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starship-design: Fwd: James Sensenbrenner iss statements


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NASA Watch

 United States House of Representatives
 Committee on Science
 F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Chairman
 George E. Brown, Jr., California, Ranking Democrat 

 October 7, 1998 

 Press Contacts: Jennifer Siciliano (Jennifer.Siciliano@mail.house.gov)
 Mike Catanzaro (Michael.Catanzaro@mail.house.gov) (202) 225-4275


 The following statement was given by Science Committee Chairman F.
 James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) at today's committee hearing on the
 International Space Station:

 At this Committee's first hearing in the 105th Congress, the
 Administration asked us to support and fund the Interim Control
 Module as an insurance policy against the possibility that the Russian
 Service Module might be delayed past its April 1998 launch date.
 That's right, I said the Service Module was supposed to be launched
 six months ago.

 We did what the Administration asked and supported the ICM.
 Congress kept its part of the bargain.

 But here we are again. The problem has not been fixed. Instead, it is
 getting worse. Two years later and the American people are still
 waiting for their Space Station. We are still waiting for the first
 element launch. We are still waiting for the Service Module. We are
 still waiting on the Russian government. And we are still waiting for a
 plan from the President to solve these problems. But, instead of a
 solution, the Administration is asking for a blank check. It wants to
 keep throwing money at the Russians. $660 million more. 

   on top of the $472 million we paid Russia for access to Mir, 
   on top of the $210 million we paid Russia for the FGB, 
   on top of the tens of millions we're paying Russia for administrative
   on top of the $1.2 billion Russia has already cost the American
 taxpayer by failing to honor its commitments and meet schedule.

 What's worse is that the Administration does not have the courtesy or
 the courage to be up front and honest with the American people about
 the cost of this bailout. It won't put the $660 million bailout in writing.

 Instead, all the White House will let NASA talk about is the tip of the
 iceberg, $60 million that it wants to pay the Russians immediately.
 Why is that? I think it's because the White House does not want to
 admit that its management of our relationship with Russia is
 fundamentally flawed. The President promised me in writing in 1994
 that we would not be dependent on the Russians to build the
 International Space Station. The Administration's representatives from
 the White House, the State Department, and NASA all came up here
 and repeated that falsehood for years. And now the Administration
 wants to stick the American taxpayer with the costs of its
 mistakes?just to hide the fact that it made them. It is not a mere
 coincidence that the Administration waited until the last and busiest
 week of this Congress to propose this bailout.

 The Administration aggressively lobbied Congress to support bringing
 Russia into the program. For a while you couldn't walk down the halls
 without tripping over someone from the White House or the State
 Department trying to convince you of all of the benefits for starting
 this partnership. But suddenly, when NASA has to pay the bill for
 someone else's foreign policy and budgetary failures, the White House
 and the State Department are nowhere to be seen. They refused to
 testify at this hearing, although their decisions have brought us to this

 Worse still, the Administration is now lobbying the Senate to oppose
 the NASA Authorization bill in order to escape accountability. A year
 and a half ago this Committee adopted and the House of
 Representatives passed a two-year authorization bill with an
 amendment that Mr. Brown and I wrote. We directed the
 Administration to create the contingency plan that it promised it
 already had and tried to establish a decision tree that would have
 helped prevent our current problems. The amendment also precluded
 NASA from paying the Russians to do work they had already committed
 to perform as partners. Now, when the Senate is considering similar
 measures along with cost caps and timelines, NASA has pulled out all
 the stops to prevent passage. In doing so, NASA is attempting to
 thwart the desire of the American people to have accountability and
 sound management in government. That's treading on dangerously
 thin ice where I come from.

 I cannot go along with NASA's request to start bailing out the Russian
 space program. I've seen nothing since passage of the
 Sensenbrenner-Brown amendment that would lead me to believe that
 NASA, the White House, or the Russians would make good use of the
 money. An appearance at today's hearing by the White House and
 State Department would have at least sent a signal that they cared
 about the program and wanted to work with us towards a solution.
 That is why the Speaker and I sent letters to Mr. Talbott and Mr. Lew
 asking them to reconsider their refusals to appear. We also stated
 that we could not begin to consider supporting this initial $60 million
 reallocation without their constructive participation in the process.

 The plain truth is that the White House is addicted to the Russians.
 I'm beginning to think it doesn't care whether the Space Station gets
 built, so long as the Russians are happy. The problem is that our
 relationship with the Russian space program is fundamentally flawed
 and is hurting our national interest. What makes me particularly angry
 is that all of the talent, the creativity, the energy, and the passion
 that exist for space within NASA is being wasted in frantic efforts to
 create ad-hoc, short-term bandaids that enable the White House to
 indulge its addiction to Russia instead of being channeled into actually
 building our Space Station and opening the space frontier. We need to
 kick this habit. Congress has repeatedly offered a range of
 suggestions, each of which the White House has summarily rejected. 

 The Administration is backing us into a corner and setting up a
 confrontation that could undermine all of the good things our space
 program has accomplished. I see only one way of avoiding it. The
 Administration needs to take the Russian government out of the
 critical path-now. Congress expected that four years ago and the
 Administration promised we wouldn't become dependent on Russia. It
 lied. Last April, the Cost Assessment and Validation Task Force
 recommended the immediate initiation of a U.S. propulsion capability. 

 On July 30th, NASA recommended that to the White House. Both
 times, the White House said no. It prefers the long-term, hidden costs
 of its dependence on Russia to the short term pain of biting the bullet
 and doing the right thing. 

 Well, I do not. If we don't see some willingness to meet Congress in
 the middle and some acceptance of reality from the White House soon,
 then I plan to spend time working with the other members of this
 Committee and drafting legislation for the next Congress that will put
 an end to this problem, one way or the other. My colleagues and I may
 find a way to do that and keep Russia in the program. We might not. I
 would prefer to work with the Administration, but we cannot keep
 waiting for leadership that may never come. 



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