House Republicans Back Space Leadership Preservation Act of 2012

September 20th, 2012



Astronauts approach the surface of an asteroid in this NASA illustration.

The Space Leadership Preservation Act of 2012, legislation introduced in Washington on Thursday, would significanty change the way NASA is led and its programs managed in order to establish new stability and accountability, according to its six Republican sponsors from the U. S. House.

The sponsorship team, three from Texas and one each from Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin, play or have played a role in overseeing the agency and its initiatives and believe changes borrowed from the administration of the FBI and the National Science Foundation are in order to ensure the U. S. with a global edge in space exploration.

The past three decades have been punctuated by initiatives cancelled by each new administration, ostensibly because of cost overruns or mismanagement, according to a statement from the lawmakers that accompanied the filing. They document 27 cancelled programs in the last 20 years alone accounting for a combined loss of $20 billion.

“These reforms will save money and help their budget go farther in tough times, but more importantly, we hope to restore the NASA we knew when we were young and America landed the first man on the moon,” said U. S. Rep. John Culberson, one of the Texans. “We are confident these reforms will restore the NASA we have known, loved and admired and help guarantee that America continues to lead the world in space exploration in the 21st Century.”

“This legislation lays out a clear framework for what is needed to ensure American dominance in space exploration and a blueprint for how we get there,” added U. S. Rep. Pete Olson, another of the Texans. “NASA needs a mission, the vision, the leadership and the resources to accomplish the mission. This bill provides it.”

The changes outlined in the bill would significantly alter the process by which NASA is managed and the agency’s top three managers are appointed.

Under the terms, NASA would be managed by an 11-member board of directors, with three of them chosen by the White House, three by the House speaker and three by the most senior member of the Senate’s majority party. The minority leaders of the House and Senate would select an additional board member each. The trustees could be former astronauts, scientists, engineers or from disciplines  otherwise technically qualifying them as experts in human spaceflight or aeronautics. They could not serve while employed by a NASA contractor.

The board in turn would have several key responsibilities:

* The selection of three candidates to serve as NASA administrator, deputy administrator and chief financial officer. The president would be urged to select one of the candidates to fill out a 10-year term as administrator, a period of service equal to the FBI director’s.

* Preparation of an annual budget presented by Nov. 15 of each year to the president as well as the House and Senate appropropriations and authorization committees. The spending plan would cover programs for the following federal fiscal year and would be heavily influenced by the recommendations of the National Research Council’s Decadel Surveys and other credible science and engineering advisory groups.

*Preparation of a quadrennial review of current space programs and a vision for future exploration. The board would shoulder responsibility for an annual report as well that assesses the health of theU. force, areas of concern and gaps in capabilities as compared to those of other nations.

The legislation received an endorsement from Gene Cernan, who commanded Apollo 17 in December 1972, the last of NASA’s six missions to the lunar surface.

“This legislation is critical to providing the much needed continuity for the future of  NASA’s far-reaching goals in space,” said Cernan.