NASA funding at issue

WASHINGTON — Key senators worried Wednesday that unresolved spending decisions could affect NASA's major course change and delay development of a new heavy-lift rocket.

But top administration officials assured members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that NASA is moving forward with the rocket, boosting development of commercial rockets and planning for three more shuttle flights -- as it was directed to do by Congress earlier this year.

"We are going to follow the law," said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "I can't emphasize that enough."

The root of the confusion is that Congress still hasn't approved a spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Lawmakers are expected to continue flat funding from last year under what's called a continuing resolution.

That would give NASA $18.7 billion, which Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said should be plenty for the agency to pursue its new path. President Barack Obama originally proposed giving NASA $19 billion in fiscal 2011.

Even if Nelson is right, the continuing resolution should specifically state that the money for NASA should be spent as the policy law envisions, said Susan Poling, managing associate general counsel for the Government Accountability Office.

"I think it is important . . . that there is no question that the agency is moving forward on that basis," Poling said.

Elizabeth Robinson, NASA's chief financial officer, said giving NASA the same amount next year as last year probably would reduce funding for improvements to the 21st Century Launch Complex at Kennedy Space Center next year, budgeted at $429 million for the year.

NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, assumed it would be difficult to spend as much as planned on those improvements in the remainder of the fiscal year anyway, Robinson said.

"He wanted to take the reduction there, with the thought that we would make it up later," she said.

Nelson, who headed the hearing, said he would monitor the spending to ensure that it reached KSC as planned.

0 Response to "NASA funding at issue"