Senator Rubio Statement on Kennedy Space Center Property

By  //  February 10, 2014

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rubio-180-2Below is a statement from Senator Marco Rubio at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations Hearing: “Assessing NASA’s Underutilized Real Property Assets at Kennedy Space Center.”

“Chairman Mica, thank you for holding today’s hearing and drawing attention to the significant assets at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, assets that can and should be used in the most effective manner to serve all taxpayers and America’s space competitiveness.

To ensure this occurs, NASA, the State of Florida, and the U.S. Air Force must continue to work together in an equitable partnership. This will ensure that America’s gateway to exploring and understanding our universe is a gateway that is open for all interested users and advances our commitment to space travel.

For over 50 years the United States has had a longstanding commitment to manned space exploration, and NASA has played a major role in developing new technologies, promoting scientific discovery, and researching the unknowns of space. Throughout its history, our nation’s space program has exhibited many of the qualities that make America exceptional – courage, ingenuity, risk taking and an ability to accomplish what once seemed unthinkable. Space exploration speaks volumes about America, who we are as a people and as a nation.

All Floridians are proud of the contributions the KSC has made to NASA’s success. Whether it was launching the original Mercury flights, the Apollo moon missions, or the space shuttle, KSC has served as the launch site for every NASA human space flight.

As we know, the agency and the center are in a transition period. While I am concerned about the future of our space program and the impact this transition has had on Florida, I am encouraged by the efforts of KSC and Space Florida to diversify the center and implement a multi-user environment.

I am also encouraged by the advancements in the commercial space industry and the commitment Florida has made to commercial space entities. NASA must continue to utilize commercial space partners for missions in low Earth orbit while it focuses on deep space exploration. Doing so will help secure American leadership in space and ensure KSC is the multi-user spaceport in the future.

This is why I believe that NASA must identify common sense savings to help prioritize and fund space operations, especially given the current budget environment and debt our nation faces. The Agency has underused facilities and property which are beyond their design life or outdated and costing billions of dollars to keep and maintain.

According to NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), NASA is the ninth largest Federal Government real property holder, with more than 124,000 acres and over 4,900 buildings and other structures with a replacement value of more than $30 billion. NASA’s annual operations and maintenance costs have steadily increased, and as of 2012, the Agency had over $2.3 billion in annual deferred maintenance costs.

The OIG found that the agency continues to retain real property that is underutilized, does not have identified future mission uses, or is duplicative of other assets in its real property inventory. The OIG also found at least 33 facilities, including airfields and launch infrastructure, that were underutilized or for which NASA managers could not identify a future mission use and that the need for these facilities have declined in recent years as a result of changes in NASA’s mission focus and the condition and obsolescence of some facilities.

I believe it is important that we maintain the excellence of NASA and our space programs, and we should start by re-allocating infrastructure that is underutilized, duplicative, or no longer needed for NASA requirements to commercial users and state and local entities. This would result in savings for NASA, a reduction in the federal government’s footprint and burden to fund space operations, and an incentive for commercial space activities.

For this reason I introduced an amendment to the 2013 Budget Resolution encouraging NASA to reduce its infrastructure and make underutilized property available for lease to a government or private tenant. I am proud to say that the Senate unanimously adopted this amendment. As a result, the United States Senate is now on record unanimously stating that:

  • NASA should move forward with plans to reduce its infrastructure and, to the greatest extent practicable, make property available for lease to a government or private tenant;
  • NASA should pursue opportunities for streamlined sale or lease of property and facilities, including for exclusive use, to a private entity, or expedited conveyance or transfer to a State or political subdivision, municipality, instrumentality of a State, or DOT -licensed launch site operators for the promotion of commercial or scientific space activity and for the purpose of developing and operating space launch facilities; and
  • Leasing or transferring underutilized facilities and properties to commercial space entities or state or local governments will reduce NASA’s operation and maintenance costs, save money for the Federal Government, and promote commercial space and the exploration goals of NASA and the United States.

This amendment was a meaningful step in the effort to put America’s space infrastructure to its best use and grow our nation’s commercial space capability. I hope NASA follows the intent of the Senate and pursues opportunities to transfer underutilized facilities and properties.

I commend the agency, as well as Space Florida and the Air Force, for the steps that have been taken to transfer or lease facilities. Launch Complex 39A and the shuttle processing facilities are clear examples of putting taxpayer property to better use. While I am pleased the agency has done this, there is still work to be done, including on the Shiloh launch complex and Shuttle Landing Facility.

Today’s hearing is another important step in this process. As long as the stakeholders testifying today continue taking steps together – hopefully at an accelerated pace – we can find solutions that meet the needs of our space program and all taxpayers.

I am hopeful that my amendment, along with this hearing and the past efforts by NASA to lease or otherwise relinquish unneeded facilities, will condense our financial obligations and spur an industry that seeks to make concepts we never thought possible a reality.

I believe that NASA and our space program are at their best when we have a clearly defined mission and goals that allows the agency and commercial industry to advance American ingenuity and the boundaries of human discovery. It is imperative that we continue to have a robust space exploration program that promotes America’s economic, scientific, and security interests, and that effectively utilizes its resources.

I would like to thank Chairman Mica again for holding today’s hearing and for allowing me to submit this statement. As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I look forward to working with Chairman Mica and our colleagues in Congress, along with NASA and Air Force, to adopt smart, fiscally responsible measures that save taxpayer dollars, offer opportunities for innovation, and promote American space exploration.”

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