From the Floor: House Considers FY 2013 Bill Funding NASA, NIST and NSF

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Publication date: 
23 May 2012

The  House of Representatives spent three days earlier this month on its  consideration of H.R. 5326, the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations  Bill.  This bill provides funding for  NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National  Science Foundation.  The House passed  this bill on a largely party-line vote of 247-163.

This  is the first of several FYIs focusing on Member’s remarks pertaining to  science, including amendments to reduce funding for the National Science  Foundation by $1.2 billion, and to reduce or eliminate support for a climate  change education program, political science research, and NASA’s planetary  science program.

This  FYI provides selections of remarks by senior Republicans and Democrats on the  Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee and the House  Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Commerce,  Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA):

“Since the beginning of the 112th Congress, the [House  Appropriations] committee has cut $13.2 billion, reducing the total amount of  the CJS bill by over 20 percent over the 3 fiscal years. We have focused  limited resources on the most critical areas: fighting crime and terrorism, including  a new focus of preventing and investigating cyber attacks; and boosting U.S.  competitiveness and job creation by investing in science, exports, and  manufacturing.”

“A primary area of focus in the bill this year is  scientific research, innovation, and competitiveness.   Investments in scientific research are key to  long-term economic growth and job creation.

“The bill includes $7.3 billion for the National  Science Foundation, an increase of $299 million, or 4.3 percent above FY12, for  basic research and science education. This funding will go toward the types of  research that will keep America's economy strong by setting the groundwork for  the development of new technologies.  Developing  a well-educated STEM workforce is also critical to America's competitiveness.  More than $1 billion is provided throughout the bill for science education,  including $876 million for NSF to improve the quality of science education.    “NASA. The bill includes $17.6 billion, including  funding above the aggregate request, to keep the development schedule for the  Orion crew vehicle and heavy-lift rocket. Commercial crew development is funded  at $500 million, consistent with the current authorization and the report  accompanying the House budget resolution.    “To find the fastest, safest, and most  cost-effective means of achieving a U.S. capability for access to the  international space station, the bill directs NASA to winnow the commercial  partners and advance the schedule for moving to traditional government  procurement methods. Continuing on the current path runs a high risk of failure  by one or more companies receiving government subsidies, similar to what we  last saw last year with Solyndra, and leaving the taxpayer with no tangible  benefits in exchange for a substantial investment. We do not need a space  Solyndra. I say this to Members on both sides of the aisle. We have heard  Solyndra thrown around. We do not need a space Solyndra.   We  have received letters from Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and James Lovell  endorsing the committee's approach to commercial crew as ‘reasonable and  appropriate.’    “According to  the GAO [Government Accountability Office], we have invested $100 billion in  the station, so we need to develop our own capability to get our astronauts up  there to use it quickly rather than relying on the Russians and paying the  Russians.    “The bill also includes $570 million - which is  $18.4 million above the request - for aeronautics research. Aerospace is a  pillar of the American manufacturing sector and one of the leading exports.  This is an industry that creates thousands of jobs in America. This investment  will boost our aviation competitiveness so America continues to be number one.  The bill includes $5.1 billion for NASA  science programs, including $1.4 billion for planetary science. This amount  restores cuts in the President's request that would have inhibited progress on  all planetary science goals, including flagship missions to Mars and Europa.”

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee  Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA):

“I want to start out first and foremost by thanking  my colleague and the chairman of the subcommittee, Frank Wolf, for continuing  to be a model chairman for the Appropriations Subcommittee. He is a  professional; he's principled, and he has involved us, the minority, in every  level of the distributions as we've developed this bill.” “Now I start out in this process with a number of  priorities. First and foremost in the science arena, neuroscience. And I want  to thank the chairman - I will speak about it in some detail in a minute - but  for his collaboration and this effort around brain research.    “Manufacturing. We will talk about the support in  this bill, the hundreds of millions of dollars to continue to position our  country in terms of manufacturing. We now lead the world in manufacturing, and  we want to continue that, but we have real competition that we have to contend  with.

“So let me start with the Department of Commerce.  There are healthy funding levels for research at NIST, the National Institute  of Standards and Technology, and for the NOAA satellite programs, which are so  important to our weather forecasting challenges as a Nation.

“The chairman's mark in the bill, as passed from the  full committee, provides a healthy increase for the National Science  Foundation, the world's premiere national entity focused on basic scientific  research.       “The bill  makes a strong commitment, as the chairman has noted, to NASA science and also  fully funds the James Webb Space Telescope and makes a significant investment  in commercial crew and in space technology. And even though I don't go as far  as the chairman, I do support the idea that we need to move as rapidly as  possible to this new focus on having American enterprise compete for  opportunities to participate fully and at a much more cost-effective level in  terms of our space exploration. The bill makes a significant increase in terms  of future robotic missions to Mars, and we make a requirement in the language  that this be part of a sample return mission, as the National Academy of  Sciences' report indicates.    “But let me talk in some detail for a minute about  some of the great initiatives that I think we were able to come to agreement  on. And again, I want to thank the chairman and the staff. For our country and  for my [Democratic] caucus, there's nothing more important than manufacturing.  And we see that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership receives $128 million,  with a special carve-out for the National Innovative Marketplace, a Web-like  portal that will help our manufacturers compete for manufacturing initiatives  at the Federal level. I think it's very important. The $21 million requested by  the President was met in this bill for a new Advanced Manufacturing Technology  Consortia program at NIST. And also, we provide $149 million to the National  Science Foundation for their advanced manufacturing initiative.       “We continue  a program authorized under the America COMPETES Act that we funded last year to  help small manufacturers bring technology onto the plant floor. And I would  note that the chairman held, as his last hearing, a hearing on manufacturing.  And I think it really brought light to the subject of what the country can and  needs to do in terms of helping our manufacturers compete with competitors  abroad and much larger countries that are trying to overtake us in terms of  manufacturing.    “I would like to personally thank the chairman for  fully funding the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House,  which has taken the lead in this neuroscience initiative that has been a  bipartisan agreement to really try to build a collaboration of Federal agencies  focused on some of the challenges that we have in terms of brain research,  Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, and addiction, which is a big issue for the  chairman of our full committee, Chairman [Harold] Rogers [(R-KY)], and for many  of the people that we represent. There are issues related to traumatic brain  injury affecting our veterans. So this collaboration is critically important,  and I want to thank the chairman for fully funding that office, which is  leading this effort, and the other important work that it does.”


Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman  Ralph Hall (R-TX):

“It's a very strong bill, and I want to commend the  gentleman from Virginia, Chairman Wolf, for his continued passionate support  for science and space issues in a challenging fiscal environment. Mr. Wolf is a  true champion of science, and this bill is reflective of that. I also  appreciate Chairman Wolf's work to address my concerns and priorities as  chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and want to highlight  a few specific areas of importance to us in this bill.    “With regards to NASA, this legislation recognizes  the budget realities that we must confront by responsibly imposing measured  reductions across the Agency's portfolio. Importantly, this bill maintains  development of a new heavy-lift launch system and crew capsule. It maintains a  healthy space science enterprise, continues to support innovative aeronautics  research, and funds the administration's commercial crew program at the  authorized level of $500 million. Our committee will continue to provide  oversight on the commercial crew program and work with the appropriators to  support a program that has the best chance to succeed on schedule, with  appropriate safeguards for the crew, and with the best use of taxpayer dollars.       “With regards  to the National Science Foundation, the modest increase for the Foundation is  appropriate, as basic research and development play a critical role in our  economic success. I strongly encourage NSF to broadly use this funding for  fundamental research which keeps the United States at the very leading edge of  discovery and not to blur this essential role with other initiatives that are  best left to the private sector.    “Chairman Wolf has also worked to sustain the  programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, that  directly benefit our Nation's competitiveness. The critical link between  fundamental measurement science and our economic success allows NIST to  innovate new ways to help U.S. companies excel within a global marketplace and  create high-paying jobs.    “With respect to NOAA, I thank Chairman Wolf for his  continued strong support and oversight of NOAA's satellite programs and for his  efforts to restore balance to NOAA's research portfolio. The bill does this, in  part, by redirecting the administration's proposed significant increases for  climate science to higher priority weather research that will help to protect  lives and property through improved severe-weather forecasting. This topic is  important to all regions of our Nation and, most recently, to northeast Texas,  where an outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather in April caused significant  damage to homes and property, including in my home county in Royse City.  Regarding these weather research priorities, I hope to work with you as the  bill moves to conference to preserve and enhance this particular NOAA priority.”


Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking  Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX):

“Mr. Chair, funding for research, innovation, and  STEM education is an investment in our future, perhaps one of the most  important investments we make as a nation. China, the European Union, and many  other countries understand this and are poised to surpass the United States in  innovation capacity and in the creation of a highly skilled 21st century  workforce, if they have not already. According to an analysis carried out by  the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the United States ranks  second to last of the 44 countries and regions analyzed in terms of progress in  innovation-based competitiveness over the last decade. It used to be that the  world's best and brightest flocked to our shores. Now many of our own best and  brightest are finding better opportunities in other countries, and we are  losing our edge in the competition for top talent from around the world.    “In 2007, and again in 2010, the U.S. Congress  enacted legislation - the America COMPETES Act - that recognized the importance  of increased investment in research, innovation, and STEM education. The  funding trajectories we put forth in those bills were developed while our  budget situation was healthier than it is today. While falling short of the  authorized levels, we nevertheless have still managed to come together on a  bipartisan basis with the Administration to ensure that funding for scientific  research remains relatively unscathed as many other important programs and  initiatives suffer deep cuts. This is particularly the case with the CJS bill  before us today. I want to thank Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah, Chairman  Rogers, and [Appropriations Committee] Ranking Member [Norm] Dicks [(D-WA)] and  for their funding science and STEM education even as they made very difficult  cuts in other worthy programs.    “In particular, I want to commend the appropriators  for their enduring support for the National Science Foundation. The NSF is the  only agency to fund basic research across all of science and engineering, and  its support for education research has transformed the way we think about  teaching and learning. . . .” “Turning to NASA, it is clear that NASA is a  critical part of the nation's research and development enterprise, as well as  being a source of inspiration for our young people and a worldwide symbol of  American technological prowess and good will. We need NASA to succeed. While  fiscal challenges require difficult decisions, those decisions should not come  at the expense of losing critical capabilities.    “I'm pleased to see that the House bill restores a  portion of the 21% cut to our planetary exploration program--a program that has  been a highly successful scientific undertaking that has captured the  imaginations of people around the world. Planetary science has also been an  increasingly international effort, especially in plans for future Mars  exploration. The rationale to back out of our plans for Mars collaborations  with Europe was never clear, and this restoration of planetary funding provides  the opportunity to resume our engagement in that effort and sustain critical  U.S. capabilities.    “Regarding the Commercial Crew development program,  I have witnessed the enthusiasm from aspiring commercial crew companies  testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and I wish  them well. But as a steward of the taxpayers' dollars, I cannot let enthusiasm  override the need for hardheaded oversight.” 

“I am pleased that the House bill provides increases  for the Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle - also known as  Orion - over the amounts in the budget request, although even these levels are  significantly below authorized amounts. It is essential that both the SLS and  Orion remain on track for planned flight tests in 2014 and 2017.” “Finally, I am very pleased that the bill before us  today recognizes the important role that the National Institute of Standards  and Technology plays in fostering innovation and industrial competitiveness. In  this bill, NIST's research budget receives a level of funding that will allow  it to continue its important work with industry to advance the nation's  technology infrastructure.”