TrumpSpace: May 2017 Archives

NASA to Discuss FY2018 Budget Proposal, Provide Virtual Tours of Centers

"NASA will hold a series of events Tuesday, May 23, highlighting the agency's Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, including a televised State of NASA address by acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot."

Keith's note: Earlier this year the White House put forth a budget that cut many things at NASA - thus allowing it to barely tread water. Then Congress responded and NASA's budget picture dramatically improved - but only until 30 September 2017. Now the White House is issuing another budget proposal - this time for FY 2018. Once again the NASA budget is lacking in many ways. It also seeks to pick a fight with appropriators by eliminating the Europa missions that Rep. Culberson included - missions that NASA is required to conduct by law. We've seen this movie before.

NASA will be required to act in lock step with the White House and promote this latest budget request - even if it does damage to NASA programs. Right now NASA is hobbled by the lack of a confirmed Administrator with the top slots at the agency run by people in acting positions and some transition team holdovers. It is expected that Rep. Bridenstine will be nominated to head NASA within the coming days. Once he is confirmed (which may take a while due to ongoing White House distractions) Bridenstine is going to have to get a deputy with actual experience running a large, technically-oriented government R&D agency. He is also going to have to staff the 9th floor at NASA HQ with people who are similarly skilled - and not just rely upon 2016 campaign staffers who got a job simply as a reward for their loyalty.

The two budgets that the White House has submitted to Congress do little - if anything - to help NASA fund all of the things on its to-do list. To be certain, not cutting NASA earlier this year when other agencies were targeted for draconian cuts was an indication of some minimal support for NASA. However, the potential for NASA budget growth was all but non-existent. That said, the large programs NASA still wants to do i.e. SLS/Orion to Mars, the Lunar Gateway, etc. are increasingly underfunded and behind schedule.

Despite promises of a new breath of commercial space thinking in the way NASA does things, the presence of Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker in the wings has not made any noticeable change in NASA priorities - at least not yet. That may come when Scott Pace shows up for work at the National Space Council. But any coordinated policy formulation at the Space Council is going to take a long time to be translated into guidance for Administration budget requests.

In the mean time NASA is going to have to send its envoys to Congress to say that the President's budget cuts are good while simultaneously explaining why it does not have the money for the things Congress has told NASA to do. This is going to happen across the Federal government. Congress already spurned the earlier FY 2017 budget request from the White House. Congress will almost certainly do the same thing with the request for FY 2018. When all is said and done NASA's portfolio under the Trump Administration is going to look exactly like the Obama Administration's portfolio: Strategically scattered, chronically inefficient, and woefully underfunded.

- Trump's FY 2018 NASA Budget Is Not Huge, earlier post
- Bridenstine at NASA - and Pace at NSC - Expected Soon, earlier post
- Senators Reject Trump Push To Cut NASA Education, earlier post
- NASA's Good Budget News Is Not Actually All That Good, earlier post
- Congress Pushes Back Against Trump Science Cuts, earlier post
- Trump's NASA Budget Guts Earth Science and Totally Eliminates Education, earlier post

Third Way Statement on the Leaked May 8 Trump Budget, Third Way

2018 budget proposal to spread cuts across NASA programs, Space News

"The spreadsheet suggests that most major NASA accounts will see cuts compared to what Congress provided in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month, which gave NASA $19.653 billion overall. Science would receive a little more than $5.71 billion, $53 million less than what it received in 2017."

Keith's note: Sources continue to report that Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is still the Administration's preferred choice to become NASA Administrator and that they expect to nominate him in the coming weeks. Former Rep. Bob Walker stated several weeks ago in a public event that the executive order creating (reinstating) the National Space Council has been drafted and that it is awaiting signature. The only thing holding that executive order up is identifying an Executive Secretary for the National Space Council. Sources report that the odds-on favorite for that position is veteran space policy expert Scott Pace.

Right now routine matters such as these positions are at the mercy of the growing chaos at the White House. Then, of course, once Bridenstine is nominated the issue of his confirmation arises and the same White House chaos - and Congress' response to it - is likely to drag out routine business even further. Once this all settles out you can expect a change in the composition of Trump political appointees at NASA HQ as well - so hang in there folks.

- Bridenstine Had To Be Re-Interviewed For Top NASA Job, earlier post
- Likely NASA Administrator Bridenstine Speaks, earlier post
- National Space Council Announcements Soon?, earlier post
- Bob Walker: National Space Council Executive Order Already Written, earlier post

Trump officials act to tilt federal science boards toward industry, Nature

"Legally, there is nothing to stop the Trump administration from appointing anybody it likes to agency science boards. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which governs most of them, does not spell out qualifications for membership. (Some committees such as the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee are governed by their own statutes with stricter service rules.) "All FACA says is you need 'balanced representation'. It says nothing about conflicts of interest or scientific integrity," Wagner says. "If you wanted science advisory boards stripped down, with minimal constraints, anything goes, legally you could do that."

EPA dismisses half of key board's scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels, Washington Post

"Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are overhauling a slew of outside advisory boards that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning policies, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is "reviewing the charter and charge" of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and other entities both within and outside his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend."

Keith's note: Of course, this purge will eventually reach NASA as well - starting with the NASA Advisory Council. Stay tuned.

h/t @LorenGrush

Keith's note: Just a reminder. As you ponder why so many things at NASA are not happening (like getting a new Administrator) stop for a moment and consider that the most senior Trump political appointee at NASA is Jonathan Dimock. He is the White House Liaison - the prime person for interactions with the President. He has no known experience in government, science and technology, or space exploration. If you check out his Facebook page you will see that he has a fondness for Redbull and race cars. According to his LinkedIn page he is still "Field Director Donald J. Trump for President August 2015 - Present (1 year 10 months)." Most people would be tickled pink to work at NASA and say so on their resume. Just sayin'

Civil war rages throughout Trump administration, Politico

"[Sid Bowdidge, a Trump campaign staffer] pointed out that other Trump campaign staffers had been the subject of unflattering leaks. Among them: Danny Tiso, a Labor Department appointee, whose academic history has come under scrutiny, and Jonathan Dimock, a NASA staffer whose work background has been put under the microscope."

Meanwhile over at USDA ...

Possible Trump pick for USDA science post draws darts, Science

"President Trump may be adding to his administration's challenges by picking someone without a science background to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) research programs, former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman said today. The Clinton administration official told E&E News that, while he doesn't know Sam Clovis - reported to be Trump's pick for undersecretary for research, education and economics - scientific knowledge is especially useful in a position that requires coordination with scientific agencies within the government."

Trump wants NASA to send humans to Mars pronto -- by his second term 'at worst', Washington Post

"TRUMP: "Tell me: Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?"

WHITSON: "Well, I think as your bill directed, it'll be approximately in the 2030s. As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we've ever been away from this planet. "So, unfortunately space flight takes a lot of time and money so getting there will require some international cooperation to get the - it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing."

TRUMP: "Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?"

WHITSON: "We'll do our best."

Science wins reprieve in US budget deal, Nature

" ... $1.9 billion for NASA's Earth-science research programme, roughly equal to the 2016 level. The bill includes support for the Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem satellite mission that Trump wants to eliminate. $1.9 billion for planetary science at NASA, an increase of roughly $300 million from the 2016 level. That includes $275 million for a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, including a lander. The bill would set aside $408 million for the Mars 2020 mission - and give NASA the green-light to investigate the possibility of sending a helicopter to the red planet."

Comprehensive Government Funding Bill Released, House Appropriations Committee

"The bill includes full Appropriations legislation and funding for the remaining 11 annual Appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2017. This level meets the base discretionary spending caps provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, and provides additional funding for national defense, border security, and other emergency needs."

FY 2017 Omnibus Summary - Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations

"NASA is funded at $19.7 billion in the bill, $368 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level."

Keith's note: This is the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill that covers current fiscal year spending and replaces the Continuing Resolution that governed spending at FY 2016 levels - until now. But FY 2018 starts in 5 months. What form NASA's budget will take in Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget is not clear at this point since this bill reverses (in a major way) nearly everything cut in Trump's budget proposal ("skinny budget") issued earlier this year. When you consider that Rep. Culberson has reiterated his support for two Europa missions each (presumably) launched on a SLS, that SLS continues to slip to the right and has inadequate reserves, and that Gingrich/Walker comments today about SLS speak to doubts within the Trump Administration about its survival, there is certain to be a SLS food fight at some point in the not too distant future. No doubt the future of SLS will be linked to what direction the White House wants to go in space - and how NASA will be directed to participate - or told to let others do some of the heavy lifting.

Keith's note: Tweets from the "ULCATS Symposium: Igniting An Industrial and National Security Revolution in Space" held this morning in Washington, DC. I asked Newt Gingrich how the Trump Administration could support ULCATS (Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space) such as described in this new report done for the USAF - yet simultaneously support UHCATS - Ultra HIGH Cost Access to Space offered by NASA's SLS program. Gingrich looked like he was waiting for this question and was clearly not a fan of SLS or other large, expensive launch systems supported by the government. More tweets at #ulcats


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