WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following full committee hearing titled Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Please note this hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, November 18, 2010
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C— The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law nearly two months ago. The bill was the culmination of a spirited year-long debate between members of Congress, the Administration, the space community, and the American public on the future of America’s space agency. We were able to find a sensible center, and the resulting bill signed into law will help refocus and reinvigorate NASA, while making key investments in aeronautics, science and human space flight missions.
For this achievement, I again want to thank my Committee colleagues – the Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and the Science and Space Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Bill Nelson – who worked day in and day out to get this bill passed and sent to the President’s desk.
Passing the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 into law was the first step. We’re now in the implementation process. This transition is an opportunity to chart a clear course forward for NASA, but we must remain vigilant to ensure implementation throughout the authorization period. Objectives must be achieved in a fiscally responsible manner. I intend to fully exercise this committee’s oversight role throughout the transition and implementation of the NASA Authorization Act.
With proper implementation of the law, I believe NASA can continue to lead the world in innovation and discovery, and inspire future generations of scientists. Dr. Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, joins us today to discuss these opportunities, as well as the Administration’s plans for implementing the NASA Authorization Act. Also joining us is Dr. Beth Robinson, NASA’S Chief Financial Officer. This is Dr. Robinson’s first time testifying before the committee since her confirmation hearing.
I have made my concerns about NASA’s fiscal and program management clear. At the first hearing we conducted on NASA this year, I stated that I wanted strong financial accountability from NASA’s Chief Financial Officer. Dr. Robinson, you have been on the job now for just over a year. I look forward to hearing what advice and options you have provided to the NASA Administrator, and what actions you have taken to strengthen the agency’s financial management.
Finally, we have two experts from the Government Accountability Office here today. Ms. Cristina Chaplain, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, and Ms. Susan Poling, the Managing Associate General Counsel, will provide guidance on how NASA can improve its financial and acquisition management to ensure effective implementation of the NASA Authorization Act.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today. I look forward to your testimony.
Senator Kay Bailey HutchisonU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
STATEMENT OF SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
“TRANSITION AND IMPLEMENTATION: THE NASA AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2010”
December 1, 2010
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. We came through a very difficult period this year that began with the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Budget Request for NASA. The Administration introduced a dramatic change for the agency and, in particular, its human space flight activities without consulting Congress.
We accepted some ideas while rejecting many parts of that formulation to reach a compromise that you and I worked on very hard, with our colleagues, to craft and pass.
In spite of our efforts, there are some within industry and the Administration that would like to revisit the President's original plan. That isn't going to happen. Congress passed a bill that has been enacted into law directing the agency on how to move forward. Compliance is not optional, it is required.
We have a new law, and the agency and the Administration must follow it. I will work with you, Mr. Chairman, to hold as many hearings and provide as much oversight as necessary to ensure full, faithful, and timely implementation of the law.
Today, we begin that oversight with a panel of important witnesses. I hope that Dr. Holdren will address a number of my questions, including:
Whether the Administration plans to work collaboratively with Congress on the FY 2012 Budget Request, which is under development now?
Does the Administration recognize that Congress has established human space flight, and in particular the development by NASA of a heavy lift booster and crew capsule, as among the agency's highest priorities? Can we expect the activities of the agency over the months and years ahead to reflect that priority?
Do the Administration and the political leadership at NASA recognize that the earliest possible availability of the heavy lift booster and capsule is a design requirement, and that we want the agency to use as much existing propulsion technology as possible rather than chasing “new technologies” that could drag out availability well into the next decade?
Mr. Chairman, I am also pleased that Dr. Beth Robinson, NASA's Chief Financial Officer, is here today. I believe we need to understand her role in implementation of the law, particularly how she is advising Administrator Bolden on implementation requirements, timelines, and challenges.
In discussions with my staff, I understand Dr. Robinson and other agency officials claim that their ability to implement the direction in the new law is limited by various “other” provisions of law. We need to have a candid discussion about exactly what those limitations on reprogramming funds might be, and what the legal analysis and justifications of the agency are for asserting them.
It is the responsibility of the agency to state, with specificity, which provisions of law prevent them from moving forward quickly with the law’s implementation and directing funding, even under a Continuing Resolution, to the activities set forth in the new law.
We need to know the legal basis for why the agency is claiming limits on its ability to implement the law, and I want the record to include analysis and opinions from NASA’s General Counsel setting forth the justifications for any such claims.
GAO can also be helpful in clarifying any limitations, for example, in prior appropriations bills that might exist. If we agree that there are actual limitations, we may have the opportunity to provide clarifying language in the anticipated Continuing Resolution prior to the end of the year.
On a related note, I remain troubled by reports that NASA is “holding back” some of the funding it releases for work each month under the Continuing Resolution, particularly as it relates to ongoing work on the capsule managed through the Johnson Space Center.
I believe that in order to effectively implement the requirements of the new law, NASA must ensure that the maximum amount of appropriated dollars are flowing to the performance of actual work rather than being held at headquarters.
Mr. Chairman, we are in a period of restrained spending. That is why I believe that a critical part of our ongoing oversight will be ensuring that NASA is spending the funds we provide in the ways necessary to succeed in implementation. For that reason, I will likely be asking for this information on a monthly basis going forward.
Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan, who testified before this committee in May, said “It’s our destiny to explore. It’s our destiny to be a space-faring nation.”
I agree with Captain Cernan, it is our destiny. That is why I have fought for many years to preserve and enhance NASA and our human space flight program. It is why I worked with you, Mr. Chairman, to find a way to pass a reauthorization bill this year.
I am frustrated that after all of that work, there still appear to be some individuals that want to relitigate the issues of the past, or disrupt efforts to implement the new direction. That is simply not acceptable, and will not be tolerated.
Congress must remain vigilant in ensuring full, faithful, and timely implementation of the new law if we are to meet our destiny as a space-faring nation. I will continue to partner with you, Mr. Chairman, to ensure that happens.
Thank you, again, for holding this hearing.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable John P. HoldrenDirectorOffice of Science and Technology Policy
The Honorable Elizabeth RobinsonChief Financial OfficerNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Ms. Cristina ChaplainDirector, Acquisition and Sourcing ManagementU.S. Government Accountability Office
Accompanied by: Ms. Susan A. PolingManaging Associate General CounselU.S. Government Accountability Office