Congress: September 2008 Archives

Congress Update

Congress Puts NASA Bill on Fast Track to the White House

"With unanimous support, the House of Representatives today passed H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, authorizing programs at NASA for fiscal year 2009 (FY09)."

House Sends NASA Bill to President's Desk, Reaffirms Commitment to Balanced and Robust Space and Aeronautics Program

"The provision should not be construed as a congressional endorsement of extending the life of the Shuttle program beyond the additional flight added by this bill to deliver the AMS to the International Space Station," said Gordon. "Rather, it reflects our common belief that the decision of whether or not to extend the Shuttle past its planned 2010 retirement date should be left to the next President and Congress, especially since both of the Presidential candidates have asked for the flexibility to make that decision."

Two Bills Aim for the Skies, Washington Post

"As it prepares to adjourn, Congress is close to passing and sending to President Bush two bills aimed at keeping American astronauts flying to the international space station during a five-year gap when NASA will have no manned spacecraft of its own capable of reaching the $100 billion orbiting laboratory."

Senate Republicans block economic stimulus bill, AP

"The House plan seems more focused on spending that would have an immediate impact on job creation while the Senate measure contains a wish-list of items long-sought by members of the Appropriations Committee, including money to provide the U.S. Capitol police with new radios, accelerate NASA's development of a new space vehicle and move the Department of Homeland Security to a new headquarters."

IFPTE on NASA Appropriations

IFPTE Letter to Sen. Mikulski and Rep. Mollohan Regarding NASA Appropriations

"Over the last few years, NASA has been charged with a dramatic increase in its human spaceflight responsibilities from the President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) without a commensurate increase in its budget. When President Kennedy tasked NASA to build a new set of spacecrafts to get humans to the moon and back safely, he and Congress provided the appropriate resources: the equivalent of a $30 billion dollar annual budget (in inflation corrected dollars) during the years of Apollo design, testing, and development."

Spending Bill Would Resolve a Pressing NASA Concern, NY Times

"A little-noticed provision of a stopgap spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday could resolve one of the most pressing issues for the United States space program. The $630 billion measure, which is known as a continuing resolution, will put off major spending and energy decisions into next year if it is passed by the Senate. It keeps government agencies functioning at current funding levels, and includes additional appropriations for the Pentagon, hurricane relief, veterans health care and other projects."

Editor's note: Much of the lobbying process to get the CR passed was actually done so as to get votes lined up for the $700 billion bailout package. Members were allowed ot insert things with the understanding that they'd be favorable inclined toward the bailout package. So, if the NASA waiver was included in the CR then it was apparently important enough (politically) for at least one member to get it included so as to get their vote on the bail out in exchange. This demonstrates some level of real political importance for space. The question is: who got it inserted into the CR language?

IFPTE on Obama Letter

IFPTE Letter to Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi Regarding Obama Letter on NASA

"The IFPTE greatly appreciates the strong leadership of Chairperson Barbara Mikulski (MD) and Chairman Alan Mollohan (WV) of the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriation sub-committees, who have thoughtfully crafted bills that judiciously increase NASA's fiscal year 2009 (FY09) Appropriations above the inadequate levels in the President's proposed FY09 budget. Both bills enhance NASA's Science and Aeronautics Research programs while keeping NASA's human spaceflight programs on track, and protect and defend NASA's highly-skilled and dedicated technical workforce. Chairperson Mikulski and Chairman Mollohan have both done a terrific job under the challenging constraints imposed by severe fiscal pressures and by a veto-threatening President."

Editor's note: Some of you may recall my posting on 11 March 2005 that Mike Griffin was going to be the next Administrator of NASA. In that posting I recalled an action taken by Griffin during the Space Station Freedom redesign activity - one I described as having "demonstrated personal integrity - and did so in a public way that was rather career adverse." At the time, a common NASA phrase for such an action was to say that someone "fell on their sword".

For the first time on NASA Watch, here is the letter that Griffin wrote that more or less encapsulated that action - and also sank his immediate future at NASA at the same time.

To his credit, Mike Griffin has taken rather bold and blunt stances before. Motives aside, is he doing that again? And if so, isn't it curious that both actions were due to threats to the space station - something that is not Mike Griffin's favorite NASA project?

Editor's note: Alas, the gathering consensus amongst the cyberpundits (with absolutely no data whatsoever to base this on, mind you) is that Mike Griffin either leaked this memo - or (much more likely) looked the other way as it "found" its way to a much broader, more receptive distribution. The thought being that he knows that his days at NASA may well be numbered and that he has nothing to lose except his own credibility and that he needs to look out for the agency's future.

There is a bit of logic to this gossip. Look at the initial distribution list of this memo. Everyone on that list is a solid professional and they are pretty tight with Mike Griffin. As such, I really doubt that something so easily traceable back to such a very small group would get out - unless Griffin wanted it to.

If this is indeed what is going on (again, I have zero proof) then it is a bit of a departure for Griffin since he tends to try and keep things like this inside the family. Given that Griffin self-described himself as "Spock" early in his tenure, I started wondering about his motives now. What will Spock do? Hmmm ... what would Jim Kirk do? Have a look at this iconic video [below] from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

Is Mike Griffin trying to change the rules?

Statement of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Aug. 18 Email

Internal NASA email from NASA Administrator Griffin regarding Space Shuttle, ISS, Russia, Ares, Orion, OSTP, OMB and Budgetary Issues

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for he US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependance upon another power for access to ISS. In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014") and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so. I realize that no one on this distribution disagrees with me on this point, I'm just saying it again, that's all.

The rational approach didn't happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision. Further, they actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be. They were always "okay" with buying Soyuz/Progress, and if it didn't happen, well, that was okay too. You will recall they didn't want us to brink up the need for another INKSNA exemption during budget hearings this year. I disobeyed their wishes in doing so, because we knew that we needed to get this on the table in '08."


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