I want to welcome Mr. Sean O’Keefe, the NASA Administrator. This is your first time testifying before this appropriations subcommittee and we welcome you.

You were sworn in as the NASA Administrator on December 21, 2001. Prior to taking over NASA, you were the Deputy Director at the Office of Management and Budget. In the first Bush Administration, you served first as the Comptroller of the Defense Department and then as Secretary of the Navy. You have had a distinguished career on the faculty of Syracuse University and Penn State University. An expert in management – that’s what NASA needs right now.

You are one of the prime architects of the President’s Management Agenda – an agenda that emphasizes performance as a measure of success. If anyone can get NASA back on track, it is going to have to be you. I look forward to working with you on the issues NASA faces this year. Let me go through what I believe are some of those challenges:

NASA Budget

The President has proposed a flat budget for NASA this year- at $15 billion. I am disappointed that we continue to see flat budgets for NASA – especially considering the enormous needs of NASA. Shuttle upgrades, additional science missions and an aging infrastructure are just a few of the needs that need to be addressed.


We added additional funding last year to help modernize some NASA facilities like the Kennedy Space Center and Wallops Island.,. I added $ 10 million to modernize Wallops’ flight range and make it ready for the next generation of launch vehicles that could re-supply the Space Station. And more needs to be done – the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy could cost $200 million – for just one building. I believe we should see a NASA budget that is at least $17 billion, not $15 billion. Just this past weekend we saw what weather satellites can do to save lives.

The first F-5 tornado to hit the United States in over three years touched down in Southern Maryland Sunday night. Thanks to our weather satellites and Doppler radar technology, people had some advanced warning that a severe storm was approaching. Unfortunately, the storm turned deadly in a matter of minutes – with little chance to predict that it was an F-5 tornado. But imagine what would have happened if NASA did not invest in new weather satellites or Doppler technology. What NASA does actually saves lives.

Balancing the NASA Portfolio

NASA has to have a balanced program in terms of human space flight, scientific research, and aeronautics. We cannot allow the space station to crowd out scientific research or aeronautics.

In a major speech you gave at Syracuse University last month you said that NASA’s vision for the future is to improve life here on earth and find life beyond earth. To me – that is earth science, space science, and biological and physical science.

Space Station

The Space Station continues to be NASA’s number one problem. With $5 billion in cost overruns, the Station continues to be the dark cloud over NASA’s horizon. In my opinion, NASA and the Administration need to do three things to get the Space Station back on track.

First, NASA must implement management reforms and a credible cost estimating capability this year. The Young Committee gave NASA a good blueprint for changing the management culture of the Space Station. We need certainty, reliability and consistency in NASA’s budget estimates – not more midnight surprises. Congress will have no faith in NASA’s cost estimates until the management reforms are firmly in place and NASA starts delivering results.

Second, NASA must reaffirm that scientific research is the primary purpose of the Space Station. Science is why we agreed to build the station in the first place.

Third, NASA needs to present Congress with a new scientific research plan that lays out exactly what kind of research will be performed. The cuts to scientific research aboard the Space Station have eroded support for the program. If the Space Station is to re-gain support, a viable research program is critical.

Space Shuttle

Another important issue facing NASA is the future of the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle now costs $3 billion per year to operate — almost 20% of NASA’s budget. And the operating costs keep rising. NASA is starting to look at privatizing part of the Shuttle program as a solution. I believe NASA must proceed carefully before making any decisions about privatizing the Shuttle. Congress will have no confidence in NASA’s decisions unless this issue is fully studied – both internally and externally.

Another issue is how long do we keep flying the shuttles and how much do we need to invest in upgrades. Make no mistake – I am fully committed to upgrading the shuttles for safety. I will do everything in my power to make sure that our astronauts are flying safely. But we cannot fly the Shuttle forever. As the Shuttle gets older, it gets more expensive to operate. We are already seeing operating costs exceeding previous estimates.

Space launch Initiative

That’s why the Space Launch Initiative is critical. We have to find a long term, low-cost reusable launch vehicle. It is my expectation that NASA has learned hard lessons from the X-33 program, and will apply those lessons to the Space Launch Initiative.

Science, Aeronautics and Technology

In science, aeronautics and technology, I am glad to see the Administration has proposed a 10% increase in funding. Part of the increase for science in the President’s budget is to start a new, inspace nuclear power and propulsion technology program. I think NASA is correct about the need for a new propulsion technology and we should get this program started this year. Given the potential benefits, particularly for planetary exploration, I believe it is a worthwhile investment.


Unfortunately, the budget zeroed out funding for Pluto. This is a mistake,, and one I hope to correct this year. Pluto is a bargain at less than $500 million. Given the scientific value and the unique timing opportunity, we would be missing an historic opportunity.

Earth Science

In earth science,.1 believe we are beginning to see the benefits after years of investment – record numbers of users of earth science data and record amounts of data coming down every week, improving our understanding of how the earth works. It is also helping our farmers, foresters, planners, disaster managers, and state and local governments use NASA earth science data to improve our quality of life – and in some cases, actually save lives.

The real challenge for NASA’s earth science enterprise is the future. The Administration wants to re-evaluate the earth science program this year in light of their overall review of our global climate change program. While I understand the need to have a comprehensive strategy on global warming, I do not believe it is necessary to suspend the planning process for future earth science missions. In fact, I would argue that a robust earth science enterprise should be the cornerstone of our global climate change strategy.

NASA’s earth Science program is all about science – and that should form the basis of any global climate change policy. I am going to ask you to give us roadmap and blueprint for earth science missions over the next decade so we can gain an even better understanding of how our earth works, particularly in relation to the Sun and its impact on our environment.

Double Value

With all of these programs, some people will ask “Why should the nation continue to invest in NASA because of the “double value” we get for our investment. We not only get cutting edge science to unlock the mysteries of our universe, we get practical every day benefits in medicine, electronics, and too many technologies to mention.

Look at the Living With A Star program. Not only will we increase our knowledge about solar physics, we can apply that knowledge to improve our life here on earth. Improved weather prediction and improved capability to predict and prepare for solar storms that can disrupt communications and shut down electricity grids are immediate benefits that come from this program.

But perhaps most importantly, investing in NASA means investing in the next generation of scientists and engineers. That is why I was pleased at your recent announcement to re-start the Teacher in Space program by naming Ms. Barbara Morgan as the first Educator Mission Specialist.


With so much at stake, and with so many benefits, it is time to re-focus our attention on NASA.

Mr. O’Keefe – if you will help this Subcommittee in the collegial cooperative fashion we have come to expect from NASA, then this Subcommittee stands ready to work with you to bring NASA back to the forefront where it belongs. If we can work together, then we can have a space program that can truly fulfill our vision for what America can do in space.