In a UPI article yesterday, Frank Sietzen describes the upcoming political challenges the Vision for Space Exploration faces in Congress. The article has a couple of interesting tidbits, including the possibility that the NASA authorization bill soon to be introduced in Congress will include a provision giving the NASA administrator the “political authority” to close a field center, although not mandate it. While some critics have suggested that NASA needs to realign and possibly close some centers, Sietzen suggests that this provision is primarily designed to give Sean O’Keefe a “budgetary ace-in-the-hole” to get recalcitrant legislators in affected states to support NASA budget increases.
It might be a moot point, though: Sietzen writes that “most” Congressional staffers familiar with the authorization bill plans believe that the bill will get lost in the rush to pass other legislation before Congress adjourns for the fall campaign. That’s in strong contrast to Pete Worden, working in Sen. Brownback’s office, who said at the COMSTAC meeting last week that he believed that that there was a “pretty good shot”, or better than a 50-50 chance, of getting the authorization bill passed. That legislation should be introduced in the Senate in the next couple of weeks, Brownback said at the JPL town hall meeting yesterday.