WASHINGTON -- Thechairman of a House panel that makes decisions about NASA's budget saidWednesday that he opposed a White House plan to cut spending on aeronauticsresearch next year at the U.S.space agency.
TheNASA budget request the White House sent to Congress in February would cutaeronautics spending by $67 million in 2006 to $852 million. In 2007, accordingto White House projections, aeronautics spending would drop a further $191million to $728 million before leveling off.
U.S. lawmakersfrom California, Ohioand Virginia--- three states with NASA field centers heavily involved in aeronauticsresearch - have vowed to fight the cuts.
Rep.Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the HouseAppropriations science, state, justice and commerce subcommittee, said duringa hearing on NASA's 2006 budget requestthat he would push for holding aeronautics spending steady through next year at$906 million, the amount Congress ultimately approved for 2005.
Wolfalso said he would work with other congressional committees on legislativelanguage requiring the Bush Administration to come up with a national policyfor aeronautics. Wolf said the United States should not cut aeronautics spending,close down test facilities and layoff engineers and other specialists until ithas a clearer idea of where it is heading in aeronautics.
Wolfalso said he was unhappy about cuts to NASA's Earth science program, inparticular the decision to cancel the Glory climate-monitoring satellitemission that had been slated for a 2007 launch. NASA has said it will continueto develop Glory's main instrument, a greenhouse gas sensor, while looking forother ways to put the instrument in orbit short of launching a dedicatedsatellite.
Wolfsaid he was displeased with NASA's plan. "If these flights of opportunity don'tmaterialize, then we will have wasted over $50 million building theinstruments."
TheWhite House is asking for $16.4 billion for NASA for 2006, an increase of 2.4percent.
Rep.Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee,pointed out that the proposed increase, while bigger than what most federalagencies can expect this year, is about $500 million less than what the WhiteHouse had previously planned to request for NASA next year.
Hesaid that he was concerned that NASA was not being realistic about what itneeds to fund its existing programs while getting started on a new spaceexploration initiative that calls for building a space shuttle replacement inthe decade ahead and sending astronauts to the Moon by 2020.
NASAAdministrator Mike Griffin was on his way back from Kennedy Space Center Wednesday morningand did not testify at the hearing. His deputy, Fred Gregory, appeared in hisplace, along with Steve Isakowitz, NASA's comptrollerbefore moving to the number two slot in the agency's Exploration Systems MissionDirectorate earlier this year.