Requests for Study
U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON VA, HUD, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES
Text of report accompanying NASA's FY 1994 appropriation:
The future of space science—The Committee has included $1,000,000 for the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a comprehensive and independent review of the role and position of space science within NASA. It will come as no surprise that the Committee did not support or recommend the dismantling of the Office of Space Science and Applications. The contributions made by that office in strategic planning, cross disciplinary priority setting, and management controls were among the best that the Federal Government has ever undertaken in any of its many scientific components. Given the administration's desire to reinvent Government, the Committee believes the time has come to seriously consider the creation of an institute for space science that would serve as an umbrella organization within NASA to coordinate and oversee all space science activities, not just those in physics, astronomy, and planetary exploration. Such an institute could function just as the National Institutes of Health now does within the Department of Health and Human Services. The Committee recognizes that there are certain tradeoffs in the creation of any new entity. The Academy should look at mechanisms for priority setting across disciplines on the basis of scientific merit, better means to include advanced technology in science missions, and ways to permit less developed scientific disciplines to have a means of proving their value, despite skepticism about them in the more established scientific fields.
Text of report accompanying NASA's FY 1995 appropriation:
The future of space science—The Committee is concerned that no new space science missions are now planned to be launched by NASA after 1997 at this time. In addition, it is deeply troubled by reports that a so-called wedge of funding in the 1996 budget for any new science flight projects may require one-half of the funds to come from existing science budgets. Neither condition is acceptable, and the Committee will expect whatever pool of funds to be used for future new starts to come from outside of the existing base of space science funds. The Committee expects the National Academy of Sciences to factor this funding and mission vacuum into its assessment for the need for a national institute for space science.
Washington. DC 20546-0001
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20418
Dear Dr. Alberts:
The Conference Report accompanying H.R. 2491, the FY 1994 VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations bill, provides $1.0 million “for an assessment of whether a National Institute of Space Science should be established within NASA.” I request that the NAS's Space Studies Board (SSB) initiate this study in accordance with Congressional guidelines.
Specific directions are provided in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Report 103-127. In compliance with these directions, a task group should be formed to examine alternative organizational approaches to coordinating and overseeing NASA's science programs. In addition, the SSB should utilize existing task groups and/or subpanels to evaluate possible mechanisms for establishing interdisciplinary science priorities based on scientific merit and/or other pertinent criteria; improving utilization of advanced technologies in future science missions; and ensuring opportunities for smaller, newer science disciplines to successfully compete for limited resources against larger, more established ones. A statement of work outlining the specific study tasks has been mutually agreed upon by NASA's Chief Scientist and the SSB Chair.
The NAS should incorporate its findings into a report that addresses all issues specified above. It is essential that recommendations clearly define the pros and cons for any proposed changes to the existing organization. Since this type of assessment is within the scope of our current contract, funding for this activity will be provided through this channel. I am grateful to NAS for its assistance in this endeavor, and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.