Policy: September 2010 Archives

Congress's budget battle leaves NASA without a clear mission, editorial, Washington Post

"This flawed bill only proves that the biggest challenges now facing NASA are on the ground. Members of Congress, hoping to protect jobs in their districts, have fought against the shutdown of the Constellation manned spaceflight program, which a blue-ribbon commission on the future of human spaceflight found to be doomed by excessive ambition and insufficient funds."

Killing Constellation at Birth

KillingConstellation, Wayne Hale

"There are probably any number of factors which have wounded the Constellation program, perhaps mortally. But taking longer to return the shuttle to flight, costing more to return the shuttle to flight, and delaying the completion of the ISS and the retirement of the shuttle; those were major causes too. Coupled with the top-level decisions not to ask the Congress for more money, the squeeze was well-nigh intolerable. From my standpoint the consequences were unintentional. But unintentional or more precisely with the best of intentions, the result was severe. So yes, I had a role in the killing of Constellation; a long time before February 1, 2010."

A Pledge to America (Draft), full text, MSNBC

"- Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children's future.

- Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending: We must put common-sense limits on the growth of government and stop the endless increases. Only in Washington is there an expectation that whatever your budget was last year, it will be more this year and even more the next. We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Budget caps were used in the 1990s, when a Republican Congress was able to bring the budget into balance and eventual surplus. By cutting discretionary spending from current levels and imposing a hard cap on future growth, we will save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars."

Keith's note: So much for the Obama Administration's plans to increase NASA's budget ...

State Department: Implementing the National Space Policy: Opportunities and Challenges

"I would like to talk about four things today. First, I will briefly describe what we have been doing to implement the space policy since its release in late June. Second, I will discuss some challenges and opportunities we face in international cooperation and collaboration in space, and how we are tackling those challenges. Third, I will point to some of the continuing critical issues facing the United States and the international community as we expand our utilization of the space environment and work to strengthen stability in space. Finally, I'd like to challenge you in the audience to think about how we can work together across space sectors and interests to solve these difficult issues in the years ahead."

NASA administrator draws an ethics reprimand, Orlando Sentinel

"Administrator Bolden continues to be not only a distraction for the administration, but most importantly to the mission of NASA," said an administration official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, about Monday's reprimand. The official could not recall another incident in which a similarly high-level leader was so publicly reprimanded."

NASA Chief Erred in Call, Report Says, New York Times

"The episode was the latest in a series of missteps by General Bolden. Over the summer, he said in an interview with the Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera that one of NASA's main tasks was to reach out to the Muslim world and help Muslims feel good about their historical contributions to science. NASA and the White House spent a good part of July trying to defend and explain his comments."

Keith and Frank's note: [Revised] It looks like Charlie Bolden may be headed back to the Middle East soon - this time, to Saudi Arabia.The purpose? Some would say that he is trying to get the Saudis more involved in ongoing peace negotiations at the behest of the Obama White House. But others note that he has some personal agenda items at work as well - all under the excuse of commemorating a Space Shuttle flight 25 years ago.

The excuse being used for this trip is the 25th anniversary of the flight of Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, on STS-51G in 1985.

Keith's note: Sources report that Charlie Bolden is bringing his wife along on this trip and that Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Michael O'Brien will be travelling with Bolden - also with his wife. Spouse travel costs are all (apparently) being covered by NASA.

Conflict over NASA spaceflight program complicates funding, Washington Post

"NASA's human space program, long the agency's biggest public and congressional asset, has become instead its biggest headache. As never before, NASA watchers say, an agency that generally is funded and directed through White House and congressional consensus has become the focus of a brutal, potentially crippling and politically topsy-turvy battle for control that is likely to come to a head next week. NASA politics have always defied labels. But now a series of unlikely alliances and negotiating positions have left Congress in an especially difficult bind, with the distinct possibility that the fiscal year will end this month without an approved 2011 budget. The result, congressional negotiators and observers say, would be layoffs and a very unpredictable agency future."

Going Beyond Apollo

NASA's No. 2 says it's time to go beyond Apollo, Space.com

"NASA needs to evolve for the future, not get stuck in the past, the agency's deputy chief said this week. Speaking at a TEDxMidTownNY event at Manhattan's Explorers Club, NASA's second in command, Lori Garver, said it was time to kick-start commercial spaceflight to low Earth orbit and shift NASA's focus to more ambitious exploration missions. "Our space program needs to not be reliving the space program of the past," she said. "We have been trying to relive Apollo for 40 years now." Instead of sending astronauts back to the moon, Garver espoused the new plan put forward by President Barack Obama to pursue trips to an asteroid and Mars. Meanwhile, NASA would try to shift the responsibility for transporting people to the International Space Station to the private sector, which has already made some strides toward commercial spacecraft capable of reaching orbit."

Frank's note: In these pages we have seen one disconnect after another on how poorly NASA sometimes produces its own message. An overwhelming majority of people have no idea what NASA does, other than Shuttle missions and the Hubble. Strangely enough though, according to a focus group done for NASA in 2008, when people are told some details about the space program, belief that it is important to the nation soars.

If you have had the need to interact with NASA Public Affairs folk, like Keith and I have done for years, the results are a mixed bag. Some are incredibly industrious, hardworking and endeavor to get you what you need when you need it. Others could care less, and act as if their job is to make it hard to get at information. Like it is a dwindling resource. One has to wonder if this extends to briefing members of Congress or even the White House. One thing is sure: if this doesn't change for the better and soon, NASA may have missed an historic opportunity to galvanize public support at a critical time in its history.

My question for NASA Watch readers: Let's say you were in charge of NASA Public Affairs for one month. And were given free reign by the Administrator. What or how would you improve things? Or is the situation too far gone?

Frank's note: Of all of the recent NASA Administrators (Goldin, O'Keefe, Griffin) former Marine General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has given the fewest public appearances of them all. Excluding college commencements and STEM talks to school children, Bolden has been largely AWOL from the public square this summer. The face of NASA leadership, to the public, agency employees and the press has been that of Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver. The last time Bolden went before the press it was Al Jazeerra. Need we say more?

The question of his advocacy's absence has raised, rightly or wrongly, questions about the support for the Obama Administration's own space plan, and that of the Administration for him as leader. All of this could change tomorrow, but as for now there is a perception of a rudderless NASA adrift waiting for Congress to decide how much of Project Constellation to cram down the agency's throat. Central to the heart of this issue is just how important is the NASA Administrator in today's political climate. Sandwiched between the President's policy (as directed under this President by the Office of Science and Technology Policy OSTP) and the priorities of the Congressional space committees, a NASA Administrator has little leeway for his or her own direction. If there are clear lines of authority, strong center and directorate managers, much of what an administrator does on a day-to-day basis seems perfunctory. In such a climate, the Deputy Administrator's portfolio, directing institutional change in the agency's structure and messaging, seems the more interesting lot.

My question for NASA Watch readers: If you were the Administrator of NASA, what would be your priorities, given the President's overall space plan? (no, you can't change the plan) How visible would you or should you be? And how would you go about educating the public on your agency's vital functions? Ideas?

Bolden Is Operating In Cloaked Mode These Days, earlier post



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This page is an archive of entries in the Policy category from September 2010.

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