Congress: June 2010 Archives

House spending panel punts on NASA policy, Orlando Sentinel

"A key congressional committee today sidestepped a potential vote on NASA's future, opting to take "no position" on White House plans to scrap NASA's moon rocket program and replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets. The House subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget did, however, agree unanimously to withhold funding for the agency's human exploration program until Congress authorizes a plan for the agency -- a move that normally could cause headaches for the administration. But because Congress is unlikely to move this spending bill -- or any 2011 spending bill -- until after election season, the prohibition essentially is rendered moot. With that procedure aside, much of the rest of the two-hour hearing turned into a debate about NASA should do after the shuttle era."

Aderholt's bill tells NASA to stop Constellation cuts, Huntsville Times

"Aderholt's bill, titled the Protecting Human Spaceflight Act of 2010, would require NASA to stop downsizing or canceling Constellation projects. It was introduced in the House shortly after 5 p.m. CDT Monday. The legislation would also require the space agency to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds appropriated for Constellation this year."

NASA and International Space Agencies Meet to Discuss Human and Robotic Space Exploration

"NASA senior managers met with their counterparts representing other space agencies at the National Harbor, Md., on June 23, to discuss globally-coordinated human and robotic space exploration. The meeting participants agreed that significant progress has been made since the joint release of The Global Exploration Strategy (GES) in May 2007. They agreed steps should be taken to coordinate a long-term space exploration vision that is sustainable and affordable."

Saving Constellation

Lawmakers will try to force NASA to fund Constellation program

"U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, is leading a group of lawmakers that will try to force NASA to continue funding the Constellation rocket program for the rest of the fiscal year. Aderholt will introduce a bill in the House later today titled the "Protecting Human Space Flight Act of 2010." It would require NASA to spend 90 percent of the remaining funds on the program in this last quarter of the fiscal year. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden would also be barred from terminating or shrinking any Constellation contract."

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt Tries To Stop Constellation Cuts, WHNT

"At least four other Congressman have co-sponsored the bill, including Rep. Lincoln Davis, Rep. Spencer Bachus, Rep. Parker Griffith, Rep. Jo Bonner and Rep. Mike Rogers. Aderholt says he sees support for Constellation on both sides of the aisle. "I would say 90% or more of Congress right now believes that Constellation is a good program, it's a program that Congress should be investing in, or we don't see a sign of letting up," said Aderholt."

Houston region continues national fight to urge leaders to save NASA's Human Space Flight Capabilities

"The Greater Houston Partnership and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership today urged the Obama administration to reconsider the retirement of the space shuttle and cancel its plan in the FY2011 NASA budget to eliminate the Constellation program - in favor of "hoped for" commercially developed capabilities that are still up to seven years away, assuming there are no further setbacks. Continuing the prevision plan to retire the Space Shuttle while also terminating the Constellation program in the face of such a long gap before the commercial industry can carry U.S. astronauts safely into low earth orbit would deal a severe blow to Houston and the nation, and compromise America's leadership in space."

At Companies Tied to NASA, Casualties of a Changing Mission, NY Times

"The administration wants to turn to commercial companies for taking future astronauts to orbit while taking a hiatus from any ambitious missions to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. Yet Congress has not agreed to the scuttling of Constellation and added a clause in this year's federal budget that prohibited NASA from canceling the program or starting a new one without Congressional assent. The skirmishing continued in earnest this week. Staff members on the House Committee on Science and Technology are reviewing documents that NASA sent over Friday evening to comply with the committee's demand for information used in formulating the president's proposal. In addition, on Tuesday, 62 House members signed a letter sent to President Obama "to express concern" over the direction of NASA."

ATK gets reprieve in NASA funding, AP

"ATK Space Systems says it has been cleared for a scheduled ground test of a new rocket motor in September. ATK says it received notice from NASA that the company will receive $160 million to prepare for the rocket test despite doubts about the future of the space program. The situation could change after October, when a new federal budget year starts."

ATK: NASA releases funds: Ares rocket work may continue through at least September, McClatchy-Tribune

"NASA in the last month threatened to withhold funding and enforce a contract clause that could force ATK to put up $500 million in termination costs for Ares, which is part of the Constellation space project. ATK officials would not confirm it, but NASA projected the termination clause would cost more than 2,000 jobs at the Top of Utah company."

Does moon plan have a pulse?, Houston Chronicle

"And the full 60-member House Appropriations Committee will be deciding whether to adopt Senate-passed restrictions designed to block an administration effort to have Constellation contractors set aside funds to pay potential contract termination costs - a move that critics contend bleeds the program before Congress has taken action. The language is part of the must-pass wartime defense supplemental bill. The panels' deliberations follow a letter to Obama by 62 House Democrats and Republicans from 18 states on Wednesday that urged the president to work with lawmakers on a compromise on the Constellation program."

Letter From House Science & Technology Committee to Charles Bolden Regarding FY 2011 Budget Information

"The failure of NASA to supply Congress with this information hampers our ability to address the future of NASA's human spaceflight program in a timely manner. Simultaneously, the agency is implementing dramatic changes to the Constellation program which are resulting in the loss of thousands of skilled jobs and which will cause unavoidable delays in the development of Ares-I and Orion, should Congress decide not to terminate those programs. Since NASA has failed to provide the Committee with any detailed supporting materials with which Congress can judge the proposed human spaceflight plan, Congress must insist upon the production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal ... Please provide these materials and information to Room 2321 of the Rayburn House Office Building no later than close of business on Friday June 25, 2010. "

Keith's note: Word has it that the White House views this request as a matter of Executive privilege. As such it is unlikely that NASA will be allowed to provide much of what the House members are demanding to see. This is an old trick. Congress asks for every piece of data that they can think of knowing full well that the White House will say no. Then they have a new issue to thump their chests about: the White House's refusal to be open and transparent with Congress and to provide the requested information. Stay tuned. This is just going to drag on all summer.

Hutchison Strongly Supports John Glenn Statement on NASA

"We need time to assess the station's equipment needs from now until commercial cargo capabilities come on line to ensure the station's survivability and full utilization, both in the short run and until 2020," Senator Hutchison said. "I have proposed several options to extend the space shuttle, some of which do not require additional flights. Unfortunately, the Administration has given no indication that it understands how the President's proposal changes assumptions and plans regarding the space station, or that it is willing to discuss options to extend the availability of the space shuttle. I hope that Senator Glenn adding his voice to those of other space luminaries like Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and Jim Lovell will result in a new direction for our discussion and our nation's vaunted space program."

Keith's 16 Jun note: Today's burning question is whether NASA will be able to forward the budgetary language and back up budget info that Congress has asked for by COB today. This is needed so as to tweak the inevitable continuing resolution (CR) in a way that could allow some of the President's policy items to be pursued in lieu of a formal FY 2011 budget such Orion's redesignation as a CRV. Despite a lot of work on NASA's part, the White House is preoccupied with oil (they don't multi-task it would seem). As best I understand the situation, it doesn't look like NASA will meet deadline today. As such, there is a good chance that the CR will just continue things as they were in FY 2010 leaving both the Constellation and Shuttle programs in a zombie state of limbo - neither dead or alive.

Panel Demands NASA Documents to Support Budget, NY Times

"Annoyed that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been slow to explain how it plans to overhaul the human space-flight program, a Congressional committee is demanding that the agency provide a host of records related to its budget request for 2011. The space agency missed a Wednesday deadline to update its budget request with details of its new plan. In a letter sent Thursday to the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., leaders of the House Committee on Science and Technology wrote, "Congress must now insist upon the production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal." The committee said NASA should provide these documents by next Friday."

Lawmakers Demand Documents Behind Human Spaceflight Plan, Space News

"Frustrated by a lack of visibility into the planning and analysis underpinning NASA's dramatic shift in course for its human spaceflight program, House lawmakers have given NASA Administrator Charles Bolden until June 25 to deliver all records, charts, e-mails, voice messages and other supporting materials used in drafting the agency's 2011 budget proposal."

Destinations in Rhetoric, Eric Sterner, Space News

"The Administrator attempted to put a finer point on the administration's purposes during his Congressional testimony in March, asserting that Mars was the ultimate goal. But, his comments came largely in response to continued Congressional prodding and still were not reflected in the prepared budget material. As such, they had the feel of someone throwing out destinations in order to fend off pointed political attacks. It was not clear that they reflected anything more than the Administrator's personal preference."

Next Steps for the 2011 NASA Budget Proposal, Planetary Society

"The administration continues to do a poor job of making a case for the new program. President Obama's proclamation that more American astronauts will fly to the space station and Earth orbit in the next decade under this new plan does not seem to be understood by many in Congress and in the media. The goal of sending humans into the solar system, and landing on an asteroid by 2025, has aroused some interest and even excitement, but the steps to reach this goal also have not been communicated effectively. The administration sorely needs a spokesperson for the new plan who can clarify the message and inspire public and Congressional support."

The importance of risk for Nasa, Esther Dyson, LiveMint

"Obama did not, however, define the goals tightly, leaving that to Nasa--a sensible and modest approach, but a political mistake. It is never a good idea to replace something with vagueness. Politicians and lobbyists who care only about this year's jobs and next year's votes jumped all over this lack of a plan."

Nelson maps a road forward on space without Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"Although Nelson mentions Ares I and Orion's contracts and assets - the first-phase rocket and crew capsule, respectively, of Constellation -- he does not talk about the program at all. Gone too is any mention of a vigorous test flight program for which Nelson recently requested $726 million. Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, said that upon reflection lawmakers decided that it was up to "NASA as to how to get started on HLV as soon as possible." Nelson's approach appears to be an attempt at compromise with critics of the president's plans who have attacked the proposals as a "road to nowhere" that cedes U.S. leadership in space."

Letter From Sen. Nelson to Sen. Mikulski Regarding FY 2011 NASA Budget

"Thank you for your letter of February 16, 2010, outlining your principles for drafting the fiscal year 2011 funding bill for NASA. I share fully your sentiment that our committees must work together to define the best path forward for America's space program. Over the last four months, I have been studying the President's budget request, as well as various alternative proposals, in determining how we can best move ahead to the next era of human space flight. I write today to share with you some of the key elements that have emerged from that review, including discussions with Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison, Senator Vitter, and other members of our Committee, which will form the bipartisan foundation of a NASA authorization bill."

Bill Would Direct NASA to Begin Work on Heavy-lift Rocket Next Year, Space News

"In a statement issued by her office June 14, Mikulski said the elements of the authorization bill outlined in Nelson's letter offer "an alternative framework for NASA's human space flight program that could snap us out of the 'stagnant quo.'" "I look forward to seeing the details and how this alternative meets the principles outlined in my February 16, 2010 letter: astronaut safety, mission destination, balanced space program, scientific utilization of human space flight, workforce transition, and taxpayer protection," she said."

Hutchison: NASA Leadership Skirting the Law to Shut Down Space Programs

"Senator Hutchison today received a letter from NASA Administrator Bolden outlining the decision and NASA's justification. She noted that it further underscores the extent to which NASA has taken aggressive steps to move in a different direction without providing ample explanation or justification to Congress. The letter from Administrator Bolden contains language discussing the new "principles" to guide spending that are virtually identical to direction reportedly given by NASA headquarters in an email to the now reassigned Constellation program manager more than three weeks ago. The email with these operational instructions has been provided to the NASA Inspector General as part of the investigation Hutchison requested with Chairman Rockefeller into the reassignment of the Constellation program manager."

NASA Moves To Kill Moon Program Despite Congressional Prohibition, Florida Today

"The move to essentially kill Constellation comes despite joint legislation passed by the House and Senate Appropriations committees that prohibits NASA from terminating any Constellation work without congressional approval. It also comes despite rulings by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals that places all termination liability on the government rather than contractors. One case in point: A lawsuit brought by DuPont in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, in April 2004."

Congress and contractors reject NASA move on Constellation moon plan , Orlando Sentinel

"ATK believes this was contrived on a recent NASA premise that ATK has been obligated to set aside termination liability estimates on this contract when in fact NASA's contracting officer provided ATK the exact opposite instruction on numerous occasions over the last several years, and directed that such costs not be accounted in any contract processes or procedures."

Contractors Told to Prepare for Moon Program's End, NY Times

"If this is to be the new agency policy and practice, then NASA should shift responsibility for termination liability on all of its current contracts, not simply Constellation," Dr. Pace said. "As it stands, this appears to be purposefully punitive against a specific set of NASA contractors."

Letter From Charles Bolden to Sen. Shelby Regarding Constellation

"Current estimates for potential termination liability under Constellation contracts total $994 million. Once these termination liability estimates are accounted for, the overall Constellation program is confronting a total estimated shortfall of $991 million for continued program effort for the balance of the year, compared with the revised FY 2010 plan. Given this estimated shortfall, the Constellation program cannot continue all of its planned FY 2010 program activities within the resources available. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), NASA has no choice but to correct this situation. Consequently, the Constellation program has formulated an updated funding plan for the balance of FY 2010, consistent with the following principles:"

OMB Memorandum: Identifying Low-Priority Agency Programs

"Your agency is required to identify the programs and subprograms that have the lowest impact on your agency's mission and constitute at least five percent of your agency's discretionary budget. This information should be included with your FY 2012 budget submission, but is a separate exercise from the budget reductions necessary to meet the target for your agency's FY 2012 discretionary budget request."

NASA And Commerce Present Update On Space Industry Task Force

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will present an update about the Presidential Task Force on Space Industry Work Force and Economic Development at 10 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 4. The event will be held in the ballroom of the Orlando Airport Hyatt Hotel, Intercontinental Ballroom, Section 5, 9300 Airport Blvd., Orlando, Fla. The event will be carried live on NASA Television and also available on line."

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden To Hold Town Hall Meeting on Space Coast Economy

"The Task Force, co-chaired by Locke and Bolden, is leading the initiative to coordinate and implement a plan to grow the region's economy and prepare its workers for the opportunities of tomorrow. The interagency effort will build on and complement ongoing local and federal economic and workforce development efforts."



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