Why the Space Leadership Preservation Act is Necessary

Capitol Building
By House Science Committee Republicans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing on The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the need for stability at NASA. The hearing featured input from former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Eileen Collins, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and Rep. John Culberson, author of the Space Leadership Preservation Act.

Chairman Lamar Smith: “Presidential transitions often have provided a challenge to NASA programs that require continuity and budget stability. But few have been as rocky as the administration change we experienced seven years ago.

“The 2005, 2008 and 2010 NASA Authorization Acts are consistent in their direction to NASA.  NASA needs the same certainty from the Executive Branch that it receives from Congress. Today we are discussing how to provide that stability to NASA once again as we look toward a presidential transition in less than a year.”

Rep. Culberson is the author of The Space Leadership Preservation Act and serves as the chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The bill is intended to bring stability to NASA despite changing presidential administrations.

Congressman Culberson: “Over the last 30 years, NASA programs have been cancelled due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration. In the past 20 years alone, 27 programs have been cancelled resulting in over $20 billion wasted on uncompleted programs. That is unacceptable. Our space program is too important to continue on this path.

“The Space Leadership Preservation Act will improve our space program and improve morale at NASA centers by ensuring that we take the politics out of science and provide NASA with clear direction and guidance that outlasts the political whims of any one presidential administration – and the political whims of Congress.”

Witnesses testified to the challenges NASA has faced due to abrupt changes with presidential transitions. Colonel Eileen Collins stated, “I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run.”

And former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin lamented that “the space policy changes wrought in 2010 were not proffered to or discussed with Congress, our international partners, the various stakeholders in the domestic space community, or even senior officials at NASA.”

The following witnesses testified today:

Panel 1

The Honorable John Culberson, Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Panel 2

The Honorable Michael Griffin, Former Administrator, NASA

Colonel Eileen Collins, USAF (Retired); NASA Astronaut, Commander, STS-93 and 114; NASA Astronaut, Pilot, STS-63 and 94

Ms. Cristina Chaplain, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, please visit the Committee’s website.

  • patb2009

    NASA changes directions about every 8 years anyways..
    The new President always wants to set a new direction, as a mission/project
    oriented agency, that’s just part of the game.

  • windbourne

    But with private space doing a great deal, it will mean that CONgress and presidents will have a whole lot less to waste money on.

  • Paul451

    “cancelled due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration.”

    {sigh} So let’s pretend that only one of these matters, and create a system that amplifies the likelihood of the other two.

    Constellation was cancelled because it was too expensive, overbudget, behind schedule (1yr per yr) and grossly mismanaged by a certain Administrator testifying

    It was not cancelled because Obama came in and wanted to “set a new direction”. If Constellation had been a lean well-run program, and Griffin a good administrator, I have no doubt that Obama would have made only token changes to the agency. (Indeed, if O’Keefe had still been administrator, overseeing his version of VSE/Constellation, he (and the program) likely would have been kept on under Obama.)

    Most Presidents don’t care enough about NASA and space exploration to change things that are working, they only change things because administrations rarely admit their own mistakes, so it takes a new team to say “Woh, this program is falling apart!” Under SLPA, even that crude corrective mechanism goes away.

    Most of the cancelled programs over the last 20 years were badly managed, many were badly conceived. The good programs that were cancelled prematurely were cancelling in order to provide funding for the badly managed flagship. Griffin cancelled the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, the Terrestrial Planet Finder space telescope, the related Space Interferometry Mission, and the Prometheus nuclear program, and generally reduced the NASA science budget by 25%, in order to push the funding to Constellation.