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House Democrats Preparing Their Own NASA Authorization Bill

U.S. House Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.). Credit: Photo courtesy of Rep. Edwards

WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House are set to unveil their own NASA authorization bill, which unlike a much leaner Republican proposal due to be marked up June 10 would authorize $18.1 billion in spending for 2014 — more than NASA has gotten since 2011.

Compared with the draft proposal unveiled in late June by the Republican leadership of the House Science space subcommittee, the Democratic bill — to be put forth by ranking subcommittee member Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) — would authorize more than $1 billion in additional NASA spending for 2014, according to an official summary of the bill obtained by SpaceNews. But with Republicans controlling the agenda in the House of Representatives, it remains to be seen whether the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s GOP leadership will give formal consideration to Edwards’ bill.

Edwards’ proposal is similar to the Republican bill in several ways: First, authorized funding for NASA’s Planetary Science Division would rise to about $1.5 billion in 2014, restoring the program to its 2012 level. Likewise, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program would be authorized for $700 million in 2014, exactly what the Republican bill proposes. 

The Democrat bill also contains strong support for NASA’s human spaceflight enterprise, which got top billing in the official summary of the bill Edwards is poised to introduce. Edwards said NASA should commit to human exploration of Mars by 2030, a more explicit directive than U.S. President Barack Obama made in 2010, when he canceled the Constellation Moon exploration program and directed NASA to send humans to an astronaut by 2025 in preparation for manned Mars missions sometime in the 2030s.

The similarities between the two bills end there, for the most part.

The Republican bill would ban an asteroid retrieval mission the Obama administration proposed in April and instead direct NASA to send more astronauts and hardware to lunar space. The Republican bill, which assumes NASA will be subject to across-the-board sequestration cuts for the foreseeable future, also called for shrinking NASA’s Earth science program and restructuring NASA management.

The official summary of the Democratic bill mentions none of these things, and directs NASA to only one destination: Mars. The agency would be on the hook to draw up a 15-year Mars road map for Congress, under the Democrats’ bill, but it would be entirely up to NASA to decide whether the road to the red planet included detours to the Moon, asteroids or Mars’ natural satellites. 

Edwards, who previewed her bill July 8 during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, said the Republican proposal keeps NASA tethered to legally mandated technical directives while at the same time choking off funding for crucial programs.

“I don’t think [that’s] the way you do science, frankly,” said Edwards, the only speaker at the event.


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Article Comments

When China and/or Russia lands on either of the lunar poles and declares them off limits for all others, what will we do next? Pay for water? Pay leasing fees?

Are these legislators crazy?

Before we give NASA-JPL more money why don't we do an unbiased, public audit of expenditures?

Every government program has faced cutback, i.e., unemployment offices, the courts, colleges, mortgage programs, etc. All while NASA isn't held accountable for their ridiculous out of control spending.

You should know the benefits JPL-NASA employees receive:

1) Salaries over $265,000/yr. for employees without PHD's. There are no jobs anywhere that would pay them that amount of money.

2) 2012 they received 3% salary increases. In addition to their already ridiculous salaries.

3) JPL is paying their childrens college tuition on taxpayer dollars while they are earning $265,000/yr.

4) Contributions to their Retirement Plans-JPL puts in more than the employees. Usually 7-9% annually.

5) Govt provided electronics are regularly used for personal use causing higher replacement costs and uncontrolled/unsubstantiated ordering. These electronics include; laptops, cell phones, tablets, hot station connections, Microsoft office suites program are given to their family members, etc. You name it they get it.

6) They get every other Friday off and are supposed to work 10hr/dy. NOT HAPPENING. Don't you think they should be there everyday if their salaries merit $265,000+/yr?

7) Unbelievable medical benefits. The rest of America is personally paying for more of their medical benefits, yet somehow, JPL's keep getting better every year.

8) No one retires from JPL, why would they with so many benefits?

Let's get back to science which doesn't come at this price tag. Outsource the job to public companies, they know how to cut costs and deliver quality projects. They also hire from outside of government therefore jobs are created which the ordinary public would qualify for.

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