By the large, bipartisan margin of 383-15, the House on July 22 passed
a NASA reauthorization bill for fiscal years 2006 and 2007. This bill
"for the first time [gives] congressional approval to the President's
vision" for space exploration, said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Chairman
of the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. However,
Science Committee Ranking Minority Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) stated
that the bill's passage "should not be misunderstood as a blanket
endorsement of the Moon-Mars initiative" at the expense of NASA's
The bill, H.R. 3070, would authorize a total of $16.966 billion for
NASA in FY 2006 and $17.727 billion in FY 2007. The FY 2006 authorization
level is $769.0 million, or 4.5 percent, greater than the FY 2005 NASA
appropriation (including supplemental funding) of $16.197 billion. The
authorized level ranges from 2.9 to 3.6 percent higher than the Administration's
request and the current FY 2006 House and Senate appropriations bills
for NASA. Since appropriators in both chambers have already written
their bills for FY 2006 with lower NASA funding levels, it is virtually
assured that NASA funding for FY 2006 will not reach the level authorized
in H.R. 3070.
The reauthorization bill passed by the House was a bipartisan compromise
based on Calvert's original bill (see FYI
#108) and incorporating some elements of a Democratic alternative.
The main changes from the original version are: elimination of language
mandating shuttle retirement by 2010; more specifics on utilization
of the space station; more detail on authorization levels and an extension
of the authorization through FY 2007; endorsement of, and funds authorized
for, a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission; and language which
makes it more difficult for NASA to shift funds from one account to
another. Selected provisions of the bill, along with quotes from the
accompanying report (H. Rept. 109-173) and the Science Committee mark-up,
are provided below. The bill and report can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
AUTHORIZATION LEVELS: The bill would create four separate budget
accounts within NASA, and authorize funding levels for two years, as
follows: Science, Aeronautics and Education: FY06 - $6,870.3 million;
FY07 - $7,331.6 million; Exploration Systems: FY06 - $3,844.1 million;
FY07 - $4,514.0 million; Space Operations: FY06 - $6,218.9 million;
FY07 - $5,847.7 million; Inspector General: FY06 - $32.4 million; FY07
- $33.5 million. Within the Science, Aeronautics and Education account,
$150.0 million would be authorized in FY 2006 for a Hubble Space Telescope
servicing mission, unless the mission would compromise astronaut safety.
Reorganizing NASA's budget accounts, said Space and Aeronautics Ranking
Minority Member Mark Udall (D-CO), "will establish the proper protections
to ensure that cost overruns in one account will not be taken out of
VISION FOR SPACE EXPLORATION: According to the report, the bill
endorses "the broad goals of the President's Vision for Space Exploration,"
and encourages NASA to "strive to...return Americans to the Moon
no later than 2020." It requires NASA "to construct an architecture
and implementation plan for human exploration that establishes relative
priorities" for possible program elements.
SCIENCE PROGRAMS: In addition to requiring NASA to submit, with
its FY 2007 budget request, "a policy to guide NASA's programs
in space and earth science," the bill now directs the National
Academy of Sciences "to evaluate the performance of each discipline
within NASA within six fiscal years and every five years thereafter."
It also calls for annual cost-benefit analyses of extending science
missions that have reached the end of their scheduled lives.
EARTH SCIENCE: In addition to requiring NASA and NOAA to coordinate
their earth science activities and evaluate them for "potential
applicability to NOAA's mission," the bill now calls for preparation
of a transition plan for those found to have potential applicability,
and prohibits such transfers until the transition plan "has been
approved by both agencies and funds are identified in NOAA's budget."
EDUCATION PROGRAMS: The bill now calls for a National Academy
review of the funding priorities, quality and effectiveness of NASA's
educational programs, and "expects all future NASA education program
grants to include an evaluation component."
SPACE SHUTTLE: The bill no longer mandates the shuttle's retirement
in 2010, while continuing to urge completion of a Crew Exploration Vehicle
as close to 2010 as possible. "While goals can be useful,"
Gordon commented, "it isn't wise to try to write them into law
as hard deadlines."
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: The bill language was amended to
provide more specific direction regarding the space station. It urges
that, to the extent practicable, the station be utilized to carry out
"a broad range" of basic, applied and commercial research,
and calls for allocating at least 15 percent of station research funding
"to research not directly related to the human exploration program."
Because of the significant taxpayer investment in the station, Gordon
said, "NASA should ensure...its potential to advance fundamental
and applied science, not just to support the exploration initiative."
"We all want to see [the space station] used to the extent possible,"
agreed House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), but
he argued that it should only be used for research that "could
not be performed better elsewhere and only to the extent that [it] does
not consume funds that could be spent more productively elsewhere."
JOINT NASA-DOE DARK ENERGY MISSION: The report says, "the
Committee has received inconsistent and conflicting information....
While this Act does not require [the mission] to be undertaken, the
Committee encourages the mission because of its enormous scientific
H.R. 3070 must now wait for the comparable Senate bill, S. 1281, to
pass the Senate; then a House-Senate conference committee will meet
to reconcile the two versions. During his committee's mark-up of H.R.
3070, Boehlert opined that "the Senate bill places far too much
emphasis on the status quo," and cautioned that conference negotiations
on a final bill "will not be easy."