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FYI Number 139: November 14, 2001

Final Appropriations Report Language on Space Station

Accompanying the FY 2002 VA/HUD appropriations bill was lengthy language by the conferees on the International Space Station (ISS). Running almost three pages, the report language is critical of NASA's management of the project, and skeptical about the redesigned and downsized "U.S. Core Complete" station. Selections from the report language follow:

"When the House and the Senate drafted their respective bills [July 2001], the Administration had recently proposed dramatic changes to the ISS program in light of a purported shortfall of over $4,000,000,000. The redesigned station was dubbed ``U.S. Core Complete'' and included elimination of the Crew Return Vehicle, the Habitation Module, the Propulsion Module, a 37 percent reduction in ISS science, and undefined ``management efficiencies'' and better cost estimating. It was the position of the House at that time that such changes could not be endorsed given the limited amount of information available to the Congress. It was this lack of information which led the House to conclude that termination of the Crew Return Vehicle was premature, that NASA should be encouraged to pursue an international barter arrangement for development and construction of a habitation module, and that a significant add-back to the ISS science program was warranted. In the hope of getting more information, the House initiated an investigation into the ISS program with the goal of answering basic questions with regard to the real cost of the program, the underlying cause of cost increases, lapses in oversight and the causes thereof, and the extent to which previously identified problems or concerns were not addressed.

"The initial stages of the House investigation have been completed with the conclusion being that the concept of ``U.S. Core Complete'' is ill-defined, that the science program needs to be more rigorously evaluated, that all options for enhancing crew time for research need to be fully explored, and that international agreements need to be evaluated and compliance with such agreements needs to be clarified. It is also the initial conclusion of the House investigation that NASA's lack of an integrated financial management system impedes its ability to determine the status of contract execution and provide program managers with necessary financial information.

"The conferees are in agreement that first and foremost the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Administrator of NASA shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and the Senate which defines in specific detail the U.S. Core Complete configuration of the ISS and provides a ten-year total funding profile for that configuration; clearly defines the content and scope of the research science program; and provides costs and schedule to develop the Crew Return Vehicle. The conferees are aware of ongoing negotiations between NASA and the Italian Space Agency concerning a stretch version of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module as a substitute for the habitation module. The conferees see the utility of using a proven platform and encourage NASA to move with all deliberate speed, subject to an appropriate and cost-effective barter arrangement.

"The conferees are in agreement that the Director of OMB shall certify and report such certification to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and the Senate, that any proposal to enhance the ISS design above the content planned for U.S. Core Complete, is (1) necessary and of the highest priority to enhance the goal of world class research in space aboard the International Space Station; (2) within acceptable risk levels, having no major unresolved technical issues and a high confidence in independently validated cost and schedule estimates; and (3) affordable within the multi-year funding available to the ISS program as defined above or, if exceeds such amounts, the additional resources are not achieved through any funding reduction to programs contained in Space Science, Earth Science, and Aeronautics.

"The conferees are aware of a study being conducted by the National Research Council per the direction of the House Committee on Science and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to address the station research program. If possible, the conferees would like the National Research Council to expand that study to compare and evaluate the research programs of the ISS which can be accomplished with a crew of three and a crew of six; and, an assessment of the probable cost-benefit ratios of those programs, compared with earthbound research which could be funded in lieu of research conducted on the ISS.

"The conferees agree with the direction contained in the Senate report for NASA to empanel a task force to study all options, together with their costs, for enhancing crew research time on the U.S. Core Complete ISS.

"The conferees are concerned that NASA lacks an integrated financial management system and therefore can not adequately manage its programs. NASA is directed to place the highest priority on correcting this fundamental management deficiency, a deficiency which should have been corrected many years ago.

"Finally, the conferees direct the Secretary of State, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Administrator of NASA to submit a joint explanation of how the United States is fulfilling its written commitments to its ISS international partners. This report is due no later than July 15, 2002.

"With regard to the decision by the conferees to reduce the ISS budget by $75,000,000 in fiscal year 2002, the conferees note that the Post-Assembly Operations Cost Estimates (November 1999) and a report on ISS Operations Architecture (August 2000) both called for significant reductions in personnel associated with the program. Yet NASA and the ISS program management refuse to implement the provisions of these two reports for no apparent reason other than the desire to maintain a standing army of personnel. The conferees have reached the conclusion that the only way management will actually manage the program, and thereby get its costs under control, is through being forced to live with less. The conferees are reluctant to take this approach, but find that the intransient [sic] management cannot be trusted to make the tough decisions on their own and must be forced to make decisions which are in the long-term interest of the program. NASA is directed to submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and the Senate a report, concurrent with submission of the fiscal year 2003 budget, which describes its plans for managing and operating the ISS over the life of the station, to include specific manpower and financial needs for operation and support."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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