What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.

(more…)

Bridenstine’s ASRA Bill Proposed Radical Changes in NASA’s Goals, Structure

NASA LOGORepublished from April 25, 2016

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

(more…)

Bridenstine Proposed Radical Restructuring of NASA Oversight Last Year

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Donald Trump’s nominee to become administrator of NASA proposed a fundamental overhaul of how the space agency would be run last year.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) proposes the establishment of a 21-member board to oversee the space agency, giving the NASA administrator a five-year term, and the creation of 10- and 20-year strategic plans.

The overarching goal of these proposals is to insulate the space agency from changes in direction each time a new presidential administration takes over.

ASRA was a catch-all bill that contained proposals for broad changes to the nation’s civil, military and commercial space efforts. Bridenstine did not intend the ASRA to be passed as a single bill but as a series of individual measures. Congress has not taken up any of the NASA management reforms included in bill.

(more…)

Space Weather Research & Forecasting Act Introduced in House


WASHINGTON, DC (Ed Perlmutta PR) — Today, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-7) introduced the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act.  This bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (OK-1) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), is the House companion to S. 141 introduced by Senators Gary Peters, Cory Gardner, Cory Booker, and Roger Wicker which passed the Senate earlier this year.

(more…)

AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
(more…)

House Passes Weather Forecasting Bill


WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR – The U.S House of Representatives today unanimously approved the Senate amendment to H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prioritize its research to improve weather data, modelling, computing, forecasting, and warnings.
(more…)

GAO Report: FAA Launch Insurance Update Remains Work in Progress

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The FAA’s effort to update insurance requirements for space launches remains a work in progress that could expose the federal government to excess financial risk, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Under the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, Congress required the FAA to update the requirements for insurance that private launch providers must purchase for damages to third parties and federal property.  The requirements had not been updated since 1988.

(more…)

Congress, President Fail to Embrace Musk’s Bold Plan for Mars

Last September, Elon Musk made his pitch for a bold new approach to sending people to Mars that requires substantial taxpayer supporter. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a NASA authorizing act that maintains the slow, steady-as-she-goes status quo. The billionaire was not amused.

Congressmen Call for Clear NASA Strategy for Putting Humans on Mars


Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) have filed bills calling for NASA to develop a clear strategy for placing astronauts on Mars.

The Mapping a New and Innovative Focus on our Exploration Strategy (MANIFEST) for Human Spaceflight Act of 2017 calls for the space agency to accomplish this goal “through a series of successive, sustainable, free-standing, but complementary missions making robust utilization of cis-lunar space and employing the Space Launch System, Orion crew capsule, and other capabilities.”

The cis-lunar elements include the expansion of human presence into lunar orbit, lunar surface, asteroids, the moons of Mars, and the martian surface. The plan must include opportunities for collaboration with international partners, private companies and other federal agencies.

The strategy would identify how the International Space Station could support the program, and include “a range of exploration mission architectures and approaches for the missions…including capabilities for the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System.”

Congress Could Target Individual Civil Servants, Programs

Capitol Building
First, there was the incoming Trump Administration’s effort to identify individual civil servants at the Energy Department who had participated in climate change work. The Trumpies backed down after officials told them to stuff it, but now those very officials could be at risk for doing so.

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials….

In light of recent inquiries by the Trump transition team about a list of Energy Department scientists who have worked on climate change, advocates for federal workers say they worry that bureaucrats could be targeted for political reasons.

Jeffrey Neal, former personnel chief at the Department of Homeland Security and now a senior vice president at ICF International, said the rule “creates a lot of opportunity for mischief.”

I know conservatives like to envision taking America back to a simpler time of smaller government and all that other stuff, but 18-fraking-76? What’s next? Spittoons? Wood-burning locomotives? A revival of Vaudeville?

The implications are pretty scary. Some member of Congress doesn’t like an individual at NASA or a specific program they’re working on, he can bring the full might of Congress down on this person. Their program goes away and their salary is cut to nothing.

These bozos in Congress are simply not smart enough to start micromanaging federal agencies. Congress is dysfunctional enough as it is without adding to the list of responsibilities.

Read the full story.

Save

AIA Urges Congress to Pass Budget, Lift Limit on Ex-Im Bank Deals

aialogosmARLINGTON, Va. (AIA PR) — Aerospace Industries Association sent a letter today urging Congress to pass a completed FY2017 appropriation package rather than a full-year continuing resolution. We also ask that the ExIm Bank be enabled to process transactions more than $10 million. It was signed by more than 70 CEOs and senior industry representatives from AIA member companies.

The letter argues that the aerospace and defense industry is “arguably the most successful sector in our country,” contributing significantly to our nation’s economic growth, stability and national security despite “great uncertainty and instability in both the marketplace and with regard to annual government funding.” Our innovative industry supports our military, the dynamic aerospace sector and space exploration, and few things would offer a greater sense of stability going forward than completing the final FY2017 appropriations bills and restoring the ExIm Bank to full functionality.

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, and Leader Reid:

With the 114th Congress coming to a close, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the leaders of our member companies would like to express our strong support for efforts to pass appropriations legislation providing full year FY 17 funding for the federal government.

(more…)

Budget Update: The President Proposes, Congress Does Nothing

Capitol Building
It looks as though Congress will once again fail to pass a budget this year.

Faced with the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) in September that kept the government open until Dec. 9. Now, that august body will pass another CR that will keep the lights on until March 31.

By then, a new Congress will have convened (albeit with most of the same members) and a new president, Donald Trump, will be in office. Fiscal year 2017 will be half over, and everyone involved will be grappling with passing a budget for fiscal year 2018.

CRs make life difficult for government agencies, keeping funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year and making it hard to start new programs and initiatives.

“We must continue to keep our federal agencies and programs open for business, while looking towards future progress on these vital Appropriations bills,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) in a press release. “While I’m disappointed that the Congress is not going to be able to complete our annual funding work this year, I am extremely hopeful that the new Congress and the new Administration will finish these bills. I am also hopeful for a renewed and vigorous ‘regular order’ on future annual funding bills, so that the damaging process of Continuing Resolutions will no longer be necessary.”

Congress’ Chronic Under Funding of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Past Funding Shortfalls Have Delayed NASA’s Commercial Crew Plans

As discussed in our previous report, for several years during its early development, the Commercial Crew Program received significantly less funding than requested.14 As shown in Table 2, to date the cumulative difference between the President’s budget requests for the Program and actual appropriations is approximately $1.1 billion. However, under the current CCtCap phase of the Program, Boeing and SpaceX are operating under firm-fixed price contracts, which provide a more stable cost estimate for the remaining work needed to certify the commercial crew vehicles. Further, in December 2015 – for the first time in 6 years – NASA received the full amount the President requested for the Program: $1.2 billion for FY 2016. Although not the only factor, the shortfall contributed to slippage in the Program’s schedule. NASA officials said while full funding in FY 2016 will help reduce risks related to budget uncertainty, it will do little to address technical Program risks.
(more…)

Bridenstine’s Bill Would Radically Restructure NASA

NASA LOGOBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

(more…)