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Committee on Science, Democratic Caucus

Hearing :: 6/28/2007 :: NASA's Earth Science and Applications Programs: Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and Issues

Opening Statement By Chairman Mark Udall

Good morning. I’d like to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing—we appreciate your participation.

Today’s hearing builds on the Science and Technology Committee’s February 13th hearing at which we examined the findings and recommendations of the National Academies’ Earth Science and Applications “Decadal Survey.”

The Decadal Survey represented a consensus of the Earth sciences and applications community on what the Earth Science research priorities should be for the coming decade, and it identified a prioritized set of missions. It is an impressive report, and it provides a very useful set of benchmarks for Congress as we attempt to evaluate NASA’s current and planned activities in Earth science and applications.

Today, we want to examine how well NASA’s plans and programs compare to the priorities of the Decadal Survey, and the extent to which NASA intends to support those priorities in the FY 08 budget and beyond. As numerous witnesses before this Committee have testified, the situation facing NASA’s Earth Science program is not good.

To quote the Decadal Survey, it first noted that the Decadal Survey’s interim report had cautioned that the nation’s system of environmental satellites was “at risk of collapse”. It then went on to state that: “In the short period since the publication of the interim report, budgetary constraints and programmatic difficulties at NASA have greatly exacerbated this concern. At a time of unprecedented need, the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray.”

Those are troubling words, because NASA has a major role to play in the nation’s – and indeed the world’s – climate research efforts. If NASA doesn’t step up to that role, the negative consequences of that failure of leadership will be long-lasting.

I look forward to hearing from our NASA witness, Dr. Freilich, about what NASA is going to do to turn this worrisome situation around. And I hope that he will be able to provide some specifics on how NASA intends to implement the Decadal Survey’s recommendations.

In that regard, I am also concerned about the fate of the climate instruments from NPOESS, and the need to ensure that we don’t needlessly disrupt the instrument development activities while the Administration is determining what will be done about them.

I hope that Dr. Freilich will be able to shed some light today on what interim arrangements are being put in place to preserve those instrument teams and development efforts.

Finally, I think many of us in Congress are interested in ensuring that the Earth observations data being collected by NASA is applied, whenever appropriate, to address societal needs. That is why I introduced the Remote Sensing Applications Act, which became Sections 313 and 314 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.

It is not clear that NASA’s efforts to date have been fully responsive to the intent of that legislation, and I look forward to working with the agency to make sure that the goals of the provisions can be realized.

Well, we have a lot of issues to address today. I again want to welcome our witnesses, and I look forward to your testimony.

 


 

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