Congress

Appropriations committee assignments

Yesterday’s announcement of subcommittee assignments for the House Science and Technology Committee and Senate Commerce Committee is a reminder to look at the status of the key appropriations subcommittees. For the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, its membership is as follows:

Democrats:
Chair: Alan B. Mollohan (WV)
Patrick J. Kennedy (RI)
Chaka Fattah (PA)
C.A “Dutch” Ruppersberger (MD)
Adam Schiff (CA)
Michael Honda (CA)
Rosa L. DeLauro (CT)
David E. Price (NC)

Republicans:
Ranking Member: Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (NJ)
John Abney Culberson (TX)
Harold Rogers (KY)
Tom Latham (IA)
Robert B. Aderholt (AL)

Mollohan, who was the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee in the last Congress, has supported NASA in the past. Culberson, who is from the Houston area, has also been an outspoken advocate for NASA and the VSE. Schiff’s Southern California district, meanwhile, includes JPL.

The equivalent subcommittee on the Senate side (Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee; the web site has not been updated to reflect the 110th Congress) has these members:

Democrats:
Barbara Mikulski (Chairman) (MD)
Daniel Inouye (HI)
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Herb Kohl (WI)
Tom Harkin (IA)
Byron Dorgan (ND)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Jack Reed (RI)
Frank Lautenberg (NJ)

Republicans:
Richard Shelby (Ranking) (AL)
Judd Gregg (NH)
Ted Stevens (AK)
Pete Domenici (NM)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
Sam Brownback (KS)
Lamar Alexander (TN)

As with some other committees, the chair and ranking member have simply exchanged positions from the previous Congress because of the change in party control.

3 comments to Appropriations committee assignments

  • anonymous

    I sure hope the staff on these new committees pay attention to what’s happening with Ares I performance and Orion’s mass. See presentation at:

    http://images.spaceref.com/news/2007/2007.01.25.esmd.pdf

    Ares I is still underpowered to the tune of 10,000 lbs. If Orion can’t shrink by that amount, Ares I will have no mass margin to accommodate the weight growth that naturally occurs during development. And 10,000 lbs. is almost 20 percent of Orion’s total mass — that’s a huge (read unlikely) mass reduction.

    On top of that, insiders indicate that Orion is getting slightly heavier, not a lot lighter. They also indicate that Ares I is using a few-second burn from its launch abort system just to deliver its current, inadequate performance to orbit. Of course, the launch abort system is only intended to be used in an emergency — not a good sign.

    And all this before the system requirements review for the Stick’s J2-X upper stage, which could (is likely to?) also get heavier.

    Again, I sincerely hope that the staffers on these new committees get their heads up and start exercising some strong oversight on Ares I and Orion. Setting budget and other rumored technical issues aside and just based on mass alone, the Ares I train appears to be headed for a huge derailment.

  • Anon2

    ANON said: Again, I sincerely hope that the staffers on these new committees get their heads up and start exercising some strong oversight on Ares I and Orion. Setting budget and other rumored technical issues aside and just based on mass alone, the Ares I train appears to be headed for a huge derailment.

    Anon,

    Please do not count on congressional staffers to conduct effective oversight of NASA on technical issues. Even if the committee staff are engineers, they don’t have the time or resources to really track this well, or to really challenge NASA on this issue.

    NASA has thousands of engineers, who can produce a wonderful dog & pony show on how everything is going fine, thus obscuring the real issues, and getting the camel’s nose further into the tent. Since these engineers have a huge economic incentive to hide the truth (e.g., their jobs & careers would be eliminated if the truth gets out) we can count on them to do everything they can to do so.

    Congress will conduct its influence via setting budget priorities. Watch what happens.

    In this respect, NASA has a $500M budget problem. Since the President stated a “pay as you go” strategy, you would think that the $500M would come out of the Constellation systems budget. That is the logical conclusion of this strategy. However, Griffin is sending clear signals that he wants to change that strategy to a “everything else in NASA will pay for the Ares 1 & Orion to go” strategy.

    We will see very soon if the White House lets Griffin do this. I think the OMB might decide to throw its weight around on budget priorities.

    - Anon2

  • anonymous

    “Even if the committee staff are engineers, they don’t have the time or resources to really track this well, or to really challenge NASA on this issue.”

    Well, personal staffs aside, committee staffers should have a relevant technical background. I could understand if the appopriations staff don’t have the resources, but the authorization staff should have plenty of time to delve into a handful of key technical details. Challenging NASA would admittedly be up to the actual Congressmen. But if our committee staff lack the relevant technical backgrounds and if the authorization staff have not established and are tracking a handful of key technical benchmarks on a few key NASA programs, then Congress and the public are not being served well. Their job is agency oversight; they need to do it. Although Horowitz has finally denied the worst rumors about Ares performance and Orion mass, he still admitted to a discrepency of a few thousand pounds, which should be alarming to committee staff for a program this early in design and development.

    “NASA has thousands of engineers, who can produce a wonderful dog & pony show on how everything is going fine, thus obscuring the real issues, and getting the camel’s nose further into the tent. Since these engineers have a huge economic incentive to hide the truth (e.g., their jobs & careers would be eliminated if the truth gets out) we can count on them to do everything they can to do so.”

    That may all be true to a certain extent. But with even a few aerospace engineering courses under your belt, it’s not that hard to establish a few key criteria that need to be tracked on most development projects, and couple more that will be specific and especially important to that particular project. How hard can it be to ask NASA to report Ares I and Orion performance, mass, and margins to ISS orbit based on a standard format at every week, month, and/or design iteration?

    “Congress will conduct its influence via setting budget priorities. Watch what happens.”

    Obviously — agreed. I would just hope that budget-setting would be informed by solid oversight.

    “In this respect, NASA has a $500M budget problem. Since the President stated a “pay as you go” strategy, you would think that the $500M would come out of the Constellation systems budget. That is the logical conclusion of this strategy. However, Griffin is sending clear signals that he wants to change that strategy to a “everything else in NASA will pay for the Ares 1 & Orion to go” strategy.

    We will see very soon if the White House lets Griffin do this. I think the OMB might decide to throw its weight around on budget priorities.”

    Whether it’s OMB, OSTP (probably not since Marburger handpicked Griffin), or another office, I hope that the White House wakes up soon. I’m no EELV hugger, but I’m still amazed that they didn’t force Griffin to put Orion onto EELVs just from the perspective of national interests. (Someone should have forced NASA to revisit ESAS with an independent study, at a minimum.) The fact that Constellation can’t stay on track after minor budget hiccups without major cuts to science and aeronautics speaks volumes about the sustainability (or lack thereof) of the ESAS plan over multiple Congresses and White Houses. With everything else at NASA flat or declining, I don’t see how the White House can let Griffin go to the science and aeronautics well again and expect support for Constellation to be maintained.

    Thanks for the comments, Anon2.

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