Report from Washington
On June 24, the Space Foundation, in partnership with the Secure World Foundation, hosted a discussion and briefing on space weapons for congressional staff. See related story in this issue of Space Watch.
On June 17, the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, chartered to examine NASA's human spaceflight plans and programs, held its first public hearing in Washington, D.C. The panel heard from numerous commercial space interests, as well as members of Congress and international space agency representatives. Over the next two months, the Committee members will visit space sites across the country and meet in Huntsville, Ala., Cape Canaveral, Fla., and again in Washington. D.C., before presenting their findings to the President in late August.
The fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriations season got underway in late May, with the Commerce, Justice, Science bill being the first to clear the House. The House version includes a cut of more than $600 million to NASA exploration, and a small increase over last year for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At the end of June, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version, with the full requested amount for NASA and slightly larger increase for NOAA, to the full Senate. The bill is expected to be considered on the Senate floor after the July 4 recess.
This year's Defense authorization bill passed the House in late June, and the Senate version was debated in the Armed Services Committee. Both bills are expected to retain the president's missile defense cuts, add funds for operationally responsive space activities, as well as several policy provisions related to military space activities. The House version has drawn a veto threat from the president for authorizing funds for a fighter jet the administration plans to phase out. The full Senate is expected to consider the bill in July, with the goal to have a bill to the president for signature before the August recess.
In late June, the Senate confirmed Rep. Ellen Tauscher for the post of undersecretary of State for arms control and international security. This leaves her House seat vacant, as well as the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Confirmation hearings for the president's nominees for NASA administrator and deputy administrator are expected in July.