House Science Committee Developments: NASA and NSF Authorization Bills

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Publication date: 
29 April 2014

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee continues its work on authorization bills for NASA and the National Science Foundation.  Recent developments include:

NASA Reauthorization Bill:

This afternoon the full committee met for 22 minutes to briefly discuss and then approve H.R. 4412, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2014.”  The chairs and ranking members of the full committee and the Space Subcommittee repeatedly mentioned the bipartisan nature of the bill and an amendment to that bill that further refined the legislation since the subcommittee approved it on April 9. 

When first considered in 2013 there were major differences in the approaches taken by Republican and Democratic Members.  “We are light years from where we began in 2013” Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) said.  Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) reiterated Members’ praise for the efforts made by the staff of both parties saying “this truly is a bipartisan agreement.”  Members from both sides spoke of the importance of legislative language that will require NASA to develop a clear roadmap for its future exploration activities.

The bipartisan amendment and the bill were both approved by voice vote.  H.R. 4412 now goes to the House floor.

NSF Reauthorization Bill:

In contrast to the NASA bill there continue to be significant differences of opinion regarding provisions in an authorization bill that is under development for the National Science Foundation.  The National Science Board issued a statement criticizing provisions in the bill on April 24.   House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) yesterday released the following response:

“After a year of the National Science Foundation (NSF) resisting calls for more public accountability, the agency’s last-minute announcement of a new internal policy is too little too late.  The internal policy would continue to allow the NSF to evade responsibility for their decisions to fund questionable grants.  The NSF wants to be the only federal agency to get a blank check signed by taxpayers, without having to justify how the money is spent. The NSF’s new internal policy omits any commitment to make awards that are in the ‘national interest,’ a standard that should guide taxpayer-funded grants. Under the Obama administration there has been a shift in priorities from engineering and the physical sciences to more taxpayer-funded social, behavioral and economic (SBE) research. Basic research in the physical sciences drives economic growth, produces new technologies and creates jobs.  The Committee’s support for NSF’s important work is reflected in the fact that the FIRST Act authorizes more funding than the President’s budget request.  But to regain America’s scientific edge the Committee will adjust priorities for taxpayer-supported research.”