Congress, NASA

House doesn’t add to NASA stimulus

The House passed Wednesday evening HR 1, the stimulus bill, with $600 million for NASA for Earth sciences, aeronautics, and hurricane repair work. As the Houston Chronicle notes, the bill does not include the additional $2 billion to reduce the Shuttle-Constellation act that had been sought by freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL). Indeed, it’s hard to figure out what happened to that proposal: Kosmas announced Tuesday that she was offering the amendment, but the amendment does not show up on the list of amendments that were debated on the House floor on Wednesday prior to the vote. In any case, it’s up to the Senate, whose version of the stimulus bill is a little more generous to NASA, to give NASA, and in particular spaceflight programs, additional funding—and hope it survives the eventual House-Senate conference to reconcile the two bills.

Update: A reader pointed me to a statement in yesterday’s Congressional Record by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) where he expresses his “deep disappointment at a missed opportunity” in the stimulus bill, namely, adding funding to reduce the gap. At the end of the statement he notes that Kosmas’s amendment was rejected by the Rules Committee, for reasons unspecified.

Elsewhere in the statement, Hall says, “It makes me sick that we are bailing out failed banks and corporations while ignoring the support of a successful Space Station and space program—a program that could defend our nation from space and provide a cure for our most deadly diseases.” [emphasis added] Unfortunately, Hall doesn’t elaborate on how the ISS or other NASA spacecraft can protect the US from attacks by, say, China, Iran, or the Klingon homeworld.

16 comments to House doesn’t add to NASA stimulus

  • Al Fansome

    FOUST: Kosmas announced Tuesday that she was offering the amendment, but the amendment does not show up on the list of amendments that were debated on the House floor on Wednesday prior to the vote.

    Incoming freshmen know how to do press releases. Filing an amendment to a bill is a little harder. I am guessing that the rules established by the rules committee were pretty restrictive.

    But she probably did not expect to produce a result. Being “seen” fighting for the people in the district is what this was all about. This is pretty typical for the congressional representative of KSC.

    - Al

  • richardb

    819 Billion today and not a penny for Nasa? 50 million out of nearly 1 trillion dollars is all Nasa can get, about 5.0 × 10-11(10 to the -11 power) is their share? That snub has nothing to do with House rules. This unprecedented extravaganza was a drunken Christmas party for Democrats in Congress and their favored causes but NASA just wasn’t invited by a single committee chairman, subcommittee chairman, or senior Democrat in the House leadership.

    If NASA can’t get 1/1000 out of 819 Billion boondoogle then people who have a vision of NASA leading in exploration outside LEO need a new vision prescription.

  • Major Tom

    “819 Billion today and not a penny for Nasa? 50 million out of nearly 1 trillion dollars is all Nasa can get, about 5.0 × 10-11(10 to the -11 power) is their share?”

    NASA received $600 million, not $50 million.

    “If NASA can’t get 1/1000 out of 819 Billion boondoogle then people who have a vision of NASA leading in exploration outside LEO need a new vision prescription.”

    As much as the space cadet in me wishes otherwise, that (or any other pet issue) not the purpose of a stimulus bill. (Or at least it shouldn’t be…)

    FWIW…

  • BillF

    “As much as the space cadet in me wishes otherwise, that (or any other pet issue) not the purpose of a stimulus bill. (Or at least it shouldn’t be…)”

    What the House passed was,essentially, the “Democrat Constituencies Payoff Act” not any real stimulus bill in any substantive sense. I think what the lack of any appreciable money for NASA in the bill says that it that civil space programs do not rank very high on the Democrat party agenda.

  • richardb

    I read 50 million but I’ll accept 600 million. I’m cheered. Its still a very small fraction, 0.0007 is about right, not the 10-11. If it was a stimulus, why not sprinkle some amongst the high tech crowd, you know the people that worked their butts off in school to get a math or science BS? Then off to graduate school for more.
    Instead STD programs got a few hundred million; community organizing outfits got billions; health, education and welfare programs got hundreds of billions of dollars.
    This is the Democratic parties funding of its wish list yet NASA, that actually produces things that stun the world gets nothing.

  • Al Fansome

    RICHARDB: If it was a stimulus, why not sprinkle some amongst the high tech crowd, you know the people that worked their butts off in school to get a math or science BS? Then off to graduate school for more.

    Richard,

    I have previously posted about this subject in the following thread.
    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2009/01/14/jobs-and-stimuli/

    There is a decent bit of funding for high-tech investments in the stimulus bill.

    From my earlier post:

    “NIH receives $4.6 Billion.

    National Telecommunications & Information Administration receives $3.8 Billion.

    NSF receives $2.5 Billion.

    NOAA receives $1 Billion.

    NASA receives $600 million.

    NIST receives $500 million.”

    You can easily conclude from this that NASA is not that important to the House of Representatives. More accurately, you could conclude that — the current NASA set of plans and strategies — is not seen as that important or valuable by the House of Representatives.

    Now, if you are a rocket scientist, or the average member of some space group, this might be a surprise. But if you are an experienced space policy or political professional, this is old news.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • Doug Lassiter

    I wouldn’t interpret it quite that way. Investments in NIH and NSF are largely not for technology. They are for basic research. In fact, if technology development were the goal, investment in NASA would perhaps be maximally appropriate. NIH and NSF money will largely go to academia, while NASA money would largely go to aerospace contractors. The point about the money not being sprinkled amongst the high tech crowd is largely accurate, though it is far from obvious that such sprinkling would be the correct strategy.

    All money would be well spent on what one might call workforce development, though in somewhat different career stages.

    But as you say, one can easily conclude that NASA is not particularly important to the House as a route for economic stimulus, at least in what it does right now.

  • richardb

    “More accurately, you could conclude that — the current NASA set of plans and strategies — is not seen as that important or valuable by the House of Representatives.”

    I agree and disagree.

    As I read all of this, House Democrats have been frustrated with Clinton and both George Bush’s over spending priorities. Now that Obama is there, they have a green light to spend our money on their conscience. NASA doesn’t rate.

    Where I disagree is your implication that things like the Ares I and IV, ISS, Mars, etc aren’t that important to the House. Well, the House is rewriting American domestic policy, they could change what NASA is doing and put the money to make it happen. Its simple, the House and Obama evidently couldn’t care two hoots and a hollar over the idea of NASA.

  • red

    Al: “More accurately, you could conclude that — the current NASA set of plans and strategies — is not seen as that important or valuable by the House of Representatives.”

    Al is right, and this has been apparent for quite a while. Here’s a Space Politics post from last April that shows where space for space’s sake ranks in some polls:

    http://www.spacepolitics.com/2008/04/18/another-reminder-of-the-importance-or-lack-thereof-of-space/

    From one of the polls:

    “If you had to choose from the following categories, what do you believe should be the highest priority, in terms of investing money and resources, in order to achieve a meaningful technological advancement in the next 10 years?

    Fuel efficiency and alternative fuels 37%
    Medical 30%
    Environment 14%
    Security and defense 10%
    Transportation 3%
    Space exploration 3%
    Telecommunications and media 2%
    Don’t know/not sure 1%”

    So, 81% went for energy, health/medicine, and environment, and 3% went for space.

    In the House version of the stimulus package, what do we see a lot of? Energy, health/medicine, environment, and a scattering of the others – but not much space. Of the NASA funding, a huge chunk is going toward Earth monitoring satellites and fuel-efficient planes – more energy and environment with a space hue. There’s not a lot of space for space’s sake.

    This is why some of us have been pushing for NASA to redirect more of its efforts towards directly or at least indirectly solving national problems in a commercial-space friendly way. Voters tend to want tax money (when it isn’t going to money-shuffling like Social Security) to go to things like energy, health/medicine, environment, security and defense, transportation, education, and the economy – i.e. solving what they see as national problems. They don’t see space for its own sake as a national problem.

    The VSE was supposed to be directed at national problems like security, the national economy, and science (which might translate indirectly to recognized problems like environment and energy), but NASA seems to have chosen a path to implement the center of the VSE that has nothing to do with these goals – and certainly it isn’t obvious to most voters or Congresspeople how NASA’s implementation of the VSE is to those sorts of goals.

    I’d suggest that if NASA can’t orient itself more towards those types of “solving national problems” efforts, and make demonstratable progress toward helping to solve those national problems, it will continue to suffer in the budget process. However, there’s no reason why NASA couldn’t pick one or more of those goals and make solid contributions there, while at the same time contributing to what most of us here recognize as crucial space goals such as expanding commercial space, deploying useful space infrastructure, and lowering space access costs. I threw out some ideas along those lines here:

    spaceprizes.blogspot.com/2008/08/and-now-for-something-completely.html

  • Kevin Parkin

    “if NASA can’t orient itself more towards those types of “solving national problems” efforts, and make demonstratable progress toward helping to solve those national problems, it will continue to suffer in the budget process”

    Once again, the object of NASA is to further aeronautics and space, not to maximize the size of its budget. Each agency supports a certain culture that supports the unique aspects of its mission. This is true of the armed services also.

    By mixing incompatible missions, you just get a dog’s breakfast type coping agency that gives the appearance of doing everything while achieving nothing. Energy and the environment deserve better.

  • Karl

    It makes me sick that all my life all I have heard from people is how expensive NASA is. Then to see everyone fall all over each other to give out billions to banks, auto industry, etc. and barely a penny for NASA? Increadible. I think a couple of billion to help NASA in this time of change only seems prudent given all that NASA has on it’s plate.

  • Charles in Houston

    :-) on since this thread is getting way too clogged with details

    And have we forgotten about those Zeta Reticulans? They still pose an imminent threat of invasion! Them and their allies, the Zeta Articulans! Those ZAs are even worse!
    Hmmmm. If they did infiltrate, we might be able to find them by looking for their acronym being used. Can anyone think of any ZA group at NASA??? That just could be Zeta Articulans infiltrating NASA to fend off our Space Station Automatic Mass Shooter (AMS) defense weapon.

    :-) off

  • John Malkin

    I had doubt that the stimulus package would have address long term NASA needs since plans are currently on hold until a new NASA administrator is appointed and/or the administration can determine a course forward. So for now it’s the status quo. NASA is important as shown by the partisan stimulus package but it’s not in crisis. I would expect to hear something around the time of the STS-119 launch if the stimulus is passed by than.

  • Jim Muncy

    Folks,

    Stop whining that NASA didn’t get much money, and ask yourself what is missing from NASA that caused this result. Hint: notice what part of NASA did get money.

    NASA has always been funded to some extent based on the priorities of the Administration in power. Earth science funding increased dramatically under Clinton/Gore. Human spaceflight & Exploration went up with the new Vision under Bush 43.

    You can complain that NASA deserves money because it doesn’t have enough. Or you can reinvent NASA so it gets money.

    It’s called democracy, folks. Deal with it.

  • richardb

    JIm Muncy is correct, elections have consequences. Obama has shown that Nasa has nothing to do with “stimulating” the American economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Birth control does, STD’s does; window treatments to lower energy usage does; rolling back welfare reform from the Clinton era does, but not NASA, it doesn’t contribute to economic recovery.

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