Testimony of John D. Schumacher

Associate Administrator for External Relations, NASA

Before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Hearing on H.R. 1883, Iran Nonproliferation Act of 1999

July 13, 1999




John D. Schumacher

Associate Administrator for External Relations

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Committee on Science

House of Representatives



Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee today about the extraordinary challenge of building the world’s first international space station and the impact including the International Space Station (ISS) in Section 6 of H.R. 1883 would have on NASA’s ability to accomplish this goal. NASA greatly appreciates this Committee’s continual support over the years for NASA programs in general, and in particular, for the International Space Station (ISS) program.

On the ISS program, this Committee has been rigorous in its oversight and instrumental in NASA’s success in meeting the challenges of this unprecedented program. It has challenged NASA and pushed hard to ensure the ISS best represents America’s leadership of the toughest international civil space endeavor ever attempted.

The ISS program is now in the assembly and operational phase, and will soon be home to an astronaut crew. NASA is extremely concerned that including ISS in Section 6 of H.R. 1883 at this point in the program could eliminate NASA’s ability to rapidly respond to emergent safety and operational requirements; and impede NASA’s ability to implement the ISS program on schedule and within budget. While NASA firmly supports and vigorously advances the U.S. Government’s nonproliferation efforts, we strongly oppose the inclusion of ISS in H.R. 1883.

As you know, there many other departments and agencies within the Administration that will have views on other aspects of H.R. 1883. NASA’s testimony only addresses Section 6 of H.R. 1883.

International Cooperation on the International Space Station

The International Space Station, which will be an outpost for humans to develop, use, and explore the space frontier, is the centerpiece of NASA’s future plans for human space flight endeavors. ISS, the largest international civil science and technology project ever attempted, will provide greatly expanded on-orbit research opportunities, leading to exploration breakthroughs, scientific discoveries and technology development. Section 6 of H.R. 1883 could have tremendous impact on our ability to realize the goals that several Administrations have set for the ISS. The ISS is a U.S.-led multinational effort with participation by the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, 11 nations who are members of the European Space Agency, and Brazil. The ISS has the most ambitious assembly schedule of any scientific and technological project in history, involving at least 75 American, Russian, European and Japanese flights over the next five years. The ISS on-orbit assembly has begun and initial operations are underway. Billions of dollars have been committed, and several billion already expended, by 15 nations that are counting on U.S. leadership in proceeding with a stable assembly schedule during the next five years.

Russian Participation in the International Space Station

The decision by the international partnership to invite Russia to join the ISS in 1993 was more than symbolic. Given its history in operating space stations over several decades, the U.S. and its partners recognized that Russia had a truly unique and unmatched experience in human space flight that would directly contribute to the objectives of ISS. Russia is bringing significant on-orbit experience, engineering expertise and unique operational capabilities directly to the ISS partnership. These include propellant delivery and orbit reboost, logistics resupply, crew rescue, and important elements such as the Russian Service Module. As NASA has reported to this Committee, if Russia were removed from the ISS program, the replacement of all of these capabilities would cost an estimated $3-5 Billion with a 2-3 year delay in the assembly schedule.

During the past six years, the ISS partnership has gained substantial benefits from cooperation with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (RSA), beginning with the unprecedented Shuttle-Mir Program during which nine Space Shuttle flights were made to the Russian Mir space station. The Shuttle-Mir Program taught us how to work across international boundaries on complex human space flight operations, improved our understanding of long-term space habitation, and contributed materially to the ISS through reduced risk and more efficient assembly techniques. NASA’s ISS program has catalogued over 500 "lessons-learned" during the Shuttle-Mir Program that are currently being applied during the assembly and operation of the ISS to the benefit of the entire partnership.

RSA continues to struggle to meet Russia’s contribution to the ISS due to the lack of steady and adequate Russian Government funding. This Committee is well aware of the impact that these continued funding deficiencies have had on the ISS program’s assembly schedule in recent years. The first two elements of the ISS, the U.S. funded, Russian launched Zarya, which provides command, control and reboost, and the U.S. built and launched Unity, a connection node for ISS assembly, are operating successfully on-orbit. The first Russian-funded element, the Service Module, provides key propulsion, control, and habitation capabilities. It will allow us to begin permanent human presence on the ISS in early 2000. The Service Module was initially scheduled for launch in April 1998. It has suffered repeated delays and is currently scheduled for launch four months from now. NASA believes that RSA will be able to launch the Service Module as currently scheduled, but still has concerns about the ability of the RSA to fully meet Russia’s ISS commitment of logistics vehicles and elements.

Russia’s ability to meet its ISS commitments should benefit from a Russian government decision on June 1, 1999, to deorbit Mir. The final Russian crew is scheduled to leave Mir in August of this year and final deorbit is targeted for March of 2000. Deorbit of Mir will allow the Russian Government to focus its resources dedicated to human space flight on meeting Russia’s ISS commitments.

Largely due to the uncertainty regarding the Russian financial situation, NASA has implemented, in consultation with Congress, a number of initiatives to reduce dependence on Russian capabilities. In 1997,NASA implemented a Contingency Plan to mitigate uncertainties surrounding Russian Government funding and its direct effect on RSA’s ability to provide its ISS contributions on schedule. This Contingency Plan is reducing the risk of schedule instability through the development of U.S. capabilities that increase ISS robustness and provide contingency capabilities against possible continued Russian funding shortfalls and resultant ISS contribution delays.

As an additional element of the Contingency Plan, and as a near-term means to promote schedule stability, NASA procured crew research time during assembly and obtained valuable on-orbit stowage space from RSA in late 1998. Provision of funding for these goods and services was tied to milestones for launch of the Service Module and production of adequate follow-on Soyuz and Progress logistics vehicles. As the Committee is aware, NASA expects to make an additional purchase of necessary ISS-related goods and services from RSA in FY 1999 and has set aside funding for this purpose. This procurement will be the subject of written notification to the Congress in a future operating plan change. No further purchases are planned for FY 2000, yet it is possible that operational requirements, including emergent safety-related requirements, may necessitate purchases of goods and services from RSA in the future. Such purchases would also be the subject of written notification to the Congress.

Although this Contingency Plan will continue to reduce dependence on Russian capabilities over time, it is important to note that many of the Russian contributions, including logistics and propellant delivery, crew rescue vehicles, and early command and control, cannot be replaced by other international partners in the short-term and would be very costly to the U.S. taxpayer to replace in the long-term. Consequently, continued Russian participation in the ISS program is operationally important to the entire partnership. Significant cost and schedule impacts will occur should Russian capabilities have to be replaced.

U.S. Nonproliferation Efforts

U.S. Nonproliferation Efforts with Russia

The Clinton Administration has placed nonproliferation at the top of the U.S.-Russian agenda and continues to engage the Russian Federation on this issue at the highest levels. President Clinton discussed this issue at length with Russian President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Stepashin at last month’s G-8 Summit in Cologne. The Vice President, and various members of the Cabinet, including Secretary of State Albright and National Security Advisor Berger, all have active dialogues ongoing with their Russian counterparts about nonproliferation as part of the Administration’s full court press on this issue.

The Department of State and National Security Council work closely with NASA and keep NASA apprised of nonproliferation developments as they relate to Russia and other ISS partner nations. It is worth noting to the Committee that the new Russian Government has made important strides on the nonproliferation front in recent months. Russian Prime Minister Stepashin has put in place a tough new nonproliferation policy, creating the institutional foundation needed for effective export control and the legal framework to punish wrongdoers. In the last six weeks, Prime Minister Stepashin has:

Pushed new export control legislation through the Duma and Federation Council that tightens Russian control over sensitive technology and provides criminal penalties for violators;

Directed Russian agencies to implement a nonproliferation work plan designed in cooperation with the United States; and

Supported ongoing work at Russian aerospace companies to install strengthened export control mechanisms.


The Department of State has briefed the House International Relations Committee and some House Science Committee staff on these developments and welcomes the opportunity to brief all Members and staff on progress in addressing U.S. nonproliferation concerns.

In this regard, the strategic value of Russian participation in the ISS was stated clearly by then Acting Secretary of State Pickering in a letter to House Science Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner dated February 5, 1999. This letter is provided as an attachment to this testimony. Acting Secretary Pickering highlights the importance to U.S. nonproliferation efforts of Russia’s partnership role in ISS. He refers to the fact that thousands of Russian aerospace engineers, scientists and technicians are currently engaged in ISS-related work; and that continued Russian participation in the ISS serves one of our major nonproliferation objectives by ensuring that key Russian scientists and technicians are productively engaged in programs that are mutually beneficial to the United States and Russia, instead of activities that give rise to proliferation concerns.

NASA’s Role in Support of U.S. Nonproliferation Efforts

NASA has been vigilant and vigorous in supporting our Nation’s effort to protect against proliferation. NASA rigorously follows U.S. laws and regulations relating to nonproliferation. NASA also steadfastly implements U.S. Government nonproliferation policy and goals. As the Committee is aware, all countries participating in the ISS program are members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and other regimes that govern nonproliferation norms and guidelines. NASA has continually made it clear to RSA and the other ISS international partners that adherence to nonproliferation norms and guidelines is essential. In literally every interaction with RSA and its contractors at all levels, NASA officials make it clear that NASA fully supports and implements the U.S. Government’s nonproliferation efforts and that NASA would be directed to take action against any organizations that violate MTCR or associated nonproliferation norms and guidelines.

NASA Concerns Regarding Section 6 of H.R. 1883

NASA believes that Section 6 of H.R. 1883 could disrupt the ISS program at significant cost to the U.S. and other ISS partners, and create serious doubt among all ISS partners about the wisdom of participation in any long-term, U.S.-led effort which involves a significant portion of their national civil space expenditures. Section 6 of H.R. 1883 could cause great harm to U.S. interests in deploying the ISS, while undermining international support for overall U.S. nonproliferation goals.

Effect in Russia and Potential Operational Impacts on ISS

The unintended consequences of inclusion of Section 6 in H.R. 1883 could be the actual strengthening of anti-U.S. elements in Russia, additional cost and program delay to the U.S. and other ISS partners, with no derived benefit to the advancement of U.S. nonproliferation goals. Targeting of only one specific program, the International Space Station, in Section 6 of H.R. 1883 will raise serious questions regarding the U.S. commitment to the ISS in the eyes of Russia and other ISS partners, and could have significant operational impacts on the ISS program. It will energize those elements in Russia that are opposed to U.S.- Russian civil space cooperation and allow them to press for reconsideration of the recent Russian government decision to deorbit Mir and move onto the U.S.-led ISS program. Suspicions regarding purported U.S. plans to eliminate Russia from the ISS partnership once Mir is deorbited will resurface. This could result in a determination by Russia that the most prudent course of action is to postpone deorbit of Mir and reevaluate timing of their provision of ISS elements until U.S. intentions are understood. The continuation of Mir operations would significantly reduce RSA’s ability to meet its commitments to the ISS. In addition, postponement of launch of the Russian Service Module will disrupt the assembly schedule and add $100’s of millions of costs to the U.S. and other ISS partners.

In the extreme, if Russia were no longer a part of the ISS program, the ISS partnership would be confronted with an estimated $3-5 billion in additional costs, and a 2-3 year delay in ISS assembly schedule. The ISS partnership would be deprived of valuable Russian expertise and capabilities, while the pool of skilled Russian personnel available for projects of proliferation concern would grow. This would foster a mindset in Russia that there is no benefit to be derived from greater vigilance on, and commitment to, nonproliferation standards.

Effect on Other ISS Partners

Identifying the ISS for singular attention in H.R. 1883 amongst the broad array of interactions between the U.S. and Russia will also have a negative impact on U.S. credibility with its ISS partners in Japan, Europe and Canada, and participants such as Brazil. Singling out the ISS program in H.R. 1883 will be viewed as a unilateral effort by the U.S. to address an U.S. foreign policy concern without consultation or notification of other ISS partners. Such action by the U.S. will create new uncertainty for the ISS program and will raise serious questions about the way in which the U. S. plans to carry out its leadership role with ISS partners in Europe, Japan and Canada. It will also cause these nations to question the wisdom of participation in a long-term, U.S.-led effort, which involves a significant portion of their respective national civil space expenditures.

Effect on NASA’s Ability to Implement ISS Program

Any disruptions, delays or uncertainty precipitated in Russia by H.R. 1883’s inclusion of ISS will impede NASA’s ability to implement the U.S. contribution to the ISS program on time and within budget. NASA is currently leading the ISS partnership in executing a complex and highly interrelated 5-year assembly schedule. As a result, any disruption in operations or in funding by any partner creates a damaging ripple effect throughout the program. In particular, uncertainty or delay in Service Module launch will delay assembly schedule and increase the cost of the U.S. program.

Further, H.R. 1883 could delay or ultimately preclude NASA’s ability to purchase goods required to meet real-time ISS operational and safety requirements. In such a complex program, it is difficult to predict exactly when a contract with any partner may be required to respond to an operational or safety concern. The certification requirement of Section 6 of H.R. 1883 will create a time-consuming, bureaucratic process which will impact those instances when the ISS program needs the flexibility to make rapid purchases in Russia to meet on-orbit safety and operational requirements.


Mr. Chairman, NASA firmly supports and vigorously implements the U.S. Government’s nonproliferation efforts. NASA has continually made it clear to RSA and the other ISS international partners that adherence to nonproliferation norms and guidelines is essential.

However, NASA strongly opposes the inclusion of Section 6 in H.R. 1883. Inclusion of Section 6 in H.R. 1883 could:

strengthen the position of those in Russia who oppose Russian participation on the U.S.-led ISS;

raise new uncertainties regarding U.S. leadership amongst all ISS partners;

result in significant additional cost and program delay to the U.S. and other ISS partners; and

delay or ultimately preclude NASA’s ability to rapidly respond to emergent safety and operational requirements

-- with no derived benefit to the advancement of U.S. nonproliferation goals amongst ISS partner nations.

Thank you for this opportunity to present NASA ‘s views concerning Section 6 of H.R. 1883, Mr. Chairman. This concludes my remarks.