Briefs: NASA a priority, and budget concerns

Could NASA be a renewed priority in the new Congress? That's the suggestion of Joanne Padrón Carney, director of the AAAS's Center for Science, Technology and Congress, SpacePolicyOnline.com reports. In an AAAS webinar, Padrón Carney said that the potential new House Science and Technology Committee leadership of Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) "could mean NASA will become a 'high priority' for Congress", but did not elaborate beyond making oversight of programs a priority. NASA did get a fair amount of attention in Congress in the last two years, including from the House Science and Technology but it seems more likely in the next two years that the center of attention will shift from authorizers to appropriators. With a three-year authorization bill enacted, the issue now is whether appropriators will fund the agency at those authorized levels, and if not, what programs will bear the brunt of cuts. And while some in the House might like to revisit the authorization bill (after somewhat reluctantly accepting the Senate version in September), the Senate might be less interested in changing the bill's provisions. And speaking of NASA and funding, the Orlando Sentinel calls the cost overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope "unbelievable" in an editorial Friday. "If NASA can't get control of costs on this project and others, it has little hope of persuading Congress to give the agency the extra dollars it needs to maintain U.S. leadership in space exploration," it adds. That may be especially true in an increasingly conservative fiscal environment in Congress.

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