Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space held a hearing to review NASA's efforts to manage its facilities and infrastructure, the agency's current legislated authorities, and its proposed legislation to provide greater flexibility to the agency. Testifying before the Subcommittee were The Honorable Paul K. Martin, Inspector General of NASA and; Mr. Richard Keegan, Associate Administrator of NASA.
NASA has developed significant facilities and infrastructure in support of its human spaceflight, science, and aeronautics programs. Maintaining and modernizing this infrastructure requires significant resources. NASA has more than 124,000 acres and over 4,900 buildings and other structures with a replacement value of more than $30 billion, making it one of the top ten largest Federal Government property holders. However, nearly 80 percent of NASA's facilities are more than 40 years old and, in addition, NASA is carrying a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at $2.3 billion. As NASA deals with transitioning to a new era of post-Shuttle exploration amidst an environment of constrained and uncertain budget levels, the question of what facilities and infrastructure to maintain and renew and what to lease, mothball, or demolish becomes increasingly pressing. Members and witnesses discussed agency assessments of underutilized NASA facilities as well as NASA's plans to address its infrastructure challenges.
In her statement submitted for the record, Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) said, "NASA has built a range of facilities during its early years to meet national objectives. These facilities have enabled the United States to achieve the remarkable discoveries and advances over the last 50 years that have inspired generations of Americans. The problem, as we know, is that the assets that enabled the past, are now, to an extent, a burden on the future. It is hard to expect NASA to perform as a 21st century space agency with 20th century facilities."
"So, we have a choice: ignore the problem and let NASA's facilities run themselves into the ground to the point at which NASA is limping into mediocrity, or invest in NASA and enable its future as a 21st century space agency that will continue its remarkable successes while fostering our national innovation agenda, the passions and dreams of our people, and new discoveries and advances in science, aeronautics, human spaceflight and exploration. I submit that this is not the time to back away from NASA. Rather, this is the time to provide NASA with the tools it needs to become a productive 21st century space agency."
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) echoed the sentiment of Democratic Members in her opening statement. "Ranking Member Edwards and I share the same passion for ensuring that NASA has a productive and inspiring future. However, a strong and vibrant space program requires that we provide NASA with adequate resources, including the R&D tools and facilities it needs to accomplish its challenging missions and cutting-edge research. NASA's successes are a shining light of inspiration and accomplishment for our youth and our nation, and I want to ensure that we enable NASA to continue to fill that role in the coming years."
In her statement submitted for the record, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, "We need to focus first on what we are trying to accomplish with the nation's investments in NASA--what are the outcomes we are seeking. Only then, can we intelligently assess what NASA will need in the way of infrastructure now and in the future. I believe that the NASA Authorization bill that Rep. Edwards and I introduced earlier this year provides clear direction and compelling goals for the agency, and I want to continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come to a bipartisan consensus on NASA this year. However, I think it should be clear to all of us that NASA will be unable to achieve those goals if we fail to invest in safe, efficient, and productive infrastructure for the agency."