Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Challenges and Opportunities in the NASA FY 2011 Budget Proposal

February 24, 2010

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—Thank you again to all of today’s witnesses for their participation. I know this is Administrator Bolden’s first time testifying before the committee since his confirmation and I look forward to his testimony.

This afternoon’s topic is the President’s FY 2011 budget proposal for NASA. At a time when many agencies are seeing their budgets decrease, the President is proposing an additional $300 million for NASA next year, building into an increase of $6 billion over the next five years. 

Significant investments in science, technology, aeronautics, and education are enormously important. They are a foundation for our future. However, I am going to be looking at this proposal very carefully and will expect strong leadership and financial accountability from the Administrator, the Chief Financial Officer, and NASA’s Inspector General.

I have been critical of NASA’s financial and program management in the past. And, in these extremely tough budget times, this proposed budget increase requires even more diligence and certainly, more oversight. 

In addition to outlining the administration’s plans for the entire budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, this proposal also provides a long-awaited response to the options presented by the Augustine Commission for human space exploration.

To say that there has been some “interest” in this decision is an understatement. As the sole authorizing committee for NASA in the Senate, we will be paying very close attention to that discussion as we move forward with NASA’s authorization this year.

I am pleased to see an increase in the requested funding for aeronautics research, especially at a time when jobs are this nation’s top priority. The aerospace industry is one of the few remaining manufacturing industries that continue to be a major U.S. exporter.

However, I am troubled by the significant decrease in funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR). EPSCOR helps states establish academic research efforts to contribute to economic development. That is why Congress went above and beyond the President’s request last fiscal year, to make absolutely clear just how important this program is. At a time when jobs have never been more important, it seems like a bad idea to cut funding for a program that supports quality, high-tech jobs.

I realize that this budget proposal represents a significant change in direction for the agency. And I am encouraged by certain elements, including the agency’s rededication to science missions.

But I also know that there is a lot of unease, particularly when it comes to the proposed plans for human spaceflight. I firmly believe this is a turning point, an incredible opportunity for Congress and the general public to reexamine what we want out of this agency. And that is exactly what I intend to do as the Commerce Committee moves forward with a reauthorization.