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Member Speeches :: September 27, 2008

On H.R. 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008

Remarks on the U.S. House of Representatives Floor (As Prepared)

 On H.R. 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008

September 27, 2008



Chairman, Space and Aeronautics Subcomittee

Committee on Science and Technology

Madam Speaker, I support the passage of H.R. 6063, “The NASA Authorization Act of 2008”, as amended by the Senate.                          

H.R. 6063 provides important direction to ensure the leadership of the United States civil space programs and provides the next Presidential Administration with Congressional priorities for America’s future in aeronautics and civil space activities.  

I am very proud that this legislation has been a bipartisan bill every step of the way.  I worked closely with Subcommittee Ranking Member Feeney, Chairman Gordon, and Ranking Member Hall in crafting the House legislation earlier this year.  Our bill passed swiftly through the Committee process and on June 18th of this year, H.R. 6063 passed the House by the overwhelming margin of 409-15.  The message is clear that a strong and balanced U.S. civil space program is a bipartisan priority.

Since House passage, we have worked with our colleagues in the Senate to craft a final version of H.R. 6063 that reflects the concerns and interests of Members in both Chambers of Congress, and I am pleased that the Senate has passed H.R. 6063, as amended, by unanimous consent yesterday.

In that regard, I want to thank Senators Bill Nelson and David Vitter for the constructive approach that they took to our negotiations on the final bill.

I’d like to again thank my original cosponsors, Chairman Gordon, Ranking Member Hall, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Feeney for their support and hard work on this bill.

While the amended bill leaves out a limited set of House-passed provisions, I am confident that H.R. 6063, as amended, remains a good bill that puts NASA and the civil space program on a path that will help ensure America’s leadership in space and aeronautics. 

This bill emphasizes several critical areas that will help to advance our exploration initiative, our use of space activities to address societal goals and challenges, and our technological and competitive strength as a nation.

Moreover, H.R. 6063 stresses the importance of American leadership and the role that the U.S. can and should play in leading international collaborations to meet global challenges in climate change research and in the human and robotic exploration of our solar system.

Specifically, the bill establishes a role for NASA in leading a cooperative international effort on Earth observations and applications, especially with respect to climate change.

The bill includes provisions to ensure that the International Space Station---a unique orbiting R&D facility that represents the contributions in resources, engineering, and science of many nations---will be utilized in as productive manner as possible.  Toward that end, H.R. 6063 [as amended] authorizes an additional Space Shuttle mission to honor the commitment that we made to carry a major international science instrument—the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer—to the ISS for science operations.   

In the vital area of aeronautics, H.R. 6063 as amended provides enhanced R&D funding while also making clear that the additional funding be used to address significant R&D challenges related to development of  the next generation air transportation system, mitigation of the environmental impacts of aviation, enhancement of aviation safety, and aircraft energy efficiency. 

H.R. 6063 also authorizes additional funds to reduce the gap—now anticipated to last five years--- in transitioning from our Space Shuttle to a new human space transportation system. 

This gap is an unfortunate consequence of the current Administration’s string of shortsighted decisions and inadequate budgets to accomplish the Vision for Space Exploration that the Bush Administration set for NASA.

The gap will leave us without a United States capability for delivery and return of U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, and it is imperative that we try to minimize the absence of such an important national capability by moving to the follow-on systems as soon as possible.

This amended bill also includes important provisions to maintain a balanced portfolio of human spaceflight, human exploration, space science, Earth science, and aeronautics programs.

I am disappointed that our colleagues in the Senate did not support provisions directing the Office of Science and Technology Policy to study the implications of current export control policies, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), on our national security, the competitiveness of our U.S. aerospace industry, and on our Federal government’s ability to conduct cooperative space projects.

I, and many of my colleagues in the House, believe it is critical for our Nation to examine our export control policies to ensure that they are as effective as possible.

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. space program and the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA has achieved remarkable accomplishments over the past five decades in science, aeronautics and human spaceflight.  We want to ensure that the next 50 years of our space program are equally bright.

This is a good bill and I urge my colleagues to pass H.R. 6063, as amended, to ensure continued United States leadership in NASA’s science, aeronautics, and human spaceflight and exploration programs.

Thank you.


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