Congress: December 2010 Archives

NASA spending $500 million for canceled rocket, Orlando Sentinel

"Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March -- a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when NASA is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle. About one-third that money -- $165 million -- will go to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which has a $2 billion contract to build the solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I, the rocket that was supposed to fill the shuttle's role of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. But under a new NASA plan signed into law by President Barack Obama in October, there's no guarantee that the new rocket required by that plan will use solid-fuel propulsion. And, in fact, many in the agency say a liquid-fueled rocket would be cheaper, more powerful -- and safer."

Why NASA Is Spending Half a Billion Dollars on a Canceled Rocket, Fox News

"Stifled by legislative bottlenecks, NASA will be forced to continue an already defunct rocket program until March, costing the agency half a billion dollars while adding more hurdles to the imminent task of replacing the space shuttle."

NASA forced to pay half billion for rocket to nowhere, Federal Times

"The language was placed into the 2010 budget by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and keeps the whole Constellation program going until March 4, at a cost of $1.2 billion."

NASA's new year will start like the old year with funding uncertainty, Huntsville Times

"In part, NASA Headquarters blames U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, with whom the White House fought all year over space policy. But Shelby's office says that there is no reason NASA can't move forward. "NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration," Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said Wednesday."

Senate Appropriations Committee: Summary of Continuing Resolution through March 4, 2011

"Under the CR, funding would continue at FY 2010 enacted levels for most programs."

Senate Nears Deal on Funding Bill, WS Journal

"Under the Senate deal set on Sunday, funding for most federal agencies and departments would continue at levels authorized for fiscal year 2010, though some programs would see slight increases. Overall, funding would be about $1.2 billion above the levels authorized in last year's budget. The House would also have to approve the spending measure."

Senators Vow To Enforce NASA Authorization Act, Space News

"Nelson also asked whether NASA plans to carry out an additional flight of the space shuttle next year as authorized in the new law. Robinson said the agency plans to conduct the additional flight to the International Space Station. "The only caveat I would put forth is we still don't have a final appropriations [act], so we don't know if we have the money to carry it out," she said. "We're trying to quantify what it means to hedge our bets in case there's a drastic change in funding level, but we have every intention of moving forward on that."

Keith's note: NASA has to make a decision in January/February 2011 as to whether it can accomplish STS-135. Given the way that Congress is not cooperating with itself, having to live under this CR until March 2011 would make STS-135 somewhat problematical. Other problems such as Webb's mounting cost overrun are not going to make things any better.

Senate Stopgap Funding Proposal Does Not Address NASA, Space News

"Unlike the House bill, H.R. 3082, the Senate amendment does not weigh-in on NASA, which could mean the agency will be forced to operate in the coming months at spending rates proportional to the $18.72 appropriated for all of 2010. In addition, NASA would be prohibited from initiating new programs, and could be required to continue spending about $200 million per month on the Moon-bound Constellation program U.S. President Barack Obama sought to abandon in the $19 billion budget blueprint for 2011 that the White House sent lawmakers in February."

Keith's update: This does not look good for STS-135. Nor does it bode well for trying to kick off any SOMD/ESMD merger and reprioritization/reorganization of programs since nothing can be killed and nothing can be started.

Warming skeptic gets key Science post, Politico

"Leading House climate skeptic Jim Sensenbrenner appears to have landed a perch to lead investigations into global warming science. The Wisconsin Republican is set to become the vice chairman of the House Science Committee under incoming Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Hall told POLITICO Thursday. "With his background, his insistence, he can do the mean things that we don't want to do," Hall said. "I'm a peaceful guy; he likes combat."

Two Texans to take top spots on House science panel, The Hill

"Two Texas lawmakers will take the reins of the House Science and Technology Committee next year. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) will chair the committee, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) will be the ranking Democrat."

Budget Update

House Passes Short-term CR, Space News

"The U.S. House of Representatives approved a short-term spending measure to continue funding the federal government at 2010 levels through Dec. 21. If approved by the U.S. Senate, the measure will give lawmakers in that chamber time to complete work on a longer-term spending package for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1."

Ralph Hall gearing up for new role as chairman of House Science and Technology Committee, Dallas Morning News

"Hall is steeped in the legislative battles around those issues. But in a caucus full of self-styled reformers, he remains a type of throwback legislator - a guardian of home-state interests and federal programs, including NASA. "I'm satisfied with what I have," said Hall, 87, adding that he pondered running for chairman of a more prominent panel, House Energy and Commerce. "It's a good Texas launching pad to do things for Johnson Space Center."

Ralph Hall Named Chairman of Committee on Science and Technology, Texas Insider

"Our Committee will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in research and development programs by providing effective oversight of existing programs and by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs and streamlining programs where needed. Republicans have been given the opportunity to help make our government function more efficiently and effectively, and we will work to achieve fiscal responsibility."

Partners wanted to run research lab in space, Nature

"Once a non-profit organization is established, NASA expects to begin research and development, but it will take a few years before the enterprise is running at full throttle, says Uhran."


"(1) ALLOCATION OF ISS RESEARCH CAPACITY. As soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act, but not later than October 1, 2011, ISS national laboratory managed experiments shall be guaranteed access to, and utilization of, not less than 50 percent of the United States research capacity allocation, including power, cold stowage, and requisite crew time onboard the ISS through September 30, 2020. Access to the ISS research capacity includes provision for the adequate upmass and downmass capabilities to utilize the ISS research capacity, as available. The Administrator may allocate additional capacity to the ISS national laboratory should such capacity be in excess of NASA research requirements."

Keith's note: At the ISS National Lab Public Day CAN meeting yesterday, Mark Uhran said that NASA hopes to award the contract to this non-profit organization in May 2011. That means that the new ISS National Lab organization has to hit the ground running and be meeting these requirements 5 months (or less) later. However, Uhran states in Nature that it is going to take "a few years" for everything to be "running at full throttle". Clearly NASA is nowhere near being able to carry out the provisions stated in Public Law 111-26 in terms of the required date - nor does it intend to, if Uhran's statements are to be accepted as being indicative of NASA's intent. With the halting of shuttle operations in mid-2011, it is also unclear how NASA will be able to meet all the downmass and upmass requirements by October 1, 2011.

NASA's ISS National Lab Concept: Flawed Plans - Closed Thinking, earlier post

Ralph Hall gearing up for new role as chairman of House Science and Technology Committee

"John M. Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University, said Hall's committee also will have to monitor NASA's progress on a deep-space rocket and crew capsule that must be built by 2016. "I can say with a fair degree of assurance that NASA is finding it technically and financially difficult to meet some of the targets in the authorization bill," Logsdon said. "I would expect him to raise some of the questions to NASA about how they are planning on going forward," he said."

House Passes Year-Long CR, NASA Would Get $18.9 Billion, Space Policy online

"CR's typically extend an agency's existing budget for a certain period of time, but the version passed yesterday by the House is different. While the total amount of funding in the bill, $1.09 trillion, is the same as the current level according to Politico, NASA's budget, for example, would rise from its FY2010 level, though is still less than the request. The CR also spells out in some detail how NASA is to spend the money, not unlike a traditional appropriations measure."

House passes NASA budget, gives $169 million more to heavy-lift

"North Alabama's two Republican congressmen, Rep. Parker Griffith of Huntsville and Rep. Robert Aderholt of Haleyville, voted against the bill despite its boost for NASA."

Full Year CR: House Amendment to Senate Amendment to H.R. 3082 (NASA Excerpt)

"SEC. 2206. Notwithstanding section 1101, the level for the following accounts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be as follows: ..."

Draft Spending Bill Increases NASA's Budget by $186M over 2010, Space News

"The draft resolution also includes $1.2 billion for Lockheed Martin's Orion crew capsule, $100 million more than called for in the Senate appropriations measure and the new authorization act. The draft language also includes a passage that would allow NASA to cancel the Ares family of rockets Obama targeted for termination in his 2011 spending proposal and to initiate new programs, a key hurdle the agency has sought to overcome since the start of the 2011 budget year Oct. 1. Another $1.8 billion would fund NASA's space shuttle orbiters in 2011, including $825 million for "additional Space Shuttle costs."

NASA budget funds third shuttle launch, Orlando Sentinel

"The news isn't all good for Florida, however. Congressional appropriators want NASA to cut more than $200 million, or about half the money that had been earmarked to begin modernizing the badly outdated launch facilities at KSC next year."

NASA HQ Soliciation: Congressional Operations Seminar

"The objective of the training is to provide a comprehensive look at congressional operations and organizations and an understanding of how Congress affects NASA's policies, priorities and daily operation for NASA HQ members and NASA Leadership and Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program members. The course shall include: How Congress is Organized and How it Gets It's Work Done Congress and the Political Process Key Stages in the Legislative Process The Budget and Appropriations Processes The Role and Function of Congressional Committees and Committee Staff with special focus on the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives; and the Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate The Role and Function of Congressional Personal Staff The Government Accountability Office and NASA OMB's Role in the Legislative Process A Member's (or former Member's) Perspective on NASA's Issues before Congress What Federal Managers Need to Know in Order to Work More Effectively with Congress."

Defying Politics: Why the Obama Plan Is Good for NASA, Scientific American

"The charm of Obama's plan is that it seeks to disentangle NASA from these vested interests. NASA will set the price and technical specifications of orbital launches and leave the details to private enterprise. It will be able to spread its eggs among many baskets rather than putting them in one. The plan thus fights the political pressures with the only force that might be more powerful: the profit motive. Space businesses have a strong incentive to buy equipment and hire people for their technical merit rather than because their congressional representative was able to bring home the bacon. That's one reason why Obama's plan met with so much opposition. Still, Congress ended up mostly going along with it--and that will help to let NASA be NASA."

Nelson: Obama administration is not 'helping' NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"Tensions between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the White House openly erupted Wednesday when the Florida Democrat used a packed Senate hearing to accuse the administration of dragging its feet on a new NASA law that Nelson had a hand in crafting. Nelson said the Senate had received word that NASA and "other parts of the administration" were working to undermine the law -- which aims to replace the retiring space shuttle with a new "heavy lift" rocket and crew capsule -- and instead pursue Obama's earlier plans that focused more on technology development. However, he offered no definitive examples or proof. Still, his insistent questioning of John Holdren, who is Obama's science adviser, finally prompted an exasperated Holdren to declare, "We are going to follow the law. I can't emphasize that enough."

Senators Push NASA to Carry Out Revamping, NY Times

"Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law. Two weeks ago, they met with Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., the NASA administrator, and Lori Garver, the deputy administrator. "We wanted to have some assurance that NASA understood intent of the laws," said Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah. "I don't think we were terribly satisfied." Mr. Bishop called the answers from General Bolden "both vague and inconsistent."

Senators Say NASA Isn't Implementing Programs, WS Journal

"The hearing started with lawmakers voicing complaints that NASA was trying to circumvent or delay complying with some congressionally mandated priorities, including developing new heavy-lift launchers derived from solid-propellant technology used on the retiring fleet of space shuttles. "If it is dragged out and we don't have a design" for the new family of rockets, according to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas), "we could lose the whole" effort to stay ahead of other countries in manned exploration of space."

Senate punts on NASA appropriations bill, Nature

"When it comes to funding NASA, lawmakers are lately working down to the wire. The night before the October recess, Congress passed an Authorization Act for the agency, mandating a $19 billion budget for FY2011. But legislators were unable to pass the appropriations bill needed to actually provide the funds, instead relying on a continuing resolution that froze funding at FY2010 levels and prohibited the agency from terminating programs or starting new ones. Congress must now decide how, and for how long, it intends to fund NASA before the continuing resolution expires on 3 December."

Senate NASA Hearing Today

Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010

"Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following full committee hearing titled Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Please note this hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 10:30 am EST.

Witnesses: John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy; Elizabeth Robinson Chief Financial Officer, NASA; Cristina Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office (Accompanied by: Susan A. Poling, Managing Associate General Counsel U.S. Government Accountability Office)"

Keith's note: You should be able to find a live webcast link here just before the hearing begins. Click on the NASA hearing link.



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