More on Operation Offset

The Republican Study Committee (RSC) formally introduced yesterday “Operation Offset”, its proposed collection of budget cuts and related measures designed to pay for hurricane relief without increasing taxes or running up the budget deficit. As previously reported, the proposal calls for cutting “NASA’s New Moon/Mars Initiative”. The program is just one of dozens that the RSC offers up on the chopping block, but unlike most of the others, the report provides little justification for the cut:

In 2004, the President announced a new initiative to explore the Moon and Mars with the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2020. NASA currently intends to use the savings from phasing out the space shuttle in 2012 to fund this program. Savings: $44 billion over ten years ($11.5 billion over five years)

For nearly all the other programs in the report, the RSC offers some explanation why the program is question is duplicative or otherwise unnecessary, but not so here. Moreover, they’re retiring the shuttle a couple years later than what has been planned all along under the VSE.

The RSC counts about 100 members of Congress in its membership, but that doesn’t mean that all 100 members are in complete agreement on the proposed cuts. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a Houston-area Congressman and RSC member, spoke out in particular against the NASA cuts at a press conference, the Houston Chronicle reported. “NASA is one of those programs the American people receive benefits from,” he said.

33 comments to More on Operation Offset

  • Mark R Whittington

    This rather confirms my suspician that this item was not very well thought out. One wonders why it was even included. Perhaps someone is mad at Tom Delay? In that case, is the entire proposal even serious?

  • Dfens

    Good for them! It’s about time someone started getting rid of the pork – NASA’s included. It is probably only a serious attempt to get me to vote for an incumbent in the primaries, though. Congress has the authority to change the procurement laws too, but do they? Better to find scapegoats than fix problems.

  • William Berger

    “Good for them! It’s about time someone started getting rid of the pork – NASA’s included.”

    Yes, there will be absolutely no pork in the hurricane reconstruction contracts.

  • Cutting NASA is the last thing that the people of Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center would want. And the last thing that the Johnson Space Center would want.

  • These are conservative republicans, I seriously doubt these cuts will be adopted any time soon.

    Pushing shuttle retirement out pass 2010 just focuses the blame for any accident that occurs after that date on congress, I would assume they would not recommend a recertification of hardware, so any accident that occurred would be looked at as a direct result of their action.
    I doubt many can stomach that.

    The cev and international agreements over iss construction seem to at least insure some future for the cev.

    Again I don’t really get this whole Lets not pass a big debt to our future argument.
    I like my anology of diverting money from your child’s education to pay for increased insurance costs. Your only hurting your child’s furture, bring your budget under control is only a short lived illussion.

    How does cutting back on the space program when other countries are starting to take significant steps with their own programs (thus abandoning our lead in the area) help future generations.

    How does cutting back on programs that could lead to alternate forms of energy help future generations instead of insuring they are equally dependent on foriegn sources of oil. This country should be looking at increasing funding for those programs .

    How does not putting money into important areas like adavanced physics were the energy and material sources of the future will come from. How does that help future generations.

    All these politicians who say we must be fiscal responsible are doing are taking borrowed money and diverting it to more social concious projects.

    Kind of like handling increasing insurance expenses by putting it on a credit card, when maybe the real solution is to look for another insurance company.

    Maybe what the country needs to do is start innovating again in all areas so as to reduce the trade gap. But.. hey I’m no politician.

  • Dfens

    It seems to me there will be plenty of jobs in the Gulf region even without NASA welfare. I’d be willing to bet that if the government kept their dirty hands off the taxpayers hard earned money, they’d come up with plenty of new ways to put more people to work at better jobs than NASA provides. I’d say the same is true of all those programs. Let the taxpayer keep their money, or in this case, don’t put them into debt further, and being the resourceful capitalists they are, I’m sure they will find better ways to spend it than funding research for the sake of getting more government research funding. Welfare is welfare. It doesn’t transmute just because someone has “PhD” after their name.

  • Falco

    I agree.

    The lives saved from the weather predictions done with satelites is almost enough justification alone.

  • Sure there will, and they will add sqawt to the knowledge based up this country.

    Nasa employs close to 60,000 people, many of those are high value skills.

  • “the problem is that science isn’t as well organized as the industries of the past are to lobby for money. Those industries get the government to prop up the past, but science is inventing the future.”

    – Newt Gingrich (quoted from here)

    And here is something pertinent I posted back in April:

    – snip –

    Here’s what the the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century concluded on the matter:

    “In this Commission’s view, the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine. American national leadership must understand these deficiencies as threats to national security. If we do not invest heavily and wisely in rebuilding these two core strengths, America will be incapable of maintaining its global position long into the 21st century.”

    And you may think this is just the usual warnings of an academic committee, but this is the committee who said this:

    “First, the preeminent objective is “to defend the United States and ensure that it is safe from the dangers of a new era.” The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack. To deter attack against the homeland in the 21st century, the United States requires a new triad of prevention, protection, and response. Failure to prevent mass-casualty attacks against the American homeland will jeopardize not only American lives but U.S. foreign policy writ large. It would undermine support for U.S. international leadership and for many of our personal freedoms, as well. Indeed, the abrupt undermining of U.S. power and prestige is the worst thing that could happen to the structure of global peace in the next quarter century, and nothing is more likely to produce it than devastating attacks on American soil.”

    And they said it BEFORE Sept 11th 2001, and BEFORE the Executive Branch thought such an attack was “unimaginable”.

    – snip –

    “unimaginable”… that word seems recently familiar.

  • Paul Dietz

    Nasa employs close to 60,000 people, many of those are high value skills.

    So let’s boot them out into the private sector where they will work on stuff people will actually voluntarily pay for. Techno-welfare wastes valuable human resources.

  • Dfens

    When I look at all the technological advancements we’ve made in the last 20 years, very few have come about due to government funding. If we have a bright future, it will be because of capitalism not socialism.

    Bright, valuable people can get jobs in the private sector. They don’t need welfare. Employing them at NASA is a double loss for the economy. The first loss is the taxation of revenue to cover their salaries. The second is the rediculous structure of NASA itself that prevents these valuable people from making valuable contributions to society. We pay extra to keep them from contributing. Either fix it or put it down.

  • Employing them at NASA is a double loss for the economy.

    Yes, instead of value added, it’s value subtracted.

  • William Berger

    “When I look at all the technological advancements we’ve made in the last 20 years, very few have come about due to government funding.”

    Yes. For example, we’re discussing this on the Internet, and the government had absolutely nothing to do with developing that at all…

  • DARPA developed the TCP/IP protocol that is the very foundation of the Internet and brought the concept to a working reality within the defence and research communities until it reached a state suitable for commerialization. Histories are all over the net.

  • Dfens

    Well, there’s one. I hope you have more. How about the computer you are using. Was that developed by DARPA too? How about the routers? And can someone please tell me which part Al Gore invented?

  • Paul Dietz, et al, “Techno-welfare wastes valuable human resources.”

    I can’t believe otherwise intelligent people actually spout this ideological crap in public. Maybe you should get your heads out of your technology journals and Republican prayer books and read a bit of history. Neither the airplane, nor the automobile (nor deep-sea shipping nor the rail road nor the Internet nor the computer technology and science that went into the PC . . . ad nauseum) were developed into usable transportation systems by private enterprise. Nor will space transportation. Dream on in your fantasy worlds, and say good by to the Solar System.

    What private enterprise does well is refine and deploy already developed systems to the masses. That it does extremely well. But create whole new industries from scratch? DARPA & Co. do that.

    The genius of the “American system” is not private enterprise, it is the way we have been able to combine government technology development with private refinement and deployment to create a world-beating R&D machine. But, you lot are perfectly prepared to use ideological mythology to kill half the golden goose. Well, good luck getting golden eggs out of half a goose. . . .

    — Donald

  • Oh yes, this stuff is especially ironic when it comes from people who are paid by a government contractor who is paid by the government. Come, on, guys.

    — Donald

  • Dfens

    All insults aside, Donald, all you really have to do is experience the techno-welfare first hand to know how much it really sucks.

  • None of that was really intended to be an insult. More frustration born of people lying about reality to get into power, then supporting the status quo while continuing to lie about it.

    If private enterprise is so great, why do you work for the government? Why not live your philosophy and escape to this wonderful nirvana over the rainbow?

    For that matter, shouldn’t you use your car only cross country and forget about communistic things like highways. Shouldn’t you refuse to fly, especially on any airline that uses, say, a runway or an air traffic controller or the GPS?

    Lots of things suck, but they just might suck a little bit less than some of the alternatives. . . .

    — Donald

  • Dfens

    I have said before that I think the government could have a legitimate roll in space exploration and I still believe that. The problem is, if they don’t fix the way they do things, it’s just not worth it. We’ve gone on for nearly 3 decades now in this technological death spiral and I’m way past frustration. In my own defense, however, I have made some constructive suggestions for how these problems could be fixed. I would much rather see them get fixed than see NASA axed, but at this point, either is fine with me.

    This is just in. I believe I have found the real purpose behind ESAS.

  • Dfens: “”I have said before that I think the government could have a legitimate roll in space exploration and I still believe that.”

    But that’s not what you said. What you said was,

    “When I look at all the technological advancements we’ve made in the last 20 years, very few have come about due to government funding.”

    This is complete nonsense and I strongly suspect that you are honest enough to know it. Did GPS come without government funding?

    Most of the other “advancements” we’ve seen in the last twenty years have not been anything really new, but refinements on the Internet. Better routers, to use an earlier example, are just that, not something fundamentally new. Meanwhile, the wired Internet runs over infrastructure that was originally deployed by a government agency masquerading as a telephone company and the rest goes over airways that are managed by government traffic cops using radar technology originally developed . . . well, I need not go on.

    — Donald

  • Perhaps we might conclude then that it is military pressures that drive the key innovations.

    That was an observation from WWII – Von Karman notes the strange relationship between war and technological advancement in his memoirs. And it was the driving force for Apollo during the Cold War.

    As I have said, I think we should look to the military to support a cutting edge in space technology. They are the people who depend on it at present and need innovation to remain on top in this regard.

    China feels greater military pressures in space technology due to Taiwan and the US. Despite outward appearances they are not sitting still – they are assimilating the knowledge of others like the Borg, and they have the young engineers to employ it better than we can.

    They also have a cultural knack for keeping key technologies secret. Silk was secret for a thousand years, and the British had to go to enormous lengths to find out how tea was made and transplant the production to India.

  • Kevin, I agree re. the Chinese. I’ll repeat my “trick question” regarding the Chinese. Who was the second country on Earth to demonstrate high energy LOX / H2 rockets, surely one of the most technologically difficult chemical combinations?

    (Hint: we were the first, and the second was not Russia, France, or Great Britain.)

    Never underestimate the Chinese.

    — Donald

  • David Davenport

    In 2009, the newly inaugurated President announced a new initiative to explore the Moon and Mars with the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2028, or whenever the International Space Station achieves Core Complete status.

    NASA currently intends to use the savings from phasing out the space shuttle in 2016 to fund this program, which will feature an enlarged Soyuz capsule built under license from the Russian Space Authority to transport six astronauts to the Moon atop a four stage, all Solid Socket Booster launch missile.

  • This offset document is a 26 page document that hits home for a lot of mainstream congressmen, prepared by conservative republicans who understand history and progress as about as well as my dog. I doubt many of these proposals will be adobted.

    Fact: Private space industry for the forseeable future will not be much more than a delivery vehicle for low earth orbit, satelites and maybe iss crew swaps. nothing more…

    fact: This country needs to quickly move to alternative forms of energy, yes that includes nuclear.
    Not building nuclear plants, getting out of fusion reseach and not buiding the super collider where huge mistakes .

    fact: ww II alcelerated scientific growth, iraq and other conflicts will not.

    opinion: Balancing the budget will not do much good if you dont do something about the underling causes, dependence on foriegn oil and the growing trade gap.

    fact: i’m tired of this argument, I am a member of several space advocacy groups, right now I think we will wait and see what congress does, having to replace the shuttle, and the cynical situation of having to depend on russia or china for access to the iss will probably protect most of the funding.

  • David Davenport

    … the British had to go to enormous lengths to find out how tea was made and transplant the production to India.

    From the very first item one finds by Googling “tea cultivation british india”:

    The Origins of Indian Tea

    by Jane Pettigrew

    Long before the commercial production of tea started in India in the late 1830s, the tea plant was growing wild in the jungles of north east Assam. In 1598, a Dutch traveller, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book about his adventures that the Indians ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic and oil and boiled the leaves to make a brew.

    In 1788, the British botanist, Joseph Banks, reported to the British East India Company that the climate in certain British-controlled parts of north east India was ideal for tea growing. However, he seems to have missed the fact that the plant was a native to Bengal and suggested transplanting tea bushes from China. But his idea was ignored.

    In 1823 and 1831, Robert Bruce and his brother Charles, an employee of the East India Company, confirmed that the tea plant was indeed a native of the Assam area and sent seeds and specimen plants to officials at the newly established Botanical Gardens in Calcutta. But again, nothing was done – perhaps because the East India Company had a monopoly on the trading of tea from China and, as they were doing very nicely, probably saw no reason to spend time and money elsewhere.

    But in 1833, everything changed. The company lost its monopoly and suddenly woke up to the fact that India might prove a profitable alternative. A committee was set up, Charles Bruce was given the task of establishing the first nurseries, and the secretary of the committee was sent off to China to collect 80,000 tea seeds. Because they were still not sure that the tea plant really was indigenous to India, committee members insisted on importing the Chinese variety.

    The seeds were planted in the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta and nurtured until they were sturdy enough to travel 1000 miles to the newly prepared tea gardens. Meanwhile, up in Assam, Charles Bruce and the other pioneers were clearing suitable areas of land on which to develop plantations, pruning existing tea trees to encourage new growth, and experimenting with the freshly plucked leaves from the native bushes to manufacture black tea. Bruce had recruited two tea makers from China and, with their help, he steadily learnt the secrets of successful tea production.

    Ironically, the native plants flourished, while the Chinese seedlings struggled to survive in the intense Assam heat and it was eventually decided to make subsequent plantings with seedlings from the native tea bush. The first twelve chests of manufactured tea to be made from indigenous Assam leaf were shipped to London in 1838 and were sold at the London auctions. The East India Company wrote to Assam to say that the teas had been well received by some “houses of character”, and there was a similar response to the next shipment, some buyers declaring it “excellent”. …

    Kevin, the recruitment of “two tea makers from China” — are those the enormous lengths to which you refer?

  • David Davenport

    They also have a cultural knack for keeping key technologies secret. Silk was secret for a thousand years

    “References in the Old Testament indicate that silk was known in biblical times in western Asia, from which it was presumably transplanted to the Greek Islands of the Aegean Sea. One of the first evidence of silk trade is that of an Egyptian mummy of 1070 BC. In the following centuries the silk trade reached as far as Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and North Africa with the help of traders. This trade became so extensive that a major set of trade routes between Europe and Asia was established during the days of the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC.

    The Emperors of China tried to keep the knowledge of sericulture secret from other nations, in order to maintain the Chinese monopoly on its production. This effort at secrecy had mixed success. Sericulture reached Korea around 200 BC with Chinese settlers; by 300 A.D. the practice had been established in India. Although the Roman Empire knew of and traded in silk, the secret was only to reach Europe around A.D. 550, via the Empire of Byzantium.

    The first direct contact between Rome and China only happend in the second century after the Rome Empire defeated Parthia and controlled the Persian Gulf. In AD 166 the first Roman envoy was sent by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, from the Persian Gulf and successfully arrived China.

    Within a couple of decades Chinese silks became a common sight and was widely worn by the rich and noble families of Rome. The Roman Emperor Heliogabalus (AD 218 – 222) for example wore nothing but silk. In the year 380 AD, Marcellinus Ammianus reported, “The use of silk which was once confined to the nobility has now spread to all classes without distinction, even to the lowest.” The demand of silk continued to increase steadily over the centuries. The price of silk was extremely hight in ancient Rome. The best Chinese bark which is a particular kind of silk, costed as much as 300 denarii, that was a Roman soldier’s salary for an entire year!

    In 408 AD when Alaric, a Goth, besieged Rome, his price for sparing the city included 5000 pounds of gold, 3000 pounds of pepper, 30,000 pounds of silver and 4000 tunics of silk. In 552 A.D., the Emperor Justinian sent two monks on a mission to Asia, and they came back to Byzantium with silkworm eggs hidden inside their bamboo walking sticks, this is the earliest known example of industrial espionage. From then on, sericulture spread throughout Asia Minor and Greece.”

  • David, I’m touched by your efforts to educate me by spamming the history of tea and silk onto the Space Politics thread.

    Please don’t do it again – I promise to follow standard hyperlinks, but know that I tend to skip over your longer posts or those with little content of your own, and I suspect everyone else does too.

    Here are the sources for my previous assertions:
    The great brew-haha
    History of Silk

  • Yeah, really. How long can it take to learn the basic hyperlink syntax:

    <a href=””>hyperlink</a>

  • David Davenport

    Yeah, really. How long can it take to learn the basic hyperlink syntax

    I am surrounded by preternaturally clever Chinese people, who are keeping that art inscrutable to me.

  • The more I think about, the more that this “Operation Offset” seems like a circular firing squad for the Republicans. And that they know it and they will never give the order to fire.

    Possibly any method to reduce the deficit right now would lead to too much loss of face for the Republicans. They would have to undo their own work either on the tax side or the spending side. So probably they will make a lot of noise about cutting spending, and maybe go through with a token cut here or there, then in the end they will accept a larger deficit.

  • Paul Dietz

    Greg: but this risks alienating their non-religious base. If the GOPs can’t cut spending now, they never can, and their supposed fiscal discipline is truly dead.

  • Very few people in America directly resent government spending. People resent taxes. People resent spending cuts. Reasoned people on both sides know that chronic deficits are bad, but this is an abstract idea and not usually a direct source of anger.

    Of course people do resent the consequences of deficits: Unemployment, inflation, loss of home equity. But these consequences are long-term, and they can also be masked by an otherwise strong economy. I don’t think that we have reached the breaking point yet. As the Japanese example shows, the breaking point (that returns you to government fiscal restraint) comes much later when you have one-party control.

    But, to return to space policy, when the breaking point does come, NASA might well be cut by half, or even by 75%, just as “Operation Offset” suggests.