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.

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House Science Committee Chairman Smith Backs Bridenstine Nomination

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON – House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) released the following statement today after President Trump announced U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) will lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Chairman Smith: “Jim Bridenstine has the knowledge and experience to serve as a very capable NASA administrator. He has been an active member of the Science Committee’s Space Subcommittee. His service as a Naval aviator, a current member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, and his work in Congress provide the expertise necessary to lead our space program. The Science Committee has jurisdiction over NASA, and I look forward to supporting the administration’s efforts to maintain U.S. leadership in space.”

Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
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Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced H.R. 2809, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies.

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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.
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Trump Signs NASA Authorization Act

President Donald Trump has signed a NASA authorization act that calls for spending $19.5 billion by the space agency in fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure stipulates the following funding levels for the space agency:

  1. Exploration, $4,330,000,000.
  2. Space Operations, $5,023,000,000.
  3. Science, $5,500,000,000.
  4. Aeronautics, $640,000,000.
  5. Space Technology, $686,000,000.
  6. Education, $115,000,000.
  7. Safety, Security, and Mission Services, $2,788,600,000.
  8. Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration, $388,000,000.
  9. Inspector General, $37,400,000.

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House Passes NASA Authorization Act


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the first time in more than six years, Congress has passed an authorization act for NASA that calls for spending $19.5 billion on NASA for fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure was approved by the House this week after getting Senate approval. The vote came five months into fiscal year 2017.

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Science, Space, and Technology Committee Announces Priorities for the 115th Congress

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, today released the following statement along with an outline of the committee’s top priorities for the 115th Congress.

Chairman Smith: “An active two years lay ahead of us as we have important work to do in the new Congress.  The Science Committee plans to create transparent environmental policies based on sound science and focused on innovation rather than regulation.  The committee will work to make sure every agency research dollar spent works for the taxpayers who fund them.  We’ll work to re-stake America’s leadership in STEM concentrations by crafting critical science education initiatives, and we will conduct rigorous oversight of cybersecurity standards and breaches at federal agencies to ensure all Americans’ private information is secure.  Rebalancing NASA’s portfolio and setting course for its future successes will also be a key priority this Congress.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the new administration to carry out these goals to keep America at the forefront of the world’s scientific enterprises.”

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House Science Committee Launches Investigation into NASA Press Release

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). NASA recently issued a press release that implies the ARM has gained acceptance by advisory bodies.

“As the incoming Administration evaluates ARM, it would benefit from clear guidance from both NASA and its advisory bodies. Similarly, it should be unencumbered by decisions made in the twilight of this Administration’s term. Contrary to the assertions made in the press release, numerous advisory bodies have questioned the merits of the President’s ARM mission. The NASA Advisory Council, the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), and the National Research Council have all raised concerns with the mission since its proposal by the Administration,” the letter states.

Today’s letter requests documents associated with the consideration, development, formulation, drafting, production, and dissemination of the press release and a recent SBAG Special Action Team report.

frank_grimes
The late Frank Grimes

Editor’s Note: The House Science Committee is investigating a press release? Are you serious? Of course you’re serious. You guys went all cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs a long time ago.

Trump needs to be “unencumbered by decisions made in the twilight of this Administration’s term.” What decisions? To put out a press release? And when has Trump ever felt encumbered by anything? Decency. Precedent. Truth.

And a 10-page letter? You needed 10 pages for that?

Don’t you have anything better to do with their time? Like passing a budget so agencies like NASA can do their work properly? The fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. Now I hear you guys are going with a continuing resolution until March.

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Trump Appoints Christopher Shank to NASA Landing Team

Christopher Shank
Christopher Shank

President elect Donald Trump has appointed Christopher Shank to the NASA transition landing team. Shank was most recently the policy and coalitions director for the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and was formerly deputy chief of staff for Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). He also served as NASA’s director of strategic investments and chief of strategic communications under President George W. Bush.

Mark Albrecht, who had been reportedly involved in the NASA transition, was been added to the landing team for the Department of Defense.

Shank’s LinkedIn profile is below.

Christopher Shank
LinkedIn Profile

Policy and Coalitions Director
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
January 2013 – Present (3 years 11 months)
Washington D.C. Metro Area

Directs the Committee’s legislative and hearing agenda for broad portfolio of issues ranging from energy and environment/climate change, space exploration, and various research and technology initiatives across five subcommittees, engaging 22 Science Committee Members of Congress, in coordination with House Leadership.

Deputy Chief of Staff
Congressman Lamar Smith
March 2011 – Present (5 years 9 months)

Senior Director, Space, Networks, and Communications Business Development
Honeywell Aerospace
November 2009 – March 2011 (1 year 5 months)
Washington D.C. Metro Area

Assistant Group Supervisor
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
February 2009 – October 2009 (9 months)

Director of Strategic Investments and Chief of Strategic Communications
NASA
April 2005 – January 2009 (3 years 10 months)

  • Senior agency official responsible for directing strategic messaging across all NASA mission directorates, program offices, and field centers. Directed 120-person NASA HQ staff including 10 senior executives responsible for $150 million/year education portfolio, legislative and intergovernmental affairs, and NASA public relations/special events.
  • Key member of NASA’s Management Councils with other Headquarters Officials-in-Charge, Associate Administrators, and Center Directors
  • Responsible for formulating and defending NASA’s annual budget requests and operating plans of $18 billion to the White House and Congress. Led 30-person HQ office, with hundreds more people in matrix support across agency.

Professional Staff Member
House Science Committee
April 2001 – April 2005 (4 years 1 month)

Officer
US Air Force
May 1990 – March 2001 (10 years 11 months)

Education

University of Colorado Boulder
M.S., Aerospace Engineering
1995 – 1996

University of Notre Dame
B.A., Mathematics
1986 – 1990

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.

On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information.

Yesterday’s letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy. The letters can be found here.

Smith, Bridenstine Congratulate Spire on NOAA Contract

spire_logo2WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) — U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX21), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, along with U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK1), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, today released the following statements congratulating Spire, Inc., a private sector weather company, on earning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first contract to acquire data from a commercial weather satellite constellation. Spire has been hired to provide GPS Radio Occultation data to increase weather forecasting.

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NASA, Air Force & Others Weigh in on SpaceX Falcon 9 Accident

Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)
Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

NASA

“We remain confident in our commercial partners and firmly stand behind the successful 21st century launch complex that NASA, other federal agencies, and U.S. commercial companies are building on Florida’s Space Coast. Today’s incident — while it was not a NASA launch — is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but our partners learn from each success and setback.

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House Science Committee Wades into Clinton Email Controversy

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

The House Committee on Science, Technology and Space has waded into the Hillary Clinton email controversy, issuing subpoenas to three companies that provided software and services on a private email server to the presidential candidate during her time as Secretary of State (see press release below).

Apparently this matter comes within the purview of the Science Committee because the body wants to determine whether the “cybersecurity standards and measures used to protect information stored on Secretary Clinton’s private server were in accord with NIST standards.”

OK. Maybe. Or maybe not.

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