make such changes

“Contrary to some detractors on the commercial side, this authorization bill is not about saving government jobs,” said Jeff Moseley, President and CEO of GHP. “This is about the future of our space program and who is more ready and able to move forward now.

“Let me be clear: We support a commercial component,” Moseley continued. “But we believe the JSC workforce is talented, highly-educated and prepared to take NASA to the next step now including the development of a heavy lift launch vehicle. This bill strikes a balance that moves us forward and maintains our leadership in space.”

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The Greater Houston Partnership is the primary advocate of Houston’s business community and is dedicated to building regional economic prosperity. It represents 10 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller.

Opportunity Houston is an aggressive five-year marketing and lead generation program that will help grow jobs, increase capital investment and expand foreign trade for the region by the end of 2015. Visit the Greater Houston Partnership on the World Wide Web at