Congress

Another appropriations reorganization?

Remember all the hubbub two years ago when Republicans led by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay revamped the various appropriations subcommittees? As part of that reorganization NASA went from being part of the VA-HUD-independent agencies subcommittee to part of the Science, State, Justice, and Commerce subcommittee. (DeLay’s desire to put NASA in a more favorable legislative environment, where it would no longer have to vie with veterans’ programs and low-income housing, was said to be a major reason for the reorganization.)

Now that Democrats have control of the House, they may be making organizational changes of their own. In an article in the Wheeling Intelligencer, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who is in line to become chairman of the Science, State, Justice, and Commerce subcommittee, said the subcommittee “could likely” be broken down into smaller subcommittees. (“Could likely” doesn’t sound that definite.) One subcommittee would handle NASA and other independent agencies. Mollohan is apparently interested in such a subcommittee chairmanship, but could also be assigned to those that oversee VA and HUD; he said he will have to “wait and see” where he’ll serve.

1 comment to Another appropriations reorganization?

  • joeblow

    With regard to the Senate appropriations cut to NASA prizes, I for one am putting my pen where my mouth is and using a little of my Thanksgiving vacation to mail a letter (see bottom) to Senator Mikulski (the incoming chair of NASA’s appropriations subcommittee). I also plan to fax the letter and put in a follow-up call to her office. Here’s the contact info:

    The Honorable Senator Barbara Mikulski
    Suite #503
    Hart Senate Office Building
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510
    tel (202) 224-8858
    fax (202) 224-4654

    I plan to do the same with Paul Carliner, who appears to be Democratic clerk on NASA’s appropriations subcommittee holding up Centennial Challenges funding. He presumably answers to Mikulski. His contact information is:

    Mr. Paul Carliner, Clerk
    Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee
    S-146A Capitol Bldg.
    Washington, DC 20510
    tel: (202) 224-7277
    fax: (202) 224-2698

    I encourage anyone who cares to do the same, especially anyone in Maryland (I’m not) or in states with Senators or Representatives on NASA’s appropriations subcommittees. You can find them, their contact information, their staff, and their staff’s contact information here:

    House — http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/committees.tt?commid=happr9&pcommid=happr

    Senate — http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/committees.tt?commid=sappr2&pcommid=sappr

    The letter below emphasizes the next prize competition taking place in Maryland (Mikulski’s state). Feel free to copy it, but you may want to modify if you’re mailing to a different Congressman or staffer.

    Here’s the letter I’m sending:

    === begin letter ===

    November [XX], 2006

    The Honorable Senator Barbara Mikulski
    Suite #503
    Hart Senate Office Building
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator Mikulski:

    I am writing to increase funding for the NASA Centennial Challenges Program in the FY 2007 budget. I am an aerospace industry professional [or other relevant background] and a citizen of [Your State].

    This spring, a Maryland organization (Volanz Spaceflight Inc./Spaceflight America) will conduct a prize competition for breakthrough astronaut glove technology. The NASA Centennial Challenges Program sponsors the prize for this competition and that program is in jeopardy.

    Centennial Challenges is NASA’s pilot program of prize competitions, a new and critically important tool to stimulate innovation in our civil space program and in the aerospace sector at large. In less than two years, this remarkable program has:

    – Induced a small, private company to develop and fly a new rocket-powered vehicle with vertical take-off/landing and fast re-flight capabilities that are applicable to NASA’s future lunar landers and the emerging sub-orbital space flight industry. This vehicle was built for a very small fraction of comparable military efforts ($200 thousand versus $58 million) and with the company’s own dollars.

    – Encouraged dozens of university and company teams to develop and demonstrate high-density wireless power transmission systems and high strength-to-weight materials. These are key technologies for making NASA’s lunar return sustainable and aerospace vehicles more efficient.

    – Partnered with six external organizations to manage these and other future prize competitions at no cost to the taxpayer. Prizes pay only for demonstrated success and are a proven tool for innovation with a history going back centuries. Centennial Challenges is perhaps the most efficient program at NASA and has great potential for the aerospace sector.

    The FY 2007 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill (S. 109-280) terminates funding for the NASA Centennial Challenges Program for the second year in a row. I respectfully request that funding be restored and increased to $20 million during the House-Senate Conference markup.

    Plans and studies for future prize competitions, as detailed in NASA’s FY 2007 budget request, are exciting and highly relevant to NASA’s mission. Please ensure that this important pilot program receives the support it deserves.

    Thank you for your attention and consideration.

    Very sincerely,

    [Your Name]
    [Your Address]

    === end letter ===

    On a final note, the $58 million Pixel comparison is to the stated build costs of the DC-X, which one can find here:

    http://media.armadilloaerospace.com/DCX/

    It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s the most relevant one. And $58 million is actually an underestimate as it does not include site or operations costs.

    Here’s hoping that prizes at NASA survive Congress…