Contractors Urge $1.4 Billion Increase In NASA Funding
NASA needs a $1.4 billion increase in financial support or it will be sorely underfunded in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, leading contractors stated.
Almost two dozen aerospace corporations told Congress that if NASA doesn’t receive that boost to its fiscal 2008 budget, American space leadership could be lost for a generation.
The group includes the chairmen, presidents and chief executives of such industry giants as The Boeing Co. [BA], Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Raytheon Co. [RTN].
They predicted dire consequences for the nation if Congress and the White House don’t act immediately to provide the added funds.
“Without this increase, our nation faces the very real risk of losing our uniquely critical industrial base and human space access capability,” the leaders wrote in a letter to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Hutchison is the ranking Republican on the funds-authorizing Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee space, aeronautics and related sciences subcommittee.
She has worked in bipartisan fashion with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the key Senate Appropriations Committee science and related agencies subcommittee overseeing NASA funding. Both have been strong advocates of supporting NASA.
The contractors noted in their letter that NASA is committed to a new mission and mandate, to return to the moon, and later to send manned missions to Mars and beyond.
Some lawmakers have asserted that this mission will be hugely expensive, but there has been no corresponding increase in the topline total budget for NASA that would permit the space agency to both continue its traditional science and research programs, and its aeronautics work, yet also bringing the dream of space exploration to reality.
While the new exploration program has previously received bipartisan support, the contractors note in their letter that the recent congressional joint resolution slashed the space agency budget by $670 million.
According to the aerospace leaders, that cut would force a six-month delay in launching the new Orion spacecraft and its Ares 1 booster rocket, which are to replace the space shuttle fleet when it retires in 2010. A launch now may not occur until 2015, up from an earlier estimated 2014 liftoff.
They characterize the gap in manned access to space as troubling, pointing out that the forced reliance upon foreign nations for ferrying crews to the International Space Station risks U.S. space independence.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, noting that the United States is the nation that traveled to the moon, said it is “unseemly” that for half a decade the country won’t even be able to transport its astronauts into low Earth orbit, and instead will have to hitch rides with Russian or commercial ships to the International Space Station that was built with U.S. leadership.
The contractors also stated that the Bush administration $17.3 billion fiscal 2008 NASA budget request was $1.4 billion below the previous congressionally authorized level. “We are deeply concerned that there is a growing disparity between the programs that NASA has been asked to accomplish and the resources the agency has been provided,” the letter stated.
Continued NASA investment in research, science and engineering work is vital to maintaining U.S. economic competitiveness in the global competition for jobs and technology, the contractors asserted.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics also stated that it “strongly urges Congress and the Administration to support the recommendations provided by the [contractors] or risk an epic failure of national leadership.”