Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

MEMBERS OF THE TEXAS DELEGATION URGE STIMULUS FUNDS BE DIRECTED TO NASA

October 5, 2009
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today both Texas Senators and several Members of the Texas Congressional delegation sent a letter to President Obama requesting that $3 billion in available American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds be redirected to NASA to provide critically needed financial support for the mission outlined by Congress and the White House. 

America is the global leader in the aerospace industry and has always maintained dominance in human space flight.  But a lack of meaningful commitment to the goals and mission of NASA has been well known in the space community and was clearly outlined in the Augustine Panel report demonstrate a real need for an appropriate level of financial commitment.  Allocating an additional $3 billion in unspent stimulus funds would not only ensure America’s global role in the aerospace industry and human space flight, but it would also help retain thousands of existing jobs within the aerospace industry, a key goal of the stimulus spending.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, “America has always been at the forefront of aerospace engineering and technological accomplishment.  Without additional, appropriate resources, we could lose ground in our dominance, jeopardizing our national security and threatening our ability to retain the brightest technological minds in the world.  By investing in NASA, we will be investing in America’s future and ensuring our place as the leader in human space exploration.”

Senator John Cornyn said, “President Obama said we needed to pass the trillion dollar stimulus bill to save or create at least 3 million jobs and keep unemployment at 8 percent or less. Since it passed, 3.4 million Americans have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate is 9.8 percent and heading higher. With the stimulus money that has already been spent clearly not working, it is my hope that the Administration will use a portion of the remaining, authorized, unspent stimulus dollars to safeguard our nation’s space program. The Augustine Commission’s recent report revealed that NASA faces serious financial and operational hurdles if it continues on its current course without additional federal resources. I hope the President will agree to our request and invest these stimulus dollars in a program that is central to America’s competitiveness and national and economic security.”

Congressman Pete Olson said, “America’s best days can lie ahead in science and technology with a strong space program that ensures our continued global dominance in the aerospace industry.  Program stability is critical component to that dominance and can be achieved with the necessary level of federal commitment to NASA and our space program.  The stated purpose of the stimulus package was to secure good jobs and stabilize our economy.  Investing in space is well worth the return on investment.  The national security, technology and aerospace benefits have been substantially proven and will continue to improve the quality of life and security the world over.”

To date only 15% of the $787 billion in ARRA funds have been spent.  The additional $3 billion in stimulus funds is critical to sustain existing operations throughout all program areas within NASA as stated in the Augustine report.  The President’s amended budget in fact included a request for Congress to provide the necessary funds to maintain operations for NASA’s Exploration Systems.  This letter is a follow up to that budget request.

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*Text of the letter sent to the President is below.  Current co-signers include:  Sens. Cornyn and Hutchison, and (26) Reps. Barton, Brady, Burgess, Carter, Conaway, Culberson, Edwards, Gohmert, Gonzalez, Granger, Al Green, Gene Green, Hall, Hinojosa, Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sam Johnson, Marchant, McCaul, Nuegebauer, Olson, Paul, Poe, Sessions, Smith, Thornberry.

October 5, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr.  President,

We write to you regarding the summary report recently issued by your Administration’s U.S. Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.  As you know, that Committee’s goal was to evaluate all available options to support a vigorous path of human space exploration, returning to the Moon, and eventually going on to Mars.  These are national goals that the Congress has supported in NASA authorization legislation passed overwhelmingly in both 2005 and 2008.

The Committee found that the U.S. human spaceflight program, as currently configured and budgeted, cannot meet the goals of supporting meaningful human exploration beyond low-earth orbit and that additional funding is necessary for NASA to conduct a viable exploration program.  Specifically, the Committee found that it is possible for NASA to carry out a feasible exploration program only if its budget is increased, at the minimum, by $3 billion annually above the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 budget request.  Boldness does not come cheaply, and in a venture that is inherently risky, we have an obligation to provide the adequate resources to make these worthy goals safe, attainable, and sustainable over time.

As you know, a robust space program that enables us to explore new frontiers is critical to maintain both America's proud tradition of exploration and its leadership in space.  Equally important, in these times of economic uncertainty, human space flight can, as history has proven, spur the development of technologies that enhance our national and economic security, maintain our global competitiveness, and inspire generations of students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where we are today being challenged--and in some cases out-paced--by other nations.  

America is still the global leader in aerospace, but a lack of funding and commitment to human space flight would deal a critical blow to that industry that could set its progress back by decades and would cost thousands of jobs, not just in Texas, but across the country.  Your leadership in identifying a strong path forward in human space flight, based on the findings and options presented by the Review Committee, will help guarantee NASA has the adequate support and resources to maintain American leadership in human space exploration.

We agree with the Committee’s statement that such an exploration program will be a source of pride for the nation, and we believe that it will continue to be for Texas as well.  Regardless of the specific details of the plan for implementing a vigorous and effective exploration program, the Review Committee has made it clear that additional funds are essential, and that time is of the essence in moving forward with whatever program on which you and Congress can reach consensus.  As you know, the Committee's report comes very late in the budgetary process for FY 2010.  Any path forward will require additional funding not currently within the allocation of NASA's appropriations committees.

Therefore, to ensure the U.S. maintains its leadership in human space exploration, we respectfully ask that you include in your promised amended budget request for NASA's Exploration Systems a request to Congress to reallocate the necessary funds for NASA from the funds that we anticipate will remain available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  As of last month, less than 15 percent of ARRA funds had been expended.  

Since the stated purpose of the stimulus package was to secure good jobs and stabilize our economy, there is no better investment that could be made than the addition of up to $3 billion to NASA in FY2010, and the projection of at least that level of increase, as recommended by your Committee, at a 2.4% rate of inflation in the out-year projections included in the initial FY2010 Request.  The NASA civil servant and contractor workforce is comprised of highly skilled and dedicated individuals performing the kinds of work and developing the industrial base that we as a nation must have in today's global competitive economic environment.

Thank you for your attention on this matter.