WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) delivered the following statement today before the House Budget Committee regarding closing the human space flight gap and keeping America first in space:
“Chairman Spratt, Ranking Member Ryan, Members of the Committee:
“Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. You have likely already heard a great deal about the President’s FY 2011 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Today, I appear before this Committee to ask that the Committee provide NASA with sufficient resources to continue Shuttle operations through at least Fiscal Year 2011, sufficiently fund Constellation and see that the space gap between the two is minimized. I am here to tell you why this is the wisest policy.
“The plan for human space flight, as outlined by the Administration, is significantly lacking in detail and appears to have been developed with little or no coordination with public and private stakeholders.
“One glaring example is NASA’s announced decision to seek termination of the Constellation program. This decision will adversely impact our nation’s solid-rocket-motor industrial base, which is critical to our military. In a report from last June to the Congress, the Air Force said that delays in the Constellation program could have significant negative impact on the industrial base. When questioned about this issue last week, Air Force Secretary Donley testified that “we have a challenge on the solid-rocket-motor industrial base and on the booster industrial base.”
“NASA is making the decision in a vacuum, and does not fully understand, or at least obviously does not take into consideration, the much broader military, industrial, and economic implications. The plan, and I use that term lightly, demands considerably more discussion and public scrutiny. I am very concerned that they continue to develop this plan “on the fly” and that it is irresponsible for the Congress to embrace it without considerably more input from all the stakeholders.
“Over the course of the last year we lost precious time in charting a course for the future for our nation’s human space flight program. NASA remained without an Administrator for much of the year, and NASA was essentially placed on hold as the Augustine Committee undertook a review of our nation’s human space flight program. All the while NASA continued to approach the impending retirement of the Shuttle fleet. Over the years, the Constellation program continued to be underfunded.
“The Augustine Committee report made clear what many of us already knew: If America is to have a robust space exploration program it must have a budget to match it. That, my friends, is the essential question before you and this Congress. Are we going to continue to have a robust space program and continue on the path forged by John F. Kennedy? Or, are we going to return to the days of Sputnik, when the United States took a back seat to space exploration. Are we going to cede space to Russia and China? Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham recently said that the Administration’s proposal “accelerates America’s downward spiral toward mediocrity in space exploration.”
“I think Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt summarized it best last week when he wrote that this proposal “would cede the Moon to China, the American Space Station to Russia, and assign liberty to the ages. Other [nations] would accrue the benefits –psychological, political, economic, and scientific – that the United States harvested as a consequence of Apollo’s success 40 years ago. This lesson has not been lost on our ideological and economic competitors.
“It is my sincere hope that it will not be lost on this Congress either. This Committee is the one that will take the first step regarding the President’s NASA budget. I urge you, my colleagues, to think about the future we are building for our children and grandchildren. Will it be a future where we do mediocre things or will it be one where we embark to accomplish bold things?
“Some have suggested that this is a question of jobs. That is true. The lives of tens of thousands of Americans will be disrupted if the Administration’s proposal is adopted. There will be 10,000 direct jobs and according to a recent economic impact assessment as many as 23,000 jobs will be lost – almost immediately – in my district and that of Rep Suzanne Kosmas to my north. We are still waiting on a current NASA Workforce Transition Strategy report. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 requires NASA to produce this strategy every six months; the last one Congress received is from July of 2009. This is further evidence of a failure to plan for the future and follow Congressional intent. We need a better landing and a smoother transition for our nation’s premier space launch workforce. This is a highly skilled workforce that cannot be replaced, and will be lost if we travel down the proposed path.
“Space exploration touches the life of every American. Our space program has generated thousands of inventions and spinoffs that have translated directly into the creation of tens of thousands of jobs right here in America. If we accept the Administration’s plan, we will be abandoning a robust space program. They may protest that it is not abandonment, but that is exactly what it is. And, as a result we will lose these future benefits, and we will see China, Russia, India and others become the beneficiaries of a robust and superior space program.
“Countless products in our homes, offices, cars and airplanes owe their existence or widespread use to space exploration. Yet we often take for granted cell phones, GPS, carbon monoxide detectors, Velcro, lithium batteries, and advanced weather forecasting, just to name a few. We will be compromising advanced micro-gravity research. It is no doubt that our space program leads to cutting edge, high-skilled jobs and inspires the leaders of tomorrow to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Among great human achievements, space exploration is inspiring in a way like no other.
“Under the current plan, NASA is betting our nations’ entire space program on yet unproven commercial vendors. I am very supportive of commercial, but I am concerned about sole reliance on entrepreneurs for the short-term. NASA has taken the mistaken step of once again putting Russia in the critical path for our research on the International Space Station. We saw how this almost jeopardized the ISS from the very outset and raised the cost of the ISS.
“The Committee should also be aware that retiring the Shuttle will generate far less in savings that what has generally been believed. This is due to several factors. By abandoning the Shuttle prior to fulfilling our commitments to fly foreign astronauts to the ISS through 2020, NASA will incur hundreds of millions in costs associated with purchasing seats for foreign astronauts on Russian vehicles – a price Russian Space Agency officials just said they would raise once they are the only game in town. Also, hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs will not turn into savings as many assume, but rather those costs will continue to recur but from an accounting perspective will be assigned to another account.
“According to the Augustine Committee, and information I have received from NASA, the annual cost of flying the Shuttle may cost up to about $1.3 billion for two flights per year. However, that cost can be cut significantly based on discussions with the contractors who currently operate the Shuttle for NASA. I would ask the Committee provide sufficient funding to allow up to two shuttle flights in Fiscal Year 2011 for the many reasons I have outlined for you. Thus, for a budget equal to a fraction of one percent of the stimulus, we can extend the Shuttle for one year and provide a smoother transition for our nation’s space program and tens of thousands of dedicated workers.
“Furthermore, although the Shuttle’s current manifest includes four remaining launches, NASA needs to act now to assure that even these missions are completed. NASA’s current, inflexible policy on flying the Shuttle beyond calendar year 2010 jeopardizes the last scheduled Shuttle mission, which would transport the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to ISS. It is my understanding that this mission may not be ready until spring of 2011, beyond NASA’s arbitrary deadline. Fully funding Shuttle operations through FY 2011 will not only provide for smoother transition, but it will ensure that our commitments to our international partners regarding the AMS are fully met. Absent the Shuttle, there is no means of getting AMS to the ISS. Let’s also remember that Endeavor just completed its 24th mission. It was designed for 100 missions.
“In addition to extending Shuttle operations, the Committee should provide sufficient funding to continue with the Constellation program. It makes little sense to abandon Constellation given the investments already made and the termination costs estimated to be in the range of $2.5 billion. We had a successful test flight of the Ares 1-X rocket in October and are building on that success.
“Congress must act today to save our space program. The plan presented by the Administration has gaping holes and is not ready for prime time. They need to go back to the drawing board and the Congress needs to join with the voices of our nation’s space pioneers like Gene Cernan, the last human to walk on the moon, who said last week, “Now is the time for wiser heads in Congress to prevail. Now is the time to overrule…mediocrity. Now is the time to be bold, innovative and wise in deciding how we invest in the future of America.”
“We have a come a long way since Alan Shepard became the first American in space in 1961. I urge you, my colleagues, to work together to ensure that our 50 years of leadership in space is not abandoned. America is looking to us for leadership.”