Good morning. I’d like to
welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank you for your
Today, the Subcommittee continues our
oversight of NASA’s major programs by focusing on
It is important that we do so, because
in many ways NASA’s aeronautics program is one important answer to
the question of what it is that makes NASA relevant to the
At the same time, it has become
painfully clear that NASA’s aeronautics program has been
significantly shortchanged in recent years when it comes to getting
the resources required to address those national
That’s unacceptable as far as I am
concerned. NASA has many worthwhile programs
underway—activities that certainly deserve our support.
Yet I am hard-pressed to think of any
program at NASA, with the possible exception of NASA’s climate
research initiatives, that is more relevant to our society’s needs
than NASA’s aeronautics program.
Aviation knits our country together,
maintains our economic vitality, improves the quality of our lives,
and helps enhance our national security.
Moreover, aviation is a sector that
makes a significant positive contribution to our balance of
trade—and promotes America’s competitiveness in the global
Yet the explosive growth of aviation
over the last several decades has also brought its own set of
These include dealing with the
increasing congestion of the nation’s airspace system, the need to
maintain safety in the face of increasing travel demand, and the
need to mitigate the negative impacts of aviation on the
environment--whether noise, increasing energy consumption, or
And with respect to emissions, it is
clear that an emerging focus of concern is greenhouse gas emissions
that can contribute to climate change, an area that this Committee
has been trying to call attention to over the past year.
It is clear that meeting all of those
challenges is going to require a national commitment to cutting-edge
research into new technologies and operational
We must focus on research that will
ensure that the nation’s air traffic management system will be able
to meet anticipated demand while preserving safety and making the
whole experience a lot more pleasant than it is now for the average
We also need to focus on developing
technologies that can make aircraft much more energy efficient and
produce lower levels of harmful emissions.
In addition, NASA needs to continue to
pursue research that will open up new flight regimes for our
utilization, for example, research that will enable such things as
civil rotorcraft and supersonic aircraft that are environmentally
friendly, safe, and that can operate without adverse impacts on our
And we need to focus on research that
will ensure that we maintain the high level of safety that we have
enjoyed in our aviation sector.
Indeed, the National Academies
completed a Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics several years ago
that identified some 51 key technical challenges around which
NASA—in close collaboration with industry and academia—could
structure a compelling and productive aeronautics R&D agenda for
the next decade.
That’s the good news.
However, as a number of the witnesses
at today’s hearing will testify, and as past witnesses have also
testified—the decline in NASA’s aeronautics funding is making it
increasingly difficult to maintain an aeronautics research program
that will be capable of stepping up to the challenges the nation’s
aviation sector will be facing in the coming decades.
In short, the future relevance of
NASA’s aeronautics program is at risk—just when the need for NASA’s
research contributions is greatest.
In part that is because carrying
research to a level of maturity that allows the results to be
transitioned to the users—whether private or public sector—requires
a greater level of investment than the current Administration has
been willing to make.
That needs to change.
If promising technologies and
operational concepts aren’t matured to the point that they
can be transitioned to the users for further development or
implementation, the nation will never receive the full benefit of
the investment that it has made in that research.
That’s the challenge we
Aeronautics needs to be a priority at
NASA. It is as simple as that.
I think the NASA Authorization Act of
2005 got it right when it reaffirmed that “Aeronautics research
remains a core mission of NASA.”
Our witnesses today will tell us about
the ways that NASA research can contribute to a bright and exciting
future for American aviation.
We need to ensure that NASA maintains
its commitment to carrying out that research.