WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, released the following reaction today to the impact of President Bush’s proposed fiscal year 2008 budget for the agency.

In his 2006 State Of The Union Address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) to encourage American innovation and strengthen the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy. His failure to include NASA in the initiative has meant a diminished Bush administration priority. Agencies included in the initiative, like the National Science Foundation (NSF), received an increase of 7 percent in the President’s 2008 budget compared to his 2007 budget, while NASA only saw a 3 percent increase compared to his 2007 budget.

“The space program needs presidential leadership, and we expect to see that leadership in the budget. Unfortunately, we don’t see it in this year’s budget yet again. I fought to have NASA included in the American Competitiveness Initiative, but the White House refused. NASA’s work should be the hallmark of any national program to promote America’s competitiveness,” said Senator Mikulski. “I will keep fighting for a balanced space program – science, exploration and aeronautics – all leading the way for innovation and discovery.”

The President’s budget also lacks any federal funding to pay back NASA for the costs of returning the Space Shuttle to flight. In 1987, Congress allocated $2.7 billion in the aftermath of the Challenger tragedy to pay for a replacement shuttle. In the aftermath of the Columbia tragedy, however, NASA was not given any additional funding to repair the remaining shuttles. Senator Mikulski joined last year with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), then Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee on the Senate Commerce Committee, for a $1 billion increase as part of the 2007 CJS spending bill. Unfortunately, the amendment, which was accepted to the spending bill with bipartisan support, was one of the many spending packages the Republican leadership in the 109th Congress failed to pass.

“I am committed to restoring this agency’s budget to ensure the continued safety of our astronauts, and to supporting the critical programs that are the hallmarks of their success,” said Senator Mikulski. “The agency was never fully reimbursed after the tragedy of Columbia, and was forced to make dramatic cuts to other programs.”

Senator Mikulski will look for an opportunity to reintroduce a similar amendment in either the 2007 Emergency Supplemental bill, the 2008 budget resolution or the CJS fiscal year 2008 spending bill to continue her fight on behalf on the nation’s space program.