Jun 18 2014

Shelby Floor Speech on Commerce-Justice-Science FY15 Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, Wednesday, June 18, 2014 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), today delivered the following speech on the Senate floor in support of the fiscal year 2015 CJS appropriations bill.  

The full text of Shelby’s remarks, as prepared, is below.   

M. President, I rise today in support of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.   

I appreciate the leadership of the Chair on this bill.  

We have worked together for many years and I believe that the bill being considered today reflects a strong bi-partisan effort.   

The competing interests of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill always prove challenging, but I believe that this bill strikes the appropriate balance.   

The allocation for the CJS bill is $51.2 billion which is just below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.   

Working within this allocation, we sought to balance priorities, hold agencies accountable for their work, and demand efficiencies to stretch limited federal dollars.   

Ultimately, these efforts ensure that federal resources are spent efficiently and effectively.     

The bill provides robust funding for the Department of Justice and law enforcement grant programs totaling $28 billion.  

It focuses attention and resources on some of the most difficult issues plaguing the nation including human trafficking, gang violence, child predation, a growing heroin crisis, threats to cybersecurity, and domestic terrorism  

Grant programs such as VALOR, Byrne AG, Veterans Courts, crime lab improvements, Violence Against Women, and COPS will receive funding to advance the important work being done at the state and local level.   

Moreover, the bill ensures that the Department maintains its focus on evidence-based programs and activities that have a proven record of effectiveness.  

This requirement emphasizes the Committee’s commitment to ensuring that federal dollars are not just spent, but are spent wisely.  

The bill also includes $8.6 billion for the Department of Commerce which is responsible for a range of issues, including weather forecasting, economic development, trade promotion, and fisheries conservation among others.  

The bill prioritizes resources to support NOAA’s next generation of weather satellites that will enable the National Weather Service to continue to provide timely warnings for dangerous weather outbreaks.  

To ensure that these weather satellites stay on budget and are delivered on time, the bill continues and expands stringent oversight requirements involving the Inspector General.   

Our nation cannot afford cost increases and schedule delays in these programs and we expect these oversight requirements will help avoid such a scenario.  

These satellites are essential to weather forecasters across the country.  Without them, forecasters will be unable to provide important warnings about devastating storms, tornado outbreaks, and hurricanes – putting the safety of the American people at risk.  

The bill also provides sufficient resources and direction to improve the management of our Nation’s fisheries including new approaches to manage red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.  

These new approaches should provide a more equitable system for commercial fishermen and increase the number of fishing days for recreational anglers.  

The bill provides nearly $18 billion for NASA.   

In order to preserve the planned launch schedule in 2017 for the heavy lift launch vehicle, or SLS, the bill includes $1.7 billion for SLS rocket development.  

It also maintains focus on these efforts by requiring NASA to follow its own internal guidance regarding joint confidence levels in future funding requests.  

The bill preserves important funding for ongoing activities of the International Space Station and other vital science research missions.   

In addition, the bill safeguards the advancement of efforts currently underway to develop a U.S. vehicle to transport our astronauts to the Space Station.  

Those efforts, however, must continue in a transparent way to ensure that the government is not saddled with mounting bills and no recourse.   

I commend the Chair for working with me to include language that requires certified cost and pricing data for the crew vehicle development contract.   

The goal of the language is not to up-end a fixed price contract. Rather, the goal is to make certain that the price NASA has agreed to pay for vehicle development matches actual development expenditures.  

NASA and its contractors have a history of cost overruns and schedule delays – whether the contract has a fixed price or not.   

With no other U.S.-based options to get to the Space Station, we cannot find ourselves at the 11th hour with an overburdened program that requires a bailout to succeed.  

Once again, these measures are included to ensure that the government is not just spending taxpayer money, but that it is doing so in a cost effective manner.  

M. President, I want to reiterate my belief that the bill reflects the Senate’s priorities and the needs of our nation.  

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.