The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 1654. The authorization levels in the bill do not conform to the President's request, which is based on a balanced and affordable space and aeronautics program. The total authorizations for FY 2000 are approximately $50 million above the President's request, but important priorities are not funded at all.
Other specific objectionable features of the bill include:
- Limitations on the flexibility of the International Space Station program to accommodate unforeseen requirements by restricting the use of space station research funds. Should program difficulties result in further schedule delays, this restriction would not allow NASA to shift funds as needed to address station problems, potentially exacerbating delays in research flight opportunities.
- The requirement that NASA spend $50 million in FY 2001 and FY 2002 for the purchase of commercial remote sensing data. NASA has already incorporated commercial purchases into its Earth Science procurement process. It is unwise to mandate specific dollar amounts for such acquisitions, at the expense of other research opportunities. Further, there is no guarantee that such data will be available in such amounts.
- Termination of all funding of the Triana satellite project. This project which is already one third of the way to launch, with $21 million already committed in FY 1999, will provide the scientific community with valuable research data on the earth's climate and solar flares, which disrupt communication satellites. Triana was subject to a rigorous peer review process, which found that it had strong scientific merit.
- Limitations on technology activities, including research on inflatable structures, such as Transhab, and ultra-efficient engines, as well as a limitation on potential commercial opportunities for space communication services.
The legislation also does not include important provisions contained in the Administration's reauthorization proposal. These provisions will, among other things, modernize NASA's statutes to recognize the importance of the commercial space industry.
Finally, the Administration will work with Congress to secure enactment of authorizations for NASA's High Performance Computing and Communication (HPCC) program and Information Technology for the 21st Century Initiative. Authorizations for these programs are essential to ensure continued United States leadership in information technology and to fulfillment of NASA's missions.