Transition: November 2016 Archives

Trump's First 100 Days: Space, Scientific American

"What is certain, [Bob] Walker says, is that Trump's "space policy doesn't contemplate any real increases in NASA's spending.", It will likely have to accomplish all that it is being asked to do now and in the future without significant boosts to its bottom line, and with the distinct possibility of deep budget cuts. And that, more than anything else, could be very bad news for the space agency and its programs."

Smith, Babin Request Info on ARM Press Release, Report

"As the incoming Administration evaluates ARM, it would benefit from clear guidance from both NASA and its advisory bodies. Similarly, it should be unencumbered by decisions made in the twilight of this Administration's term. Contrary to the assertions made in the press release, numerous advisory bodies have questioned the merits of the President's ARM mission. The NASA Advisory Council, the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), and the National Research Council have all raised concerns with the mission since its proposal by the Administration," the letter states."

- NASA Boulder Retrieval Briefings: Look But Don't Touch, earlier post (this congressional letter cites this NASAWatch post as one of its references).

- NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post

President-Elect Trump Announces Additional Agency Landing Team Members

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Christopher Shank
Employer (current or most recent): U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (Retired)
Funding source: Volunteer"

Keith's note: Chris Shank is policy director for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and Deputy Chief of Staff for Committee chair Lamar Smith. Prior to that he worked at NASA as part of Mike Griffin's so-called "Band of Brothers" as Director of Strategic Investments and Chief of Strategic Communications. It would not necessarily be incorrect to look at what the House Science Committee has been doing over the past few years (Pro-Constellation, Pro-SLS, Anti-ARM, lukewarm on commercial space, preference for going back to the Moon, Earth science skepticism, subpoenas to NOAA and EPA over climate and environmental issues) to get an understanding of Shank's possible stance on space issues. That said, Chris certainly understands space.

Also, Mark Albrecht, once thought by many to be part of NASA's transition team, is listed as one of the Department of Defense Landing Team members.

A transition vet offers tips to Trump's NASA transition team, Courtney Stadd, SpaceNews

"You will also be subject to many rumors. Information is power in D.C. Any tidbit of information, no matter how trivial, is worth something to the consultants, lobbyists, journalists, bloggers, and self-appointed social media space policy mavens who are constantly trying to demonstrate their inside knowledge. And many people with an interest in the issues within your portfolio are not beyond greatly exaggerating their level of access. I've lived and worked in the nation's capital for 40 years and can attest to the hypocrisy that has always been a growth industry within the Beltway. But I have to say that in the wake of this election, I have never seen anything like the hypocrisy among the political class. The very people who disdained Donald Trump on the Monday before the election were currying for political favor within 24 hours of Hillary Clinton's concession phone call. By now, I am sure you have discovered many "friends" you never knew existed the day before the election."

Trump's space policy reaches for Mars and the stars, Space News

"NASA should be focused primarily on deep space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies."

"Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on 'politicized science', The Guardian

"Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as "politically correct environmental monitoring". "We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research," Walker told the Guardian. "Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission. "My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing Nasa programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies. I believe that climate research is necessary but it has been heavily politicized, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing. Mr Trump's decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science."

Yes, Donald Trump did call climate change a Chinese hoax, Politifact

"At one point, Clinton said, "Donald Trump says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese." Did he? Yes, though he later said it was a joke. The original source of this claim was a tweet Trump sent on Nov. 6, 2012, as we noted in a January 2016 fact-check of a similar claim by Clinton's Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders."

Trump admits 'some connectivity' between climate change and human activity, CNN

"President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday there is "some connectivity" between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity."

Keith's note: Last week a number of articles appeared with the startling (at least to the authors) news that President Trump was going to cut all of NASA's Earth science programs. The authors based this arm waving on quotes in the Guardian by on-again/off-again/on-again Trump transition team advisor Bob Walker. This is not the first time Walker has said something like this. Back in the middle of October, in a Space News op ed, Walker made similar comments. Other than these two comments by Walker we have little else to go on except some off-handed, indecisive quotes from Trump himself on climate change. So - will Trump gut NASA space science? We only have some hints from someone who may or may not actual know what Trump is going to do. If Trump does take a run at NASA's Earth science programs he'll have allies such as Sen. Ted Cruz and House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith who have been going after climate-based research funding for years. Then again, Trump may find himself consumed by far more pressing issues. We won't know until a Trump space policy emerges and a Trump team is installed on the 9th floor at NASA Headquarters.

Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look, Roll Call

"Coming soon are a greater number of more capable anti-missile interceptors and radars deployed around the globe - on land, at sea and possibly in space, say these legislators and experts, several of whom have consulted with President-elect Donald Trump's advisers. ...Trump's thoughts on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect's other defense proposals, such as growing the Army and building more warships. As a candidate, Trump said little on the subject."

Keith's note: I'm sure that all of the experts mentioned in this article know how these systems work and are talking to people who talk to people who might talk to Trump's people. But at the present time there is no Trump space policy. So, at best, this is all semi-informed speculation. But, given other rhetoric associated with those lawmakers who will be asking questions at future hearings, it is not idle speculation to expect that more of a focus on overt weaponry in space may be on the horizon.

Big change on the horizon for NASA under Trump, Lori Garver, The Hill

"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden's perceived lack of enthusiastic support of the White House agenda gave an opening to the opposition. Without a willingness to take on these special interests, the administration made a Faustian bargain to secure congressional support for Earth sciences, technology and commercial crew, in exchange for support of developing a large expendable rocket (the Space Launch System or SLS) and deep space capsule (Orion) for human spaceflight. While these parochial interests still exist, a Trump White House has the opportunity to more effectively defend its own agenda. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), one the president-elect's most senior advisers, understands space issues and is a strong believer in commercial space development as the goal of space settlement. Former Congressman Robert Walker (R-Pa.) and former National Space Council executive director Mark Albrecht share many of Gingrich's views on the NASA bureaucracy and goals for NASA. Neither Albrecht nor Walker appear to be anxious to return to government service, but will certainly select a like-minded administrator."

NASA Under Trump, Planetary Society

"Of the $1 trillion of "discretionary" spending, more than half is spent on national defense. Everything else the government does - scientific research, border control, education, environmental protection, federal judges, infrastructure, NASA - comes from this non-defense discretionary amount. This has also been targeted for wholesale cuts by the Trump campaign in order to help pay for their large tax cut. These cuts, along with the reinstitution of the sequester (across-the-board cuts to all federal agencies), would collapse non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest point in modern history. This budgetary scenario potentially spells doom for NASA and its ambitions. The congressional subcommittee responsible for NASA - Commerce, Justice, and Science - is also responsible for the NSF, NOAA, the FBI, the Justice Department, and Commerce Department, and the Census, among others."

How Donald Trump's win could change the trajectory of commercial space ventures, Geekwire

"President-elect Donald Trump's advisers say they want to rely more on commercial ventures to pioneer the space frontier - but some of those ventures' high-profile backers aren't exactly in line with other parts of Trump's policy agenda. For example, SpaceX's billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, sees climate change as the biggest challenge facing humanity on Earth and has said a tax on carbon emissions is as necessary as garbage collection fees. In contrast, Trump has said concerns about climate change are a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and has vowed to "cancel" U.S. participation in the recently established Paris climate pact. (The Chinese say they're trying to set Trump straight on that point.) Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin to send passengers and payloads into space, is also the owner of The Washington Post. The Post, Amazon and Bezos were all caught up in Trump's ire during the campaign. On the flip side of the issue, there's at least one space billionaire who can hardly wait for Trump to get into office: Robert Bigelow, the founder of Bigelow Aerospace."

For Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, fiery populism followed life in elite circles, Washington Post

"In the early 1990s, he and [Julia] Jones, a screenwriter, struck up a conversation in a restaurant and decided to try their hand at adapting Bannon's idea for a version of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" set in space. That script went nowhere, but the two went on to work on dozens of film and television projects together."

Titus Andronicus, Wikipedia

"Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593, probably in collaboration with George Peele. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the 16th century."

Trump's Chief Strategist Appointee Once Ran Biosphere II Project, earlier post

Will Trump pick an "agent of change" or an insider to lead NASA?, Ars Technica

"Probably the leading contender among the outsiders is a US Republican Representative from Oklahoma, Jim Bridenstine, who since being elected to Congress has quickly become a darling of the commercial space industry. ... Not only does [Scott] Pace presently work at a university in the nation's capital, he has also served George W. Bush on space policy and was 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's chief space adviser."

Keith's note: FWIW the rumors here in DC suggest that Mike Griffin is looking for a position in the defense sphere. Mark Albrecht says that he's not interested in going back to government, Bob Walker notes that his lobbyist stance makes him (probably) ineligible, and Eileen Collins annoyed the Trump people when she suddenly backed out of the endorsement that they thought they were going to get.

If I were betting on horses it would be Bridenstine and Pace. Pace worked at NASA Headquarters for a number of years and has experience in the running of a large government agency with tens of thousands of employees and a multi-billion dollar budget. Bridenstine ran a small air & space museum and now has Potomac Fever and wants to stay in Washington when his self-imposed term limit expires. Pace is measured and deliberate with a deep understanding of space policy whereas Bridenstine is all fired up and motivated to enable change in the way that we explore and utilize space. It would be nice (for once) for a President to pick someone to run NASA with actual experience in running big things. It would also be nice to have an energetic advocate for space promoting NASA's efforts to a broadening audience.

Alas, as that song at Trump rallies often reminded us "you can't always get what you want". Stay tuned.

NASA Transition Update

NASA Internal Memo: Update on the Presidential Transition, NASA

"As many of you know, we are ready to support the presidential transition activities. NASA has a team and a process in place to ensure a smooth transition of our agency. Tom Cremins, NASA Transition Official, and Jolene Meidinger, NASA Transition Coordinator, have been leading the NASA Transition Team (NTT) in their readiness to provide the incoming administration with the information it needs about NASA's important work. The President-Elect Transition Team (PETT) has indicated that NASA will not be receiving an Agency Review Team (ART) at this time. NASA, as all federal agencies, stands ready to support the PETT at a future date."

Why hasn't Trump's transition team called the Pentagon?, CNN

"Election Day was eight days ago, but Donald Trump's transition team has yet to contact the Pentagon, State Department or other federal agencies. And a move to purge some transition advisers and employees has further slowed the process of getting the incoming administration off the blocks ... Trump's team will announce the first teams -- for the Justice Department and national security agencies -- Thursday, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday night. Economic and domestic policy teams will be announced next week. But it was not immediately when those officials will actually arrive at agencies in Washington. The White House was still waiting Wednesday night on names from the transition of the individuals who will form the landing teams."

Robert Walker, Wexler Walker

"A major space publication, Space News, attested to his effectiveness saying, "One of Washington's most influential lobbyists" whose "stature and influence have only grown since leaving Congress."

GOP congressman being considered for NASA administrator in Trump administration, Washington Post

"Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a former Navy pilot who is one of Congress's leading space exploration advocates, has had informal conversations with the Trump campaign about serving as NASA administrator or secretary of the Air Force, according to an official close to the congressman who is not authorized to speak publicly."

Keith's note: Since I broke this story last week quite a number of people have noted that it is somewhat ironic that Bridenstine wants a job that is decided by the White House when legislation he offered (H.R. 4945 the American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA)) sought to strip the ability of the White House to appoint or manage the activities of the NASA Administrator. Since Bridenstine is self term-limiting, word has it that he wishes to stay in the Washington area and is looking for something that will last longer than the 2 years of his last term. However, he lacks any experience managing an organization with thousands of employees and a budget in the billions - but that's not unusual for a NASA administrator nominee. Also, FWIW self-promoting for jobs like this is usually not the best way to get them. Then again, this year the rules do not seem to apply, so who knows? Either way Bridenstine has certainly put in a lot of time on this topic since he arrived (see and has solid climate denial credentials - both of which should help. Oh yes, in case you want to lend your support, the staffer in Bridenstine's office who seems to be working on generating buzz on this is Christopher Ingraham @cwingraham



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This page is an archive of entries in the Transition category from November 2016.

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