I want to welcome everyone here today for the third of our hearings on the President’s proposed budget, and I particularly want to welcome Sean O’Keefe to his first Congressional appearance as NASA administrator.
I should note that when Mr. O’Keefe last appeared before us he was just the lowly deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, with control over nothing larger than the federal budget. Today, as NASA administrator, the entire universe is under his purview. It is, of course, a position anyone would envy.

In all seriousness, NASA is indeed our gateway to the universe. It is through NASA’s efforts Ð in some cases, exclusively through those efforts Ð that we will understand our planet, our solar system and the vastness beyond it, and our place in the cosmos. It is through NASA’s efforts that we will maintain a healthy aerospace industry, develop pathbreaking technologies, and put space to use for human good. When grappling with the mundane yet difficult questions about the future of the space program, we must not lose sight of the exciting and fundamental challenges the program is designed to address.

But we must grapple with the earthly, everyday dilemmas that plague the space program. And I think Mr. O’Keefe has been raising the right questions to try to figure out how to structure NASA to be a vital agency for the foreseeable future. The frustration for us is that, of necessity, many of the answers to those questions are not yet in.

There are some obvious examples of these questions: Will the space station be expanded beyond core complete? What kinds of experiments will be conducted on the space station and who will select them? What missions will be sent to the outer planets? What will the future role of NASA in climate change research be? What will the role of the private sector be in operating the space shuttle in the future? How will the Space Launch Initiative proceed?

These are all questions on which studies or reviews are underway. That’s a logical and appropriate way for NASA to proceed, but we will have to probe today to get a greater sense of how those reviews will be structured and what NASA is likely to look like a year from now.

This Committee wants to be an active partner with Mr. O’Keefe in shaping NASA for the future. With that in mind, we will be following up this hearing with a subcommittee hearing next week on aeronautics research, with subcommittee hearings in March and April on specific NASA issues, and with legislation to reauthorize NASA, which we hope to approve by Memorial Day.

Today’s hearing, which, among other things, will expose the wide range of opinions on the Committee on NASA issues, is a first step toward preparing legislation.

We’ll have more to say as that process moves forward, but I’m going to keep my comments brief today. I share Mr. O’Keefe’s vision of shaping NASA into a well managed, affordable, science-driven agency. That’s going to be a tall order that we have to work closely together to achieve.