(Washington, DC)  In continued oversight on the Administration’s FY 2007 budget plan, the U.S. House Committee on Science today heard from the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) Dr. Michael Griffin.  Science Democrats asserted that the realities of the budget situation facing NASA today do not match the glowing “Vision” presented by the President in 2004.

“I support exploration, but the simple fact is that in the two years since the exploration initiative was announced this Administration has never sent a budget request to Congress equal to what it had said NASA would need to carry out the exploration initiative and NASA’s other programs,” stated Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN).

The budget plan submitted two years ago stated NASA would need $17 billion in Fiscal Year 2006.  Yet, the Administration’s actual funding request was more than half a billion dollars under that level.  In that same budget plan, NASA also stated their funding need at $17.8 billion in FY2007, but the current Administration request is more than one billion dollars less than that amount.

“Why should we expect future Administrations to sustain a commitment to the exploration initiative when the Administration has not seen fit to provide the resources that the Administration itself said NASA would need?” added Rep. Gordon. “Just saying ‘trust me’ isn’t going to work anymore.”

Like the FY 2006 budget request, the Administration’s FY 2007 budget continues the reallocation of funding from science and aeronautics to human space flight.  The FY 2007 budget request would reduce aeronautics funding and divert funds from aviation safety and R&D in support of the next generation air traffic management system.

“It makes a virtue of a shrinking budget by stressing its commitment to ‘fundamental aeronautics research’ at the expense of any meaningful NASA role in supporting more advanced R&D,” added Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO).  

Research is also cut within the Exploration Systems account (funding of the Moon-Mars Initiative).  NASA shifts funding in that account from research and technology programs to pay for development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and its Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV).  In that shift, funding for fundamental and applied life and microgravity sciences research has been virtually eliminated.

“One of the most inexplicable aspects of those NASA’s budget request is their plan to cut between $350 to $400 million from research and analysis funding over the next five years,” continued Rep. Udall.  “As you may know, that is the funding that helps develop the next generation of scientists and engineers at our nation’s universities.  I am puzzled that the same Administration that announced its American Competitiveness Initiative with such fanfare would turn around and cut research funding important to our universities’ educational and research missions.” 

Where’s the money going?  Some of it, of course, is being removed from the agency’s budget.  Approximately $3.6 billion is being added to the Space Operations account in the years FY 2006-2010, largely due to the Administration’s under-budgeting for shuttle and ISS costs for the years FY 2008-2010 when they announced the President’s Vision for Space Exploration.

“Two years ago, we were assured that we didn’t need to worry-that the budget plan was ‘credible,’ that NASA could undertake the advertised science program, invest in a range of new technologies, and do all of the other things described in the budget plan that accompanied the exploration initiative.  It is becoming painfully obvious to me that ‘we aren’t going to get there from here’ if we continue on the present course,” concluded Rep. Gordon.