Today in a Space Subcommittee hearing to review NASA's fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget request, Members expressed numerous concerns to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden over the Obama administration's priorities for the agency.
Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): "I am committed to ensuring that our nation has a robust space program that will continue to lead the world for generations. I am concerned however that NASA has neglected Congressional funding priorities and been distracted by new and questionable missions that detract from our ultimate deep space exploration goals. These distractions also take up precious lines in the budget at a time when NASA can least afford it."
Chairman Palazzo questioned the priorities represented in the budget, and particularly for NASA's Exploration Mission Directorate. He also raised concerns about a proposed budget increase to develop commercial crew services, without first exploring alternative options. Palazzo encouraged Administrator Bolden to re-evaluate our commercial crew strategy in order to "get American astronauts launching on American rockets from American soil as soon as is safely possible."
Palazzo said that NASA's asteroid retrieval mission was announced "seemingly out of the blue," and without a budget profile, technical plan or long-term strategy.
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "I am disheartened by the administration's ever-changing goals and their lack of justifications and details. The goal of NASA's human spaceflight program is to go to Mars and beyond on a path that includes returning to the Moon or asteroids as necessary. This stepping-stone approach for our exploration out of low-earth orbit is clear and unambiguous. America is a nation of explorers, and space is the next frontier. While federal budgets will continue to be uncertain, Congressional support for NASA's exploration mission is clear and unwavering."
Members questioned Administrator Bolden on the minimal funding requested to develop the Space Launch System and the Orion crew capsule, which have long been top priorities for Congress.
The FY14 budget also proposes to transfer a number of climate sensors from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget to NASA's Earth Science program budget. Members questioned whether NASA will be able to integrate additional programs and associated costs, while being asked to take an overall budget cut.
NASA's FY14 budget request is $17.7 billion, a decrease of $55 million from fiscal year 2012 and $733 million less than fiscal year 2011.
For more information on the hearing including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.