Campaign '08, Congress

Frank talk about a NASA budget increase

While both major presidential candidates have promised to increase NASA’s budgets, those promises are just that. It will be up to the next Congress to pass budgets that incorporate—or not—that additional funding, and at least one key House member is expressing his opposition not just for additional NASA funding, but for current spending levels. In an October 26 debate, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) said he would seek to cut back spending in a number of areas, including human spaceflight, according to a report by PolitickerMA.com:

Reducing the amount of money spent on sending humans into space would be another priority, Frank said. “Space exploration is very important and has great scientific and practical results, but sending human beings to Mars and back will cost hundreds of billions of dollars for very little scientific worth.”

Frank is already infamous in the space community for pushing for measures that would prohibit spending money on human Mars exploration. The language in the debate suggests that he might take more aggressive measures in the next Congress to slash NASA funding, particularly for programs like Constellation.

18 comments to Frank talk about a NASA budget increase

  • MarkWhittington

    So much for more money for NASA under the Democrats.

  • anonymous.space

    “So much for more money for NASA under the Democrats.”

    Huh? Based on what? Frank doesn’t sit on the relevant appropriation or authorization committees/subcommittees and is targeting a non-existent humans-to-Mars program. Since when does the windmill-charging of one member of a party from a position of weakness outweigh the parochial interests of better-positioned members of the same party (i.e., Sen. Mikulski, Sen. Nelson, Rep. Schiff, Sen. Feinstein, Rep. Lampson, etc.) in NASA?

    We shouldn’t generalize and slander entire political parties based on one member. It’s lazy, misleading, and just plain weird.

    FWIW…

  • MarkWhittington

    Anonymous Space, I suppose according to your analysis that the Pelosi House will actually appropriate the extra two billion dollars for NASA any day now. Not only that, it will remove the Barney Frank Mars restriction.

    These things may happen. I will not hold my breath.

  • anonymous.space

    “Anonymous Space, I suppose according to your analysis that the Pelosi House will actually appropriate the extra two billion dollars for NASA any day now.”

    What does Pelosi have to do with this? You were arguing Frank.

    The fact remains that there are multiple democrats, some very powerful, in both the House and Senate that represent NASA field centers and who also chair (Mikulski, Nelson) or sit on (Feinstein, Lampson, Schiff, etc.) NASA’s appropriations and authorization committees. They will have a much greater interest in, and will have a much more direct influence on, NASA’s budget levels than Frank or Pelosi, neither of which has a parochial interest in NASA and neither of which writes the relevant bills.

    “Not only that, it will remove the Barney Frank Mars restriction.”

    Which doesn’t amount to much given that there’s no humans-to-Mars program (and not much of a human lunar program) at NASA. Frank is tilting a windmills.

    “These things may happen. I will not hold my breath.”

    If we’re going to hold our breath over Obama and McCain’s promises to increase NASA’s budget by $2 billion, we should do so because of the overall federal budget environment. With the annual federal deficit approaching a trillion dollars, there will be unprecedented pressure to constrain spending when either candidate takes office and regardless of which party controls Congress. Despite all the promises made on both sides in Florida, the country as a whole is unlikely to stomach those kinds of increases for NASA, given other priorities in such a severe budget environment.

    And since both candidates have made various promises about additional Shuttle flights, which would eat up most, if not all, of the $2 billion budget increase, the point for any space advocate other than a Shuttle proponent is probably moot anyway.

    FWIW…

  • MarkWhittington

    Here’s a sobering analysis of Barack Obama’s promises. He does not have the money to fullfill them:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/29/eveningnews/realitycheck/main4557520.shtml

    When Obama has to pick and choose, I suspect that his space promises, made only because of Florida, will be the first to go.

  • anonymous.space

    “Here’s a sobering analysis of Barack Obama’s promises. He does not have the money to fullfill them:”

    The same holds true for McCain’s fiscal plan. Actually, McCain’s plan would add more than a trillion dollars more to the national debt versus Obama’s plan ($4.5 versus $3.3 trillion). See (add http://www.):

    researchrecap.com/index.php/2008/06/16/mccain-obama-tax-plans-both-would-add-to-national-debt/

    “When Obama has to pick and choose, I suspect that his space promises, made only because of Florida, will be the first to go.”

    McCain also made those promises in Florida, and his fiscal plan puts him under even worse pressures. The $2 billion NASA increase is just as likely to go unfulfilled regardless of who wins the election.

    And again, with both candidates promising to buy more Shuttle flights with that increase, it doesn’t matter much to making any actual progress in the civil space program anyway.

    FWIW…

  • Jack Burton

    And there you have a small preview of what is to come from an Obama admin. We should thank Frank for being so, well frank.

    Obama only flipped flopped on space after he won the primarys and needs Florida.

    A child could see it.

  • anonymous.space

    “And there you have a small preview of what is to come from an Obama admin. We should thank Frank for being so, well frank.”

    This statement is goofy. Frank is a congressman, not a campaign staffer. Frank does not represent the Obama campaign, and assuming Obama wins, Frank will not be working in the Obama Administration.

    “Obama only flipped flopped on space after he won the primarys and needs Florida.”

    If we’re going to throw around lazy arguments like “flip-flop”, then McCain is just as guilty as Obama when it comes to NASA. McCain is actually on the record in the Senate as being opposed to the VSE just a few years ago. For example, see (add http://):

    edition.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/28/space.senate.ap/index.html

    and

    .globalsecurity.org/space/library/congress/2004_h/040128-mccain.htm

    “A child could see it.”

    Only a child would argue that the statement of one, unaffiliated congressman represents the position of an entire Presidential campaign. Or throw around accusations like “flip-flop” that encourage lazy, simplistic thinking in our campaigns and candidates.

    Ugh…

  • Charles in Houston

    Speaking as a confirmed Moderate, who voted for John McCain – we do have to admit that both parties are deep in the “Promise Them Lots Of Free Stuff” part of the campaign. Both candidates “must” promise all sorts of stuff this late in the campaign.

    And anonymous has a good point that Rep Frank may get some enjoyment out of forbidding the US to spend money on a manned Mars mission – he could easily add the other planets to the restriction as well. We don’t have a program so the restriction doesn’t affect us. And we won’t have a program for several years at the best.

    Hopefully we can restrict most of our comments on this site to reasonable discourse.

    Regardless of who gets elected – we have begun a program that is predicated on increasing budgets, but we have a static budget at best. And now everyone is promising to not lay off employees – while giving them a lot less to do. We are going to maintain the work force while reducing the flight rate.

    I do feel that John McCain has been far more honest to us – that is how he has been in decades of public service.

  • anonymous.space

    “Regardless of who gets elected – we have begun a program that is predicated on increasing budgets, but we have a static budget at best. And now everyone is promising to not lay off employees – while giving them a lot less to do. We are going to maintain the work force while reducing the flight rate.”

    Given the overall federal budget picture, I agree and think this will prove to be a pretty accurate assessment of what NASA is facing after the election, regardless of who wins. In fact, I’d argue that a declining NASA budget is somewhat more likely than a static one over the first term of the next Presidency.

    The magnitude of the nation’s economic and budget problems are historic and will force a lot of campaign promises to fall by the wayside. In the absence of some external event that raises NASA’s priority, it’s hard to see NASA’s budget, especially human space flight, competing well against other priorities in that environment. We don’t need to resort to accusations of dishonesty and flip-flopping to make this argument — the situation is going to force it on either candidate.

    “I do feel that John McCain has been far more honest to us – that is how he has been in decades of public service.”

    Absolutely nothing wrong — and a lot right — with that. If McCain loses, I for one will find it a bittersweet coda to a political career that was more principled than most in Washington for the vast majority of its tenure.

    FWIW…

  • red

    anonymous.space: “The magnitude of the nation’s economic and budget problems are historic and will force a lot of campaign promises to fall by the wayside. In the absence of some external event that raises NASA’s priority, it’s hard to see NASA’s budget, especially human space flight, competing well against other priorities in that environment.”

    It’s too bad that NASA’s centerpiece plan for its future doesn’t better emphasize issues that would stand up a lot better in that environment, like the economy (encouraging new innovative space businesses and infrastructure, using space to help businesses on Earth), national security (encouraging new, more economical commercial launchers and satellites and suborbital vehicles, or making better use of existing national security launchers and satellite vendors), energy/environment (launchers, satellites, and suborbital vehicles again), education (student participation in suborbital or smallsat projects, university participation), or health (medical and pharmaceutical research on ISS and commercial stations).

    Building 2 big government rockets for 15 years just doesn’t stack up.

  • Anonymous: Pelosi, neither of which has a parochial interest in NASA

    While I agree with your wider argument, Pelosi does or should have a parochial interest in NASA. While she does not represent them directly, NASA Ames, Lockheed Martin’s military satellite factory, and Space Systems Loral are all based in the immediate region around San Francisco and are important contributors to the local economy. Likewise, numerous smaller companies, often in the Earth observation business, are based here, as is Globalstar. Pelosi may be expected to hear from her region if she overtly opposes NASA, especially research of the type that NASA Ames does.

    – Donald

  • anonymous.space

    “While she does not represent them directly, NASA Ames, Lockheed Martin’s military satellite factory, and Space Systems Loral are all based in the immediate region around San Francisco.”

    Good point — an oversight on my part. Thanks for correcting.

    FWIW…

  • Excellent post and I would like to add the following. It is no surprise that NASA has been having problems receiving the funding that it truly needs. The problem with NASA is that it has been dragging it’s feet for to long. Year after year, and decade after decade, of low earth orbit would make any common American citizen bored of what NASA is doing. If the American citizen gets bored with NASA, then Congress may get bored with NASA. That means less funding. No bucks, no Buck Rogers. The only really exciting science related stuff has come from the unmanned Mars robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been enormously successful, and relatively cheap. The problem is only scientists and technical people get excited about Spirit and Opportunity. If NASA wants to gain the backing of the American people, they need to speed up the process of human exploration of space. Back in the Apollo days, we went to the moon within a 9 year period. Today, it can take 9 years just to get a NASA program approved by Congress. At the rate that NASA is going, private enterprise will pass it in terms of getting humans back into space exploration. And if not private enterprise, then China will gladly take the role of a global leader in space exploration. For news about aviation and space visit Aviation News – For the Aviation and Space Enthusiast.

  • [...] accident and some now infamous cost overruns, some people in the general public called for a cutback in manned flight. Others even advocate for the government to redirect money spent by NASA on more “down to [...]

  • [...] with deficits that high, $3 billion is lost in the noise. The article also plays up comments by Congressman Barney Frank last fall that opposed human spaceflight, noting that “Frank’s comments are particularly interesting given the integral role [...]

  • Jim Hillhouse

    As we can now see with the President’s budget, NASA got none of the promised $2 billion to close the Shuttle – Orion gap that candidate Obama promised in August 2008.

    Nor did President Obama wait until the Shuttle extension study to decide to terminate the Shuttle in 2010, though candidate Obama promised to wait on whether to extend the Shuttle based on that eval. Unless I’m missed this (I haven’t), the Shuttle extension eval has not been finished.

    What NASA did get was a modest increase in its budget. And 0.127% of the Stimulus Bill, of which 0.05% was for Constellation and a firm decision to kill the Shuttle program before we even know how much it will cost to keep it going until Orion flies. And now thousands of skilled aerospace workers will be laid-off by the President who “gets it”, raising unemployment and loosing an important skill-set and experience base. Meantime, get ready to write checks to the Russians for five very long years.

    This is spectacular! Bravo to all of you who worked to see President Obama in the White House. Great job.

    Anonymouspace, it doesn’t matter than Rep. Frank is/isn’t on the committees that affect NASA’s budget directly; he is one of the most powerful members of the House and if you think his views don’t weigh heavily on the Speaker and her minions, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  • [...] Frank, given his past opposition to some aspects of space exploration, notably human spaceflight, such as in this debate last October. To think that with more resources NASA might be better able to answer Frank’s [...]

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