The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Capabilities for the Future: An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research
laboratory facilities, all affecting primarily TRL 1-3 research. As indicated in Table 3.1 in Chapter 3, NASA’s basic research funding declined in then-year dollars by $0.5 billion from FY 2005 to FY 2009. During that same time frame, applied research declined by $0.9 billion. From a top-level technology management perspective, the result has been technology programs aligned with near-term mission needs, a lack of opportunity to explore new ideas with new equipment and capabilities, less breakthrough research, and less application of NASA-developed technology to the broader needs of the national aerospace community.
According to the NASA personnel with whom the committee met at the centers, these reductions in research budgets have had several consequences:
Equipment and support have become inadequate,
Centers are unable to provide adequate and stable funding and manpower for the fundamental science and technology advancements needed to support long-term objectives,
Research has been deferred,
Researchers are expending inordinate amounts of time writing proposals for funding to maintain their laboratory capabilities, and
Efforts are diverted as researchers seek funding from outside NASA for work that may not be completely consistent with NASA’s goals.
The NASA aeronautics budget has also declined significantly in the past decade, as indicated by Table 3.3 in Chapter 3. The overarching mission of the ARMD is to advance U.S. technological leadership in aeronautics in partnership with industry, academia, and government agencies that conduct aeronautics-related research. To accomplish this mission requires not only having top-quality research programs but also having first-rate laboratories and facilities to support those programs. During the past 15 years, as seen in Figure 3.1 in Chapter 3, the aeronautics budget has decreased 72 percent, from 6 percent of the total NASA budget to 2.8 percent of that budget. It is clear that this large reduction in funding has led to laboratories that are only marginally providing the support required for NASA’s aeronautics research. Essentially no TRL 1-3 work is being done in developing test technology that would lead to new advanced test capabilities and the new laboratories and facilities required for NASA to be the technology leader in the broad area of aeronautics. Clearly, NASA is providing technology leadership in some areas in the NASA aeronautics research program, but even in these areas the resources are generally so limited that it is only through the dedication of the staff, who often work in unfavorable environments, that NASA continues this leadership.
Research and science center institutional responsibility at NASA Headquarters moved from OAST (Code R) and the Office of Space Sciences (Code S) to the NASA associate administrator (AA). Until 1992, the AA for OAST had responsibility for both the aeronautics and space technology programs, including the R&T base and the institutional responsibility for ARC, DFRC (once part of ARC), LaRC, and GRC. The OAST center directors reported to the AA for OAST. The AA for space sciences had institutional responsibility for GSFC and JPL, and those center directors reported to the AA for Code S. The Code R and Code S AAs were accountable both for their programs and for maintaining the institutional capabilities of their centers. This often made it easier to resolve issues associated with equipment and support and maintenance, minor facilities issues, and so forth, all of which affect center laboratory capabilities and early TRL research. Under that former structure, center directors used to have a great deal of authority working with AAs to address programmatic and institutional issues. Center management traditionally had the responsibility for creating an environment, which includes facilities, laboratories, and equipment, conducive to high-quality innovation and breakthroughs important to national security and scientific understanding. There are many examples of breakthroughs, such as winglets, supercritical wings, swept wings, the lunar rendezvous approach for the Apollo Moon landing, and communications satellite enhancements. Under the current structure, much of the former budgetary flexibility of the center directors to resolve institutional issues affecting laboratory capabilities has been