Hutchison Pushes NASA Leadership on Implementation of Law

NASA Witnesses Signal Progress; Call Shuttle Mission “Critical”

March 15, 2011

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – At a hearing on the implementation of the recently passed NASA Reauthorization Act of 2010, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, pushed NASA leadership on its efforts to implement the Authorization Law passed last year.

“While there are still major concerns about NASA’s full, faithful, and timely implementation of the law, we saw glimmers of hope come out of today’s hearing,” said Sen. Hutchison. “I am pleased that the agency recognizes how critical the additional shuttle mission is to sustaining and leveraging our investment in the International Space Station.”

During the hearing, Sen. Hutchison inquired about the agency’s continued efforts to leverage the International Space Station. Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier reasserted the critical importance of the additional shuttle mission slated for summer, which was added in last year’s law. NASA noted that the flight is critical to resupplying and sustaining the International Space Station and providing an extra year of insurance as we wait for commercial cargo providers to become operational.

In response to her questioning, hearing panelists described ongoing compliance efforts.

Witnesses testified that NASA is making progress on the heavy lift launch vehicle and the Orion capsule, specifically, opening program offices at responsible centers and finalizing procurement and contract modification decisions to be announced this spring.

While noting that some progress had been made, Senator Hutchison still had concerns with the Administration’s proposed FY2012 budget for NASA however.  She said the fact that the president’s budget request dramatically reduces funding for the heavy lift launch vehicle and Orion capsule while proposing a 70 percent increase for commercial crew is another illustration that the Administration is not taking the steps necessary to fully and rapidly embrace the priorities Congress established or to implement the law’s requirements.

“It is important to remember it is a law, not just an advisory framework.  Compliance is not something we should have to hope for, it is something that we expect and is required.  At the same time, the president’s budget request proposes a significant increase to the very same areas prioritized by the Administration’s last request, which Congress rejected,” said Sen. Hutchison.

You can watch Senator Hutchison’s opening statement here.

Panel witnesses at the hearing included Mr. Douglas Cooke, NASA Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate; Mr. William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate; Mr. Leland Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator, Education; Dr. Jaiwon Shin, NASA Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate; Dr. Edward Weiler, NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate; Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., NASA Associate Administrator, Mission Support Directorate.


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