Volume 2, No.
"Exploding" ISS Costs Worry Senators
At the latest hearing (4/23/98) on NASAäs FY 1999
budget, Senator Kit Bond (R- MO), Chairman of the Appropriations
Subcommittee on VA-HUD-IA, accused the space agency of "giving lip
service" to cost growth problems in the International Space Station
program. According to Bond, NASA has "done little to alleviate some
of the concerns [the subcommittee] expressed last year," and has
"only reiterated the need for transfer authority," which was denied
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the ranking Democrat, warned
members are running out of patience and that budgetary troubles in
the ISS program "could move to a crisis." "Yellow lights relating
to the space station," she said, "...have flashed long enough and
we must begin to solidify contingency plans on how to move the
space station process forward and onto successful launches."
Testifying before the subcommittee hearing was NASA
Administrator Daniel Goldin. He diplomatically answered very
difficult questions about the station, putting up a strong defense
for the program. Goldin announced there would be no decision until
late May at the earliest on what NASA plans to do about
Russiaäs ongoing lack of performance. To assess the situation,
Goldin is dispatching to Russia on Friday (4/24/98) Joseph
Rothenberg, Associate Administrator of Space Flight.
Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR), the space stationäs most
ardent opponent in the Senate, made a brief appearance at the
hearing. (He is not a member of the subcommittee.) Bumpers pressed
Goldin on details contained in the Chabrow Report, which estimates
ISS cost overruns could reach $7 billion. Goldin said NASA would
officially respond to the report in 30 days. He also said he does
not accept the $7 billion figure. For now, the agency is sticking
to the $19.7 billion number, which includes $900 million in cost
overruns, about $700 million for the development of the Crew Return
Vehicle, and contingency expenses due to Russian schedule
Nine members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD-IA did
not attend the hearing. This includes Conrad Burns (R-MT), Richard
Shelby (R-AL), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Larry Craig (R-ID),
Ted Stevens (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ),
Tom Harkin (IA), and Barbara Boxer (D- CA).
Mikulski also raised the issue of Russian nuclear
proliferation at the hearing. She said the diversion of missile
technology from Russia to Iran "could sink the space station." The
Maryland Senator said she will be asking "NASA and other U.S.
agencies do all they can to prevent the transfer of missile
technology to Iran."
Still unresolved in Congress is pending legislation to
transfer about $200 million from NASAäs Science, Aeronautics
and Technology accounts to the ISS program. Bond said he did not
think it "appropriate to rob other programs and initiatives to pay
of the space station." According to Goldin, the money is not needed
for any specific hardware, but will supplement reserves, and would
probably be expended in FY 1999.
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill
hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS
staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS
members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our
national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space
advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000
members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a