Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee today making the case for a funding increase for FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST). He won praise from subcommittee members and one, who also happens to chair the subcommittee that funds NASA, endorsed Bridenstine to serve as the next NASA Administrator. Bridenstine is said to be one of the top candidates, although the White House has not nominated anyone for that position yet.
Bridenstine is a leading member of Congress on space policy issues across the civil, commercial and national security sectors. He introduced the American Space Renaissance Act last year and plans to reintroduce it this year. He describes it as a bill that is not expected to pass en total, but instead serves as a repository of provisions that can be inserted into various pieces of legislation as appropriate. Ten of the provisions of last year's bill were incorporated in the FY2017 national Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
He particularly advocates for an expansion of FAA/AST's budget and regulatory authorities, including making it responsible for regulating in-space activities in addition to launch and reentry, and for managing space situational awareness for non-defense entities.
FAA is part of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and funded in the Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill. During debate on the FY2017 appropriations bill, he and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) convinced the House Appropriations Committee to provide FAA/AST with the full amount of its funding request ($19.8 million) after the T-HUD subcommittee approved only half of the requested increase.
President Trump has not submitted his FY2018 budget request yet, but the various House Appropriations subcommittees are in the midst of "Members' Day" hearings where their fellow Members of Congress testify on issues of interest to them.
Today, Bridenstine testified to the T-HUD subcommittee in favor of increasing FAA/AST's funding to $23 million in FY2018. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is a member. Culberson also chairs the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA and NOAA.