Cantwell Underscores Urgency to Pass NASA Authorization Bill

October 22, 2021


“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing in the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell underscored the urgent need for Congress to pass long-lasting, bipartisan NASA authorization legislation. NASA was last authorized by Congress in 2017. The Senate passed an updated authorization as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June 2021. 

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill,” Sen. Cantwell stated. “I believe in NASA's innovation and technology. I want them to apply the same spirit they had in fixing the problems on the Apollo project to fixing and getting this authorization done. We're not going to continue to have this game where you just get appropriations. It is not going to serve the Artemis program or NASA well. [I]t's frustrating to me to see the spirit of NASA turned into you know, the cheering of billionaires or competition with each other. Because I'm pretty sure that that's not what our mission of Artemis is about.”

“Look, we've seen where the same mistake was made by the FAA and deferring too much to aviation manufacturers when it came to the oversight,” she continued. “I want a very strong NASA oversight of these companies. Very strong. I'm not supportive of NASA stepping away and turning it over to the commercial side. …I think it's just imperative that we get an authorization bill…”

The subcommittee heard from former NASA leaders and experts who echoed the senator’s urgency for Congress to speak with one voice and set clear objectives.

“Because without that, it's very difficult to even be able to begin to do oversight, because you [don’t] know what objectives you're trying to meet,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at Axiom Space.

Mike Gold, the former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships argued that an “authorization bill is vital to send messages to our partners and rival nations for the unity purpose of Congress.”

“But for NASA to have continuity of purpose over time, requires an apolitical bipartisan consensus on how we're moving forward,” added former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And if we can put that in an authorization bill, it sends a signal to everybody globally that we have resolved to accomplish these objectives.”

Click here for full transcript.