Congress: March 2013 Archives

Aerospace Industries Association Crowdfunding Campaign to Advertise for Space Program

"The Aerospace Industries Association is leading a first-of-its-kind crowdfund campaign to showcase to students and young people the exciting new era of U.S. space exploration."

Please Support We Are The Explorers - A Movie Trailer for Our Space Program (With Video)

"NASA recently made an inspiring new online video narrated by Mr. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime (see above), to show the progress being made on these new systems, but the agency is barred by law from buying advertising time for such a spot. Today we're running a crowdfunding campaign to edit this video into a 30 second spot, and place it in over 50 movie theaters around the country, starting with the premier of 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'"

Keith's update: The $33,000 goal was met a few minutes ago. According to the site "Now for the next "giant leap." With still weeks to go, we can expand our reach to the whole country. Our current funding pace puts us on target to place ads in at least one theater in every state in America. If we raise our funding total to $94,000, students, young people, and the general public will see this video from coast to coast. This new goal will expand our reach from 59 movie theater screens to 750 screens! "

American Astronomical Society Decries Impact of Federal Travel Restrictions on Science

"The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today expressed deep concern about the U.S. government's new restrictions on travel and conference attendance for federally funded scientists. Enacted in response to the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1st, the policies severely limit the ability of many researchers to meet with collaborators and to present their latest results at professional meetings. The leadership of the AAS is especially worried about the restrictions' deleterious effects on scientific productivity and on scientists' and students' careers."

Keith's tnote: If you ask NASA how much they spend on travel in a given year they can't tell you. If you ask them how much these new travel restrictions to save they can't tell you that either. They are just making this up as they go.

The Eighth International Conference on Mars Postponed Until 2014

"The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15-19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014."

Keith's note: Last week NASA Education AA Leland Melvin sent a memo out to the Education Coordinating Committee regarding funding issues. In that memo he more or less exempted all of the activities that his directorate funds from cuts associated with sequester-related budget activities. I have asked NASA PAO for a copy of that letter and will post it if/when NASA provides me with a copy.

Keith's 11:00 am update: NASA PAO has decline to provde a copy of this letter and has said that I need to file a FOIA request in order to get it. I have filed the FOIA request. This usually takes weeks although they could expedite this. With all of these memos circulating around - with contradictory and confusing statements in them - you would think that NASA Headquarters would want to clarify things for people and just issue the memo along with an overall statement of policy regarding the topics raised in these other memos.

Keith's 11:45 am update: Here's the memo - from sources other than NASA. Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

Why Has NASA Banned Access to its Partner Saudi Arabia?, SpaceRef

"Last week NASA Administrator Bolden announced that access to NASA computer networks and facilities would be curtailed for citizens of various countries. Among the countries listed was Saudi Arabia. It is more than a little unusual to see Saudi Arabia targeted like this given the strong relations between the Saudis and the U.S. in a wide range of scientific and technological fields. It is even more odd that NASA would publicly snub a major U.S. ally in the Middle East in the midst of a presidential trip to the region. ... Right now there is a contingent of NASA JPL employees in Saudi Arabia discussing space-related issues. .... It will be rather awkward for the former Caltech president, now in the same position at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, to have to explain to his Saudi staff and students why JPL (located at Caltech) won't let them have access any more."

But the issue at hand was security regarding technical information - not human rights or religion. To be certain, China, Iran, and North Korea are bad actors when it comes to transfer of sensitive information, human rights, etc. But it is rather hard to find instances where citizens of Burma, Eritrea, Sudan, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia have been accused of hacking into NASA computers or stealing sensitive information. So why does the list of nationalities banned from NASA by Bolden look more like a list of counties associated with human rights and religious discrimination than a list of countries known to seek out U.S. technology? Who gave who gave Bolden this list of countries to ban? Did he think it up himself or did Rep. Wolf give it to him?

Who are the top hacker countries in the world?,

"Despite all the bad press China is getting for its recent hacking activity, the US remains firmly on top in terms of sheer volume. This remains true for rankings tabulated by different think-tanks like Symantec and NCCGroup. Usual suspects China and Russia are consistently within the top five, while Germany and the UK show up consistently within the top ten."

Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs

"Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs The Sequester's recent cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs must not be allowed. These cuts would end the many programs NASA has for educating the children of our society, as well as many other forms of public outreach held by NASA. In an internal memo issued on the evening of Friday, March 22, the Administration notes that "effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects."

NASA Suspends All Education and Public Outreach (Update), Earlier post

NASA Internal Memo: Guidance for Education and Public Outreach Activities Under Sequestration

"Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.

The scope comprises activities intended to communicate, connect with, and engage a wide and diverse set of audiences to raise awareness and involvement in NASA, its goals, missions and programs, and to develop an appreciation for, exposure to, and involvement in STEM. Audiences include employees, partners, educators, students, and members of the general public. The scope encompasses, but is not limited to:

- Programs, events, and workshops.
- Permanent and traveling exhibits, signage, and other materials.
- Speeches, presentations, and appearances, with the exception of technical presentations by researchers at scientific and technical symposia.
- Video and multimedia products in development (and renewal of existing products).
- Web and social media sites in development (excludes operational sites).
- External and internal publications, with the exception of Scientific and Technical Information as defined by NPD 2200.1B.
- Any other activity whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities."

Keith's note: This is just insane. How much money will this actually save? NASA's response to the sequestration is to go out of its way to not communicate with the outside world? Is any other agency doing this?

Then again this might have a silver lining by forcing everything to a serious life and death review - there are some pointless money holes - all done as EPO - that NASA loves to just pour cash into. I have talked to knowledgeable folks at NASA HQ - and they say that this is not an indication that NASA does not think that EPO is important. Rather, that its time for everyone to justify the actual need for projects on a case-by-case basis.

While NASA is looking at all EPO activities they need to look at other things as well. For example, JPL runs two MSL websites that overlap/duplicate one another [1, 2] but don't cross link - and JPL has an extra copy [3] of one of these sites for good measure. Yet none of these JPL sites interact with the site at NASA HQ [4] - and yet they all cater to the same audience. What does it cost NASA to support 3(4) official websites for one mission?

Keith's update: This memo was issued inside NASA this afternoon - after the memo above.

Memo: NASA AA for Communications David Weaver to Communications Coordinating Council: EPO Activities Under Sequestration

"I am providing additional information and instructions regarding the review of public outreach activities under sequestration as outlined in the memorandum from the NASA Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Staff dated March 22, 2013."

Sequestration forces NASA to hold up educational and outreach efforts, CosmicLog/NBC

"It's important to point out that it's a suspension, not a cancellation," [NASA spokesman Bob] Jacobs wrote. "The agency's budget for the fiscal year is more that $1 billion below the original request. We are taking prudent steps to ensure the resources expended on outreach activities are done so wisely."

Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

Former Huntsville NASA center boss Robert Lightfoot will lead foreign security probe, Huntsville Times

"NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will lead a new in-house probe of foreign access to NASA field centers in the wake of the arrest of a Chinese national allegedly attempting to smuggle data out of the U.S. to China. Lightfoot was director of the Marshall Space Flight Center before being promoted in 2012 to the top civil service position in the agency."

Wolf Threatens To Call NASA Security Whistleblowers To Testify, Aviation Week

"Career civil servants" have been coming out of the woodwork with reports of lax security practices at NASA since Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) raised the issue publicly, and the powerful committee chairman may call some of the whistleblowers to testify publicly about their charges."

Attorney: Former Chinese contractor at NASA's Langley Research Center to plead not guilty, Washington Post

"Jiang's attorney Fernando Groene said Jiang was unfairly targeted and is looking forward to being vindicated. He said he plans to ask for a jury trial and wants Jiang's side of the story coming out. Groene said Jiang was leaving the country because his work visa was about to expire and he had been unable to find other employment since losing his job in January."

Attorney: Former NASA contractor subject of 'witch hunt', Daily Press

"... But Jiang's lawyer, Fernando Groene -- a former federal prosecutor who now practices out of Williamsburg -- said he's not going to let Wolf misportray Jiang. ... Groene challenged Wolf to come to the trial in Newport News federal court to present his evidence against Jiang. If Congressman Wolf testifies as a government witness, Groene said, "We'll be glad to cross-examine him." Asked why Jiang was going to China, Groene said, "He was going home."

- Congress Vs NASA on China (Home Alone with Wolf and Bolden), earlier post
- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- Former NASA/NIA Employee Arrested by FBI Trying to Leave U.S., earlier post

American Astronomers Call on Congress to Support Investments in Research and Development, AAS

"The AAS delegation was part of a group of more than 200 scientists, engineers, and business leaders who converged on Capitol Hill for the 18th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD), held March 12-13 and sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group. CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies, and educational institutions whose members feel strongly that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our nation's future."

NASA locks out foreigners, orders security review following concerns of Chinese spying, Fox News

"NASA has locked its facilities to foreigners, disabled online research databases and ordered a complete review of access by foreign nationals to its facilities, as allegations swirled of foreign spies within the space agency. In addition to the security review, Bolden announced that he had closed down a publicly available NASA technical reports database due to the risk of confidential information leaking out. A message on the site indicates that "until further notice, the NTRS system will be unavailable for public access. We ... anticipate that this site will return to service in the near future."

Congressman: NASA intentionally skirted rules, Daily Press

"Robert D. Wyman, a spokesman for NASA Langley, did not return phone calls this week seeking comment on Wolf's assertion that Langley officials intentionally circumvented the rules. Calls to NASA headquarters in Washington were routed to Allard Beutel, the chief of the NASA communications office there. Beutel did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. Timothy Allen, a spokesman with the National Institute of Aerospace, declined to comment on Wolf's assertions that Langley conspired with NIA to get around the rules. "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation," he said."

Keith's 20 March note: I asked LaRC PAO the following questions:

"- Was this shutdown in response to a request from Rep. Wolf? If not, then who requested the shutdown of this website?
- Was there any technical material posted on the NTRS website that violated ITAR regulations or any other NASA/government security requirements?"

LaRC declined to answer these specific questions and would only say "As you know, the NTRS system is unavailable for public access. NASA is reviewing the sites content to make sure it's consistent with the U.S. export control laws, regulations and review processes that are in place."

Clearly the fact that NASA took the extreme action of pulling the entire website down - one that had been online for decades - means that they either found something on there that did not belong and/or could not affirm that all applicable rules were being followed. Someone had to make the decision to take this action. Either Rep. Wolf asked them or someone to do this or someone at NASA decided to do so on their own. LaRC PAO is unable or unwilling to admit that this is the case. Isn't it rather odd for NASA PAO not to respond with comments in support of what the agency's administrator said in open congressional hearings? Meanwhile, neither NASA or the House Appropriations Committee has bothered to post Bolden's prepared statement.

At today's hearing Rep. Wolf gave the NASA OIG and "F" grade for their ARC and LaRC investigations and suggested to Bolden that the agency needs a new IG. Wolf also lectured Bolden about blind dissidents and human organ trafficking in China. Wolf asked if Bolden would meet with various Chinese activists/dissidents at NASA HQ. Bolden said he would if he could ask them a question as to why Congress prohibits any interaction by NASA with China's space agency. When Bolden talked about the progress of moving the Arc Jet facility from JSC to ARC Wolf said "just make sure the spies are not involved out there" (i.e. at ARC).

Probably the most important thing to emerge from this hearing was the fact that both Wolf and Bolden liked the two "Home Alone" films.

Keith's 21 March update: here is the Prepared Statement by Charles Bolden Before House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. NASA still has not released it (but Congress has). Do a search for the word "China". Nothing. NASA really does not want to talk about this.

- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- Former NASA/NIA Employee Arrested by FBI Trying to Leave U.S., earlier post

Wolf: Chinese National Potentially Involved In NASA Langley Security Violations

"Even more troubling, the investigative report identified how Mr. Jiang was allowed by NASA and NIA supervisors to take his work and volumes of other NASA research back to China for a period of time, as documented in an investigative report I received."

Federal agents stop, arrest NASA Langley contractor on plane for China, Daily Press

"A former employee of a NASA Langley Research Center contractor was sitting on a Chinese-bound plane at Dulles International Airport on Saturday when federal agents came on board and asked to have a word with him. Federal prosecutors are now accusing that man, Bo Jiang, of lying to those federal investigators about what he had in his possession."

Affidavit in Support of an Application for Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant

Criminal Complaint

Bo Jiang, LinkedIn

Research Scientist - National Institute of Aerospace
October 2012 - Present (6 months)Visual Information Processing Lab, NASA Langley Research Center
- NASA Aviation Safety Program, External Hazards Sensing and Mitigation:
-- Developing a computational visual servo, which provides an active, automatic image enhancement,
-- Researching on generic pattern recognition combining computer vision and neuroscience.

Research Assistant - University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
July 2004 - June 2007 (3 years)Chengdu, China
- Adaptive median filter for multi-layer noise reduction,
- Image recognition based on Neural Network and Gabor filter,
- Speech recognition based on Neural Network and Hidden Markov Model.

Frank Wolf's Weekly Hearings on NASA and China, earlier post

Message From The NASA Administrator: New Policies in Response to Sequestration

"This guidance is to be applied to NASA employees and to all contract employees, including JPL employees, to extent permissible. Program managers, project managers, and contracting officers should apply this guidance to all NASA direct-funded contractor travel. You should know that Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and I have already begun to adjust our activities in line with these guidelines. We have both canceled travel and participation in the April National Space Symposium in Colorado and I have also canceled a planned overseas trip. ... At this time, there is no change to the Agency's current hiring policy. Centers may continue to transact hires as planned in their submitted phased hiring plans up to their FY2013 FTE ceilings. This includes hiring in all categories, including new intern hires, intern conversions, and all other early career hires."

Sequestration Claims its First Victim at NASA, Planetary Society

"Of special note is that this letter defines "foreign" travel as anything outside of the continental United States. Sorry Hawaii and Alaska!"

NASA clamps down on travel spending, FCW

"Event planners hoping to book NASA speakers: You have a problem."

@elakdawalla: "As others have pointed out to me, sequester doesn't just limit NASA travel; also USGS, DOE, any federally funded organization or lab."

Oversight Hearing - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Wednesday, March 13, 2013: Witness: Paul Martin, NASA Inspector General"

Oversight of NASA - Statement of Paul K. Martin NASA Inspector General

Keith's note: For some reason today's hearing with the NASA OIG will not be webcast. So much for trying to be open and transparent.

Keith's update: According to someone present at the hearing, Rep. Wolf focused a lot of this attention on news reports of a Chinese national who had been hired by LaRC. Wolf also asked Martin about ARC. Rep. Fattah suggested that if there are Chinese nationals employed by NASA that there should be some Americans employeed at at Chinese space centers. Wolf and Fattah then asked NASA for a list of the NASA employees currently working at Chinese space centers.

Oversight Hearing - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Wednesday, March 20, 2013: Witness: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator"

Earlier posts on China

Oversight of NASA - Statement of Paul K. Martin NASA Inspector General

"We found that NASA's efforts to reduce its underutilized facilities have been hindered by several longstanding and interrelated challenges: 1) fluctuating and uncertain strategic requirements; 2) Agency culture and business practices; 3) political pressure; and 4) inadequate funding. To its credit, NASA is undertaking a series of initiatives aimed at "rightsizing" the Agency's real property footprint. However, we noted that many of these efforts are in the early stages and may ultimately be insufficient to overcome the cultural and political obstacles that have impeded past efforts to reduce unneeded infrastructure. Accordingly, an independent outside process similar to the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission may be necessary."

Senate funding measure gives NASA $2.1B for SLS for rest of 2013 (updated), Huntsvile Times

"A bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee budget for the rest of fiscal year 2013 continues strong funding for NASA's Space Launch System and calls on the agency to speed up its construction. The measure released by committee leadership Monday night gives the overall SLS program $2.1 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, including $260 million for ground-related launch support construction, and also provides $515 million for NASA's commercial crew program."

Explanatory Statement for the Senate Substitute Continuing Resolution (NASA Excerpts)

"This Act includes $17,862,000,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A table of specific funding allocations for NASA is delineated below, and additional detail may be found under the relevant account headings."

Wolf says NASA prompted hiring of person linked to Chinese espionage; may be dozens more in agency, Washington Examiner

"Today, Wolf said he has not received a response from Pete Worden, the retired Air Force general who is director of the Ames facility."

NASA ARC Centerwide Announcement: Ames and National Security (12 Feb 2013)

"I have offered to talk to the news reporter, meet with the US representatives and/or testify under oath regarding export control issues at Ames."

Keith's note: Worden has offered to testify on this issue - under oath - nearly a month ago. Apparently Rep. Wolf's staff didn't get that message. Or they forgot. Or they don't care. The NASA IG met with Rep. Wolf et al a few days ago to tell them all that there is nothing to the IG's knowledge to substantiate the reports about ITAR issues and espionage at ARC. Yet Rep. Wolf continues to link these claims about ARC to China even after the Justice Department and the NASA OIG state that there is no "there" there.



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