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Lampson and the HAT

Nick Lampson speaks at the ISDC

Congressman Nick Lampson (D-TX), whose district includes NASA JSC but is perhaps better known as the person who won Tom DeLay’s former seat, spoke late Friday morning at the International Space Development Conference in Dallas. Lampson’s talk was something of a pep talk, encouraging attendees to lobby Congress for an increased NASA budget (the NSS is already planning such an effort with its “Moon-Mars Blitz” next month; Lampson said he has offered to help the NSS with its effort.) “There has been an unfortunate disconnect between all the rhetoric about the need to undertake a ‘once-in-a-generation change in the nation’s human space transportation system’ and the amount of money actually being budgeted for it,” he said, laying blame with both the White House and the Congress. “Instead, we’re seeing a business-as-usual approach that is not going to deliver the robust and broad-based exploration program laid out in the Vision for Space Exploration.”

He also mentioned a little-known (outside of Capitol Hill) internal lobbying effort in support of NASA called the House Action Team, or HAT. This is a bipartisan group led by Reps. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Bud Cramer (D-AL). “Its purpose is to do much of what your Blitz is intended to do: to lobby other members of Congress, explain to them why it’s important to support space, and to put the money necessary into all of our space activities.” The HAT has about 20-25 members, Lampson said after his speech, and has been around for a few years, although “there is a greater effort to grow it” this year. When I asked him how the membership of the HAT was split between Democrats and Republicans, he said, “You know, I don’t know the answer to that, so that means it must be fairly close.”

He has fairly ambitious goals for increasing NASA’s budget. While the proposed FY08 NASA budget of $17.3 billion falls about $1.3 billion short of the authorized level approved by Congress in 2005, Lampson said he is looking to raise the agency’s budget by $1.5 billion. He said he wasn’t sure he would be able to get the full increase, “but we’re going to fight like heck to get as big a portion of it as we can.” I asked him if he thought if the controversies surrounding the NASA IG and, now, the destroyed recordings, would serve as distractions to those efforts. Lampson didn’t think it was that big an issue. “Everything’s a distraction,” he said.

3 comments to Lampson and the HAT

  • anonymous

    Although Lampson’s comments might suggest otherwise, the NASA HAT is not a new thing. The HAT was organized by one of Tom Delay’s staffers back in the early days of the VSE and the Republican majority. See pages 2-3 of this WIA speech by Griffin, where Griffin gives this staffer an award for her efforts:

    http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:fA7gGFuoz7MJ:www1.nasa.gov/pdf/114279main_mg_wia_050305.pdf+%22House+Action+Team%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us

    Although it is hopeful to hear a NASA Congressman like Lampson actually talk about NASA program funding and internal lobbying efforts, the HAT has lost much of its power and effectiveness since Delay’s departure and the Democratic majority. Unless a Congressman with Delay’s appropriations stature is in the current NASA HAT membership, I suspect that the current NASA HAT will not produce the kind of budget achievements that we saw with the earlier NASA HAT, Delay, and O’Keefe during the early days of the VSE.

    FWIW…

  • anonymous

    Just to put a finer point and some numbers on this point, NASA must achieve a 7 percent increase in the FY 2008 budget currently before Congress to avoid further delaying the initial operability date for Ares I/Orion into 2016 or 2017 (or some other dramatic impact to other NASA programs).

    But in the first year of the VSE, FY 2005, Congress only provided a 4 percent increase to the NASA topline. And that only happened with the personal intervention of a Congressman (Tom Delay) who, luckily for NASA at the time, happened to represent a NASA human space flight field center, and held a House leadership post, and also held a powerful position on the House Appropriations Committee. NASA has no such powerful protector in the Democratic-controlled Congress today.

    Could NASA achieve a 7 percent increase in FY 2008? Possibly. But it’s not probable based on a history.

    FWIW…

  • [...] have affected the budget, he said. But, of course, a lot of it did happen before mid-July. When I talked with Lampson at the ISDC in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend, the scandal du jour centered on NASA’s inspector general, which Lampson shrugged off. [...]

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