Chairman Cartwright Statement at Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for NASA Hearing

2021-05-19 14:17

Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for NASA:

It’s my pleasure to welcome everyone to today’s hearing on the NASA budget request for Fiscal Year 2022. Our witness today is a man who needs no introduction to the space community, but I’m going to introduce him anyway.

Administrator Bill Nelson has had a remarkable career of service to our country. He has been a soldier, an astronaut, a Member of this House, a Senator from the State of Florida, and now the 14th Senate-confirmed Administrator of NASA.

Administrator, we are glad to have you with us today, and thank you for your very kind call last week. I enjoyed our chat and I hope it’s the first of many.

This is a very exciting time for space exploration. The landing of Perseverance on Mars is a major achievement, and the flights of Ingenuity have been nothing short of extraordinary. The men and women of NASA are to be congratulated for inspiring us all with their work that is happening literally a world away.

Because this is my first NASA hearing as Chairman of this subcommittee, I want to start with a quick observation:

A generation ago, it was said that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” Whether that adage is still true or not today may be up for debate.

But it is true that today our politics must stop at the atmosphere’s edge. The importance and unifying nature of space is too great for us to get bogged down in partisanship:

In the coming years, America can create jobs and grow a truly innovative industry by fostering the commercial space economy. By some estimates, commercial space could be a one trillion-dollar market by 2040, but only if we continue to invest in our workforce and the industrial base that will build the equipment and infrastructure.

We have the potential to unlock so much knowledge about our own planet and the rest of the universe, but only if we invest in science and the scientists who will interpret the data new satellites collect.

And we must foster our international space partnerships, because growing our industry and maximizing the science only happen if the community of space-faring nations has a set of rules to play by. The Artemis Accords are an important beginning, but we must bring more nations into this system, and we must expand our science and exploration partnerships with our space-faring allies.

These opportunities and challenges compel us to work together to ensure NASA has a strong financial foundation to successfully complete its many missions.

To that end, I believe the President’s skinny budget sets a good tone, proposing 24.7 billion dollars for FY 22, an increase of more than six percent over the current level.

Included in that request are several critically important priorities that deserve more attention and resources.

Most notably, I applaud the proposed increase in earth science research, and the continued joint investment with the private sector that is critical to the future of America’s economy and our space endeavors.

The growing relationships between NASA and the private sector include companies that will deliver crew and materials to the International Space Station, those that are building and launching small satellites, and smaller partnerships through SBIR and STTR contracts.

I would like to see NASA continue to make greater use of SBIR and STTR, as well as the options for maturing contractors, such as the Mentor-Protégé Program and Tipping Point Partnerships to create even more opportunities for small businesses to show what they can do for our nation’s space program.

We’re going to need robust competition across the entire spectrum if we are to both maximize economic gains and ensure that the taxpayers are getting the best value.

Administrator Nelson, thank you for NASA’s continued efforts to ensure that small manufacturers and other small businesses are able to contribute to the space economy.

I know you share my commitment to ensuring that our American manufacturing base is strong and diverse enough to support the next generation of space exploration.

I am especially grateful for NASA’s upcoming discussion with the many small manufacturers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and let’s get you up there to meet with them in person someday soon, and we can grab a Hank’s Hoagies lunch while we’re up there.  

NASA’s mission is also about inspiring the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs. As we explore new worlds, NASA excites the imagination of our kids and get them interested in all facets of space science.

That work is especially important at a time when other countries are competing so vigorously with us in STEM fields, and they are not playing for second place.

I know all the members of this subcommittee understand NASA’s role in our economic and scientific future. But this is also a time of risk for NASA. The agency currently has 34 major missions – those with an expected budget of $250 million or more – in formulation or in implementation.

My understanding is that 34 major missions at once is the most since at least 2003, and possibly in NASA’s history.

So Administrator Nelson, it is going to take some aggressive leadership to manage risk across the NASA enterprise and keep these many worthy initiatives on schedule, and to ensure that NASA’s crewed spaceflight missions are as safe as possible.

That’s a big job, but I know you and the men and women of NASA are up to it.

And I want to work with you to make sure that we give you the tools in the Fiscal Year 2022 C-J-S appropriations bill to keep NASA moving forward.

I know that testifying remotely and without a full budget before us is not easy, so we appreciate the Administrator being here today, especially as it is your first hearing as confirmed Administrator.

Welcome to the Subcommittee and congratulations again on your confirmation.

117th Congress