Congress, NASA, White House

Nelson: someone is “slow walking” NASA administrator nomination

Sunday’s Florida Today features its own take on NASA’s present situation, including a lack of non-acting administrator, including some choice comments from Sen. Bill Nelson, who has arguably played a major role in this situation. “There is some political center that is slow walking this, and I don’t know what it is, who it is or why,” he claimed. Nelson, of course, is continuing to promote his own favorite choice, former astronaut Charles Bolden. “I don’t know anybody else who is in serious contention,” Nelson said in an associated blog post.

Nelson said he’s asked John Glenn to call the White House “and weigh in on this”, although exactly who Glenn spoke with, and what he said, isn’t known. Nelson added that he saw another former astronaut, Sally Ride, earlier in the week, who told Nelson that “Charlie would be great”. (Interestingly, in the sidebar in today’s article, Florida Today mentions that Ride herself is often “mentioned in space circles” as a potential candidate, although how serious that discussion is, and whether Ride would be interested in the job, isn’t mentioned.) The article does at least mention that Nelson “helped torpedo” two previous candidates, Scott Gration and Steve Isakowitz, but doesn’t follow up on that with Nelson.

While how serious a power vacuum the lack of a permanent administrator really create has been discussed here recently, today’s Florida Today article does indicate that the perception of a lack of leadership, attention, and/or interest by the current administration does exist in Florida. “I think there’s tremendous angst in the work force. We’re hearing it from our members,” said Barney Bishop, head of the Associated Industries of Florida, a state business interest group. The article adds that Bishop is lobbying for a “financial ‘bailout’ of the shuttle”. Good luck with that.

57 comments to Nelson: someone is “slow walking” NASA administrator nomination

  • PlanetX

    Astronauts aren’t necessarily suited to be Administrator. Nelson’s continued arrogance to presume he is the one making the selection (instead of the President) is evidence of that.

    What’s needed is someone competent in effectively managing large organizations, who can manage to a budget and is experienced in Federal budgets/acquisitions, who is very politically savy, who has sufficient technical competence to be able to intelligently call bs with the AA’s positions if needed, and someone who isn’t so insecure that he/she is afraid of delegating authority to the AA’s.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Nelson s doing what he is doing because Obama is letting him. Obama could stop all of that by choosing a NASA administrator to his liking and daring Nelson to find an excuse not to confirm him.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Obama has no need to stop Nelson from venting. Why should he bother? It isn’t about Nelson, and Obama knows it. “Daring” him to do something just lowers Obama to Nelson’s level. Obama will name someone, and Nelson will find some good reason to support that person and declare victory. If Nelson doesn’t do that, he’s just shooting himself in the foot. Obama is in no great rush to do anything with human space exploration. Nelson is. So whyever should Nelson want to set up roadblocks to NASA getting an administrator? For Nelson, right now, it’s all about making his constituents believe that he’s in control. That’s his agenda.

  • common sense

    How about that?

    April 30 is the deadline for Shuttle retirement, pretty much. If there is no Administrator appointed by then, the acting one will most likely have to go with the plan. All the while Sen Nelson beats the drum about extending Shuttle, having Bolden as a candidate, does not understand what is going on. And, the WH and others point the finger to Nelson as the person who is actually blocking nominations. So what happens in the end? Shuttle is terminated on a decision made during the previous WH, everyone blames the system for not having an appointed Admin and nobody takes the blame. That is life, let’s move on.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Lori Garver, the head of Obama’s NASA Transition Team, got her first job out of college with Senator John Glenn’s office. My guess would be that the only reason to have the former Senator call was to make a bee-line to Ms. Garver. And we can guess from Nelson’s quote that it is Ms. Garver who is the gate-keeper on the “slow-walking” of the NASA Admin. nominee.

    No particular group of people are best suited for NASA Administrator save those who have at least some experience in the aerospace field. If you don’t have that background, either in engineering or business, then I think you’d be hard pressed to get a good grasp on the issues in short-order, as is needed at this time.

    As the former Space Industry Coordinator for the McCain campaign in Brevard, it really hurts me to see NASA go through this. To so many here, all I can say is, you’re getting what I warned you about. We are talking after all of a President who started his campaign off by issuing a policy statement in Nov. 2007 saying he would cut Constellation by 65% for 5 years. That adage, be careful what you wish for, comes to mind.

    And frankly, none of the Obamanistas here should be whining one bit.

  • common sense

    @Jim Hillhouse:

    Thanks a lot! Wow! Really helpful. I am so disappointed that you did not win the elections. I am sure that had it been a McCain WH we’d be in so much better a situation. Ares and Orion would suddenly be on track, Shuttle would fly for ever. Ah such a missed opportunity. Thanks again.

  • Joe Smith

    “My guess would be that the only reason to have the former Senator call was to make a bee-line to Ms. Garver.”

    Except that Garver isn’t working for the White House, so Glenn must have talked to someone else. But I’m guessing in any case that Glenn doesn’t have much influence in the White House today, and why should he?

    “No particular group of people are best suited for NASA Administrator save those who have at least some experience in the aerospace field.”

    And then there’s James Webb, widely considered to be one of NASA’s best administrators. He had essentially zero aerospace experience prior to becoming administrator; he was best known as being Truman’s budget director. Yet Apollo would not have succeeded without his expertise.

    Another example, although certainly in not the same league as Webb: Sean O’Keefe.

    “To so many here, all I can say is, you’re getting what I warned you about.”

    And what’s that? The budget increase he proposed for NASA in FY10? His endorsement of the goal proposed by his predecessor to return humans to the Moon by 2020? Scary stuff!

  • David Davenport

    The basic engineering problem is that both Ares and Constellation ain’t gonna work.

    That was obvious to some of us years ago — me, for instance.

    The problem facing our political masters is whether to admit the truth now, or to try to kick the space capsule can down the road for several years.

  • Joe Smith,

    Ms. Garver is the Obama Administration NASA Transition Team chief. So, she is certainly a part of the Obama Administration. Clearly, Lori is talking to the White House and it with her.

    None of us knows the exact nature of Glenn’s conversation or with whom he was talking at the “WH”. I’m taking a guess that Nelson asked Glenn to weigh-in because of his and Lori’s past relationship. Your guess may be better. We’ll all eventually find-out when the Obama Administration does finally name a NASA Administrator.

    Comparing Ms. Garver to James Webb is about as ridiculous as it comes. James Webb was a former Marine and mail pilot, personnel director, secretary-treasurer and later vice president of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, Under Secretary of the Treasury, director of the Bureau of the Budget in the Executive Office of the President, and Under Secretary of State. Got all of that? Even Lori would concede that her background is not nearly that extensive.

    I’m not saying Lori Garver is not a smart, competent, and good person. Whatever differences I’ve had with her, she is all of those things. But Lori’s background, all of our backgrounds, pale in comparison to that of Webb before he became NASA Administrator.

    Quick question to everyone here to hates Mike Griffin. How many of you have actually worked with Griffin and have personal knowledge of “how bad” he was? Or are most here not NASA engineers and never even met Griffin?

  • David,

    I’m an engineer with an trajectory optimization and gnc background and advanced degree from a top-5 school, so I’m surprised that you’d write what you did. Because, whether I like the “Stick” or don’t, this engineer does not see it as fundamentally flawed.

  • common sense,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you on the morning campaign conference calls, what with your in-depth knowledge of what was the evolving budgetary policy within the McCain campaign to handle the quickly changing economy last Fall. And gosh, when I was having my debate with Senior Econ. advisor Holtz-Eakin over policy for Space funding and the impact on the Florida economy, I don’t remember you on the line either. You know…I don’t remember you when I was working the War Room at McCain HQ in Arlington. Nor do I recall running into you when I was deputy to the head of surrogates at the campaign HQ in West Palm Beach during the Florida Primary. So, please, continue to tell me of your depthless knowledge of how the McCain campaign tried to adjust itself to the rolling disaster that was economy during August – October of last Fall.

  • Major Tom

    “No particular group of people are best suited for NASA Administrator save those who have at least some experience in the aerospace field.”

    James Webb saw NASA through most of the Apollo program, was arguably NASA’s best Administrator, and he was a lawyer by training with no space background.

    Sean O’Keefe dealt competently with the Columbia accident, got the Vision for Space Exploration off the ground, and he was a federal bureaucrat with no space background.

    [quote]
    We are talking after all of a President who started his campaign off by issuing a policy statement in Nov. 2007 saying he would cut Constellation by 65% for 5 years.
    [/quote]

    You do realize that NASA received an additional $1 billion in FY09 stimulus funding under Obama, right? And that the President’s FY10 budget blueprint calls for an increase in NASA’s topline that approaches $1 billion above the last Bush II budget for NASA, right?

    It’s fine to criticize, but please get your facts straight first.

    “As the former Space Industry Coordinator for the McCain campaign in Brevard”

    You were listed in IT support, not as the “Space Industry Coordinator”. And when several participants on this forum asked you to clarify campaign positions, you couldn’t.

    FWIW…

  • Jim,

    To follow through with Joe’s comments, the appointment of Dan Goldin can hardly be considered a sterling success.

    As for this

    As the former Space Industry Coordinator for the McCain campaign in Brevard, it really hurts me to see NASA go through this. To so many here, all I can say is, you’re getting what I warned you about. We are talking after all of a President who started his campaign off by issuing a policy statement in Nov. 2007 saying he would cut Constellation by 65% for 5 years. That adage, be careful what you wish for, comes to mind.

    And frankly, none of the Obamanistas here should be whining one bit.

    First, I’d be damned surprised if McCain would’ve moved faster on naming a NASA admin – lets be fair, Bush didn’t name a replacement admin until almost the end of his first year, and its not like Bush was in a worse situation than when Obama entered the office.
    Second, Obama may not have started out great on space, but his final proposal was damn good. No doubt you consider it nothing more than pretty speaking, but I don’t. I can’t speak for you, but I’d rather have a President who can reconsider his position when presented with new evidence. And both the stimulus package, and the Budget haven’t been too bad to NASA.
    Third, many of the names that had been under consideration were quite respectable. Its a shame that Nelson is stonewalling, but I can’t imagine McCain would’ve had much more success.

    Finally, as for “Obamanista’s whining” – Most of the Obama supporters I know are willing to trust him. The “whining” (your term not mine) is coming from those who opposed Obama.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Ferris, my surmise is that at least McCain would not have given Griffin the boot before he had a replacement lined up and might even have asked him to stay on. Obaa should chose a new administrator soon if he wants the “sense of drift” that he used to complain about to stop.

    But it has to be someone other than Lor Garver, who is not suited in any way for the job.

  • Mark – retaining Griffin would have been a mistake. Griffin’s actions made him rather unretainable.

    As for combating drift, maybe if he got some help from the party of no on big issues, he might be able to focus on smaller things.

    Besides which, if history is to be used as a basis, then why should we trust that Obama’s designate will get a fair hearing from the Senate – the delays of confirmation make life rather difficult for any number of agencies (Sebilus being the most recent example)

  • David Davenport

    Mr. Hillhouse:

    A top-5 school, huh? I bow down to your authority, just as our Handsome Prince did for the King of S.A.

    Griffin’s credentials look good on paper, much better than those of, say, Burt Rutan. Four or is it five Master’s degrees, in addition to a doctorate. Look what those credentials got us. Oops, I suppose U. MD isn’t a top-5 school.

    Here’s a closer approximation to the lunar orbital spacecraft we need:

    CEV Lockheed

    Other Designations: Crew Exploration Vehicle. Class: Manned. Type: Spacecraft. Destination: Moon. Nation: USA. Agency: NASA. Manufacturer: Lockheed.

    The Crew Exploration Vehicle first proposed by Lockheed was a lifting body with a total mass of 18 metric tons and a crew of four. This design was rejected by NASA, and the final concept was a steep-sloped ballistic capsule.

    Lockheed’s preferred CEV design consisted of three modules – a service module, crew module, and mission module. The favored crew module on which the most design work was dedicated was a lifting-reentry vehicle. However in the final design a steep-sloped ballistic capsule crew module was included at NASA’s insistence.

    http://www.astronautix.com/craft/cevkheed.htm

    LM must employ designers with subpar academic backgrounds, or else they would have gotten with the Retro-Apollo On Steroids program … so nostalgic.

  • Of course all of this would be a mute point if we had a national space policy board to oversee and guide space policy, manage NASA’s budget, work with Congress. Congress could enact legislation allowing the board to “hire” a NASA administrator rather than have it as a political appointment. Then the NASA administrator could be more focused on NASA’s technical program and day to day management.

  • I also want to add that a national space policy board could minimize the impact of the change in presidentail administrations every four to eight years.

  • I also want to add that a national space policy board could minimize the impact of the change in presidentail administrations every four to eight years.

    And to whom would that board be accountable?

    I’m always amused by people who imagine that a federal space program can somehow be divorced from politics.

  • TANSTAAFL

    HILLHOUSE: Ms. Garver is the Obama Administration NASA Transition Team chief. So, she is certainly a part of the Obama Administration.

    Mr. Hillhouse,

    The transition teams, all of them, officially ended the day that President Obama took the oath of office. She is not part of the Obama administration.

    The people calling the shots now on NASA-related policy have official jobs at the White House. They have names like Holdren and Kalil. They report to the President.

    Now, I don’t know if anybody is slow-rolling the next NASA Administrator, but if somebody is, it almost certainly somebody who works in the White House. To assert that Lori can slow-roll the WH personnel process, without working in the WH, is to ascribe stupendous powers of influence to her.

    Next time you preen around the square telling us all how smart you are, you might at least back it up by demonstrating that you understand how the U.S. government is structured and organized.

    FWIW,

    - TANSTAAFL

  • Yes, Alan Ladwig and George Whitesides have NASA jobs now, but Lori remains an independent consultant, as far as I know.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “As for combating drift, maybe if he got some help from the party of no on big issues, he might be able to focus on smaller things. ”

    Ferris, the rle of an opposition party is to oppose, something the Dems did with great gusto when they were out of power. It is hardly my fault if the President is not fullfilling his campaign promise by being bi partisan. Besides, my understanding is that one of the stumbling blocks is Senator Bill Nelson who, last I checked, was of the President’s party.

    “Besides which, if history is to be used as a basis, then why should we trust that Obama’s designate will get a fair hearing from the Senate – the delays of confirmation make life rather difficult for any number of agencies (Sebilus being the most recent example)”

    Again, the Senate is of the same party as the President. It might be very helpful if the President were to name someone who is not ethically challenged (i.e. has not paid taxes.)

  • Jim Muncy

    Mr. Hillhouse,

    As the surrogate for the McCain Campaign at the Space Policy Debate at the AIAA 2008 national conference in San Diego, I have to say I’m really glad you are not involved in national space policymaking, other than as a whining participant on these blogs.

    Senator McCain would not be giving NASA more money than President Obama. He would not have been less likely to rebalance NASA’s budget towards Earth Science. And he would not have waved a magic wand to somehow reverse the last four years of waste and misdirection foisted on us in the name of Safe, Simple, and Soon.

    The problem with Ares 1 (and the rest of ESAS) is not that it “won’t work”, but that it was unafforable and unsustainable, violating President George W. Bush’s policy mandate in laying out the Vision.

    America could have elected whoever was Mark Whittington’s dream candidate in 2008 and NASA would still have been slipping schedule and cutting content on Constellation this year. And as a fiscal conservative almost numb from the Obama-Congressional torrent of red ink, I still have a real problem with Viceroy Hanley and his minions declaring they’ll just cancel the software that will allow Orion to operate untended in lunar orbit, thus cutting the person hours on the moon by 25%, since someone will have to stay in orbit.

    Obama has the potential of being good for space simply because he won’t continue to enable the dysfunction we have witnessed for decades. And you should hope that first and foremost he will select someone who has and can articulate a vision more powerful than Apollo on Steroids.

    – Jim

  • common sense

    @ Jim Hillhouse:

    Wow I am more and more impressed by your political quality. You don’t have to remember me. Just remember that I vote too. that’ll be enough. Obviously, you indepth knowledge of the economy and space got us all in a great place. Blablahblah… You want to recruit peeople to your cause you are going to have to do better than that. Advanced degree from top-5 school. Wow. Impressed here too.

    Again, what is your experience in aerospace beside politics (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jdhouse4)?

  • Mark,
    at somepoint, you have to sit down, and govern. And that means siting down, and horsetrading, and compromising, something I have seen NO evidence that this group of Congressional Republicans are prepared to do, thanks to the “compromise is another word for date rape” mentality. As to your arguement that the Dems opposed with great gusto – they still were willing to try and work towards a compromise on issues, any number of times. I don’t believe there is a single case where there were no Democratic reps voting for a bill, espcially after the president negotiated with them.

    Finally, the point I was trying to make, with regards to being able to focus on smaller things, is that maybe if they had been able to move faster on things like the stimulus package, he might have more time to deal with selecting a NASA administrator, and find someone who is capable and acceptable to the required people.

    Secondly, I don’t believe you are so stupid as to imply that it is the Democrats in the Senate who are holding up (or have held up) various nominations, or that you need a substantial number of Senators to hold a nomination. Case in point – Tammy Duckworth. Senator Richard Burr blocked Duckworth’s nomination, for what reason he never gave. Another example of this Hilda Solis, or Dawn Johnsen. Its not Democratic Senators who are blocking the nomination.

  • common sense

    @ Mark R. Whittington:

    >>> Ferris, the rle of an opposition party is to oppose

    I can’t even believe what I read. Very helpful. So go ahead. Oppose. I am sure the opposition party will be remembered for its help in these days of chaos. They had a plan: OPPOSE!

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg:

    >>> but Lori remains an independent consultant, as far as I know

    Not sure what you mean here.

    Are you suggesting that an “independent” WH consultant calls the shots as to the next NASA Admin?

    Is this any usual? Was it the way it was done in the previous WH?

  • Are you suggesting that an “independent” WH consultant calls the shots as to the next NASA Admin?

    No. I am not aware that she is “calling the shots as to the next NASA Admin.” And I didn’t say that she was currently a WH consultant (though she may well be). My point is that she is not currently a member of the administration.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Ferris

    ” And that means siting down, and horsetrading, and compromising, something I have seen NO evidence that this group of Congressional Republicans are prepared to do, thanks to the “compromise is another word for date rape” mentality.”

    Actually, they have. Every idea regarding the stimulus was shot down by Obama. Compromise does not mean “agree with me or else”, especially when accompaied with chest thumping about “I won! I won!”

    “As to your arguement that the Dems opposed with great gusto – they still were willing to try and work towards a compromise on issues, any number of times.”

    You’re kidding, right? Again compromise, properly understood, does not mean “agree with me or else!”

    Blaming the Republicans for Obama’s inability to choosea NASA administrator does not even pass the laugh test. The Republicans are in the minority. They can sto nothing. But it seems that Obama’s supporters are whining about their guy’s inability to perform by shifting blame. Gone are Democrats like Harry Truman who could say “the buck stops here.”

    Jim – You don’t know who my “dream candidate” is. However, let me observe that you’re demonstrating what is really wrong with space activism. Inherent in any space vehicle project are unexpected delays and costs. That holds true for Constellation. That has held true for some of our favorite private ventures, such as SpaceX’s Falcon. It’s the failure to recognize this that has transformed space activists into something of a joke.

    One cannot politic ones way out of Constellations problems. Every apprach would have its own set of problems. Beating chests and screaming that the current approach is “unsustainable” (whatever that means) is not going to change that.

    There are only three ways to fix Constellation. More money. More time. Or less capability. Stopping and going with another, politically correct approach will just add devlopment time, likely add cost, and possibly subtract capability.

  • common sense

    @ Mark R. Whittington:

    >>> There are only three ways to fix Constellation. More money.
    >>> More time. Or less capability.

    So much for imagination.

  • There are only three ways to fix Constellation. More money. More time. Or less capability.

    You forgot the fourth. A more affordable and less technically flawed concept.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “You forgot the fourth. A more affordable and less technically flawed concept.”

    When one that fits both critieria is actually presented, I’ll comment on it.

  • common sense

    @Mark R. Whittington:

    YOU said there are ONLY three ways. You may want to add then three ways that YOU know.

    The current Constellation architecture IS/WAS the politically correct approach of its time. You may want to look deeper into the reason for the current architecture. LMT, ATK, MSFC, JSC in particular are a good start. And the report on EELVs vs. Ares from the Aerospace Corp. that I do not think has a specifically liberal agenda…

    When the blue ribbon panels will be done with their reviews (if it happens) we/you may have a new perspective.

  • Nemo

    I still have a real problem with Viceroy Hanley and his minions declaring they’ll just cancel the software that will allow Orion to operate untended in lunar orbit, thus cutting the person hours on the moon by 25%, since someone will have to stay in orbit.

    I’d have a problem with it too, if that was what they are doing. They are not cancelling the software; they are deferring it from Block I (LEO, where it is not needed) to Block II (LLO, where it is needed). That will prevent software development from becoming the “long pole” for Block I delivery.

  • Major Tom

    “Inherent in any space vehicle project are unexpected delays and costs.”

    It’s simply not true that every space development project experiences overruns. Apollo was estimated at $23 billion in then-year dollars (I forget the year), and its total costs fell somewhere between $20 and $25 billion in 1969 dollars, depending on what’s included. And Apollo obviously met President Kennedy’s end-of-the-decade deadline.

    Someone may correct me, but I recall that Mercury and Gemini were similarly on or very near (within 10%) of their projected costs.

    And there’s dozens of examples of on-time and on-schedule projects in the unmanned world, past and present.

    “That holds true for Constellation.”

    The problem isn’t that Constellation is experiencing cost and schedule growth. Depending on the accounting, even Apollo may have overrun by a couple billion in then-year dollars (or ~10%).

    Rather, it’s the magnitude of Constellation cost and schedule growth that’s at issue. A $57 billion program can’t grow to $92 billion (which is how much NASA’s own estimates for Constellation through first lunar landing have grown) or $110 billion (CBO’s estimate). That’s cost growth of $35 to $53 billion or 61-93%. Before preliminary design review. Same goes for the schedule, which is slipping at a rate of about one year for every year that passes.

    Neither is sustainable. There’s just not enough money in NASA’s budget to support a doubling of costs in its largest development program. And with year-for-year schedule slips, NASA will never have a domestic civil system for supporting ISS or get back to the Moon.

    “That has held true for some of our favorite private ventures, such as SpaceX’s Falcon.”

    So far, Space X hasn’t asked NASA or the taxpayer for additional funding to get Falcon 9 flying. And NASA has yet to fund COTS-D.

    “‘unsustainable’ (whatever that means)”

    See discussion of Constellation cost and schedule growth above.

    “Stopping and going with another, politically correct approach”

    Many would argue that the Ares launchers are the definition of a politically driven solution to maximize the number of Shuttle jobs that are retained after its retirement.

    “will just add devlopment time, likely add cost, and possibly subtract capability.”

    Not according to the Aerospace Corp. study on Delta IV and Atlas V capabilities and mods for launching Orion. Those vehicles deliver at least a year earlier than Ares I and for a fraction of the development cost.

    “When one that fits both critieria is actually presented, I’ll comment on it.”

    See Aerospace study above.

    FWIW…

  • Speaking of how high a priority space is for the administration, there was no mention of NASA in the president’s speech on R&D to the NAS today. FWIW…

  • Eric Sterner

    @Ferris

    Ok…have to jump in a little here on the shot at Congressional Republicans, having done time as a Congressional Republicans when both Dems and Republicans were in the WH.

    Obama talks about bipartisanship, but he doesn’t walk the walk. His first big opportunity was the stimulus package. Republicans actually had some ideas. McConnell, for instance, talked about eliminating the regressive FICA tax for 1-2 years, which would immediately put money in people’s hands instead of spending money over the next 2-4 years. Obama didn’t even talk to him. Instead, he abdicated his role as President and handed the whole thing over to Pelosi to write w/o GOP input and then whined when the Republicans voted against it despite having had them over for a superbowl party. By bipartisanship, he apparently means Republicans should toss out their principles and do as he asks because he’s such a cool guy. Sorry.

    Next, he decided to rewrite the entire health care system and energy policy on a budget reconciliation bill, which is supposed to be about dollars, not policy, and isn’t subject to normal Senate rules that protect the minority’s rights. So, in one fell swoop, he’s again telling Republicans to pound sand on two initiatives that promise to change our entire economy for generations to come. Worse, he’ll do it without even a modicum of debate to consider alternatives. Republicans again have offered ideas about combating global warming (nukes) and health care reform (portability through individual accounts as opposed to employer-sponsored programs). But, nothing from the administration or Dems in Congress.

    Finally, he’s decided that he’s going to go AWOL on the issue of the treatment of detainees, dumping the whole issue of retroactive investigations and prosecutions on his Attorney General, who has already expressed an interest in doing both. In short, the administration is headed down the path of criminalizing serious policy disagreements. Of course, he’ll draw the line at prosecuting Clintonistas who started the overseas renditions program when…oh, lookee here…Eric Holder was in the Administration’s Justice Department!

    I agree that Republicans can’t just be the party of “no.” I also think we must not be the party in which the answer to every question is a tax cut. That’s childish. But, it takes two to tango. Bipartisanship means giving up some power and compromising. Neither Boehner or McConnell wants to be in the WH. Neither strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to spend the next 4-8 years sitting on the sidelines in sputtering opposition. They’d both enhance the influence and power of their caucuses by working with a Democratic admninstration to get something done, but the President–and his party in Congress–need to be serious about it.

    Or, they can choose to do what they’re doing, which is to ram through their agenda on party-line votes and face the voters alone when the consequences make themselves known.

    That said, personally, I haven’t given up on Obama yet. I don’t have any hard evidence to support it, but would like to believe that most of his rhetoric about bipartisanship is real. Hopefully, he’ll grow into the role as President, take the country’s reigns back from the hard left of his party, and govern closer to the middle. I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

    As for anyone blocking the nomination of a NASA Administrator…. Um, first you have to nominate a NASA Administrator. Frankly, I doubt anyone in the Senate will approach that nominee as a partisan issue. I suspect it’ll get approached as a parochial issue, and that Dems and Republicans will be equally likely to block it for any number of related and unrelated reasons.

  • Major Tom

    “Speaking of how high a priority space is for the administration, there was no mention of NASA in the president’s speech on R&D to the NAS today.”

    Actually, NASA gets multiple retrospective references throughout the speech. They’re just all retrospective.

    It’s interesting to note that the accompanying White House fact sheet promises $43 billion more for S&T from 2009-2016, $10 billion less than CBO’s estimate of cost growth on Constellation through first lunar landing.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Speaking of how high a priority space is for the administration, there was no mention of NASA in the president’s speech on R&D to the NAS today.”

    Another thought… Through the FY09 stimulus bill and the FY10 budget blueprint, the Obama White House has provided an additional $2 billion to NASA. In return, the Constellation program has handed the new White House a bill for an additional $35 billion. Until this cost growth is under control, it will be very hard the Obama Administration to back new initiatives, especially in human space flight, at the agency. (And they may not happen even then — witness the Clinton Administration expressly ruling out in policy any human space flight activities beyond LEO until after ISS was complete after inheriting a space station program with no hardware and no cost ceiling in sight.)

    FWIW…

  • Well, in addition to the retrospective, there was a suggestion that they get more money for earth observations. Big whoop.

    I guess that we should be grateful that it wasn’t proposed to put them to work on renewable energy.

    Through the FY09 stimulus bill and the FY10 budget blueprint, the Obama White House has provided an additional $2 billion to NASA. In return, the Constellation program has handed the new White House a bill for an additional $35 billion. Until this cost growth is under control, it will be very hard the Obama Administration to back new initiatives, especially in human space flight, at the agency.

    I agree, except that now NASA is (at least in theory) the Obama administration. If the White House wants to fix this, it needs to come up with a new administrator and a new plan.

  • Eric, I agree that, for all his lofty rhetoric, Obama has been anything but bipartisan. Of course, unlike McCain, he had zero record of reaching across the aisle prior to becoming president, so no one should be surprised that this is just one more broken campaign promise.

  • Jim Muncy,

    As a Space surrogate for the McCain campaign, I would have thought you would have stayed in touch with the campaign subsequent to your one appearance and would have known the work that was being done to bring the economic and space policy folks together. Because, had you, you would have known that what you wrote above is incorrect.

    During the 3 months in Florida for the campaign on the Space issue, I was fortunate to work with some great people and to see policy affected in a positive way. To whit.

    Enclosed is an article reporting on the campaign’s final stance on NASA funding. The campaign released this because so many in Florida’s Space community, as well as many in this forum, wanted an explicit statement from the candidate about whether NASA would be exempt from the candidate’s proposed budget freeze. In the end, not only would McCain exempt NASA, but he’d put all of the $2B into cutting the IOC date for Orion/Ares I while leaving the door open for additional funds to extend Shuttle, which the Senator felt was in our national security to do. The Shuttle extension issue was commented by me on several occasions. I posted several linked comments on the Shuttle extension funds issue.

    Yes, the campaign was not strong on life sciences. But then, NASA’s primary role is aeronautics and space, not life sciences. I’m a manned guy, not a robots guy…imagine my discomfort at JPL, so that stance was fine by me.

    It should be mentioned that while the Senator was a big supporter of a strong NASA, it was his economics policy folks who were concerned about the federal budget not exploding. That led to what can only be called a vigorous debate within the campaign until the Senator put his foot down. I guess what one old pro told me, that policy people have cost more elections than they have won, is true.


    McCain: NASA would survive the budget axe

    posted by Mark Matthews on Oct 31, 2008 11:20:35 AM

    WASHINGTON — John McCain said this week that he would exclude NASA from his across-the-board freeze on government spending that he has proposed — the first time that the Republican presidential nominee has singled out the space agency to be spared.

    The statement could put to rest longstanding — and conflicting — stances by the Arizona senator, who has called for both the freeze and increased support for NASA, which gets roughly $17 billion annually in the federal budget. He has promised to boost NASA funding by $2 billion.

    “I will freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans care, NASA, Social Security and health care until we scrub every single government program and get rid of the ones that aren’t working for the American people,” McCain said Wednesday in Miami.

    Space policy could be a tipping factor in Florida, where thousands of workers at Kennedy Space Center are likely to lose their jobs once the space shuttle is retired, now planned for 2010.

    The $2 billion increase in funding proposed by McCain — and echoed by Democratic nominee Barack Obama — is targeted at closing the flight gap between the shuttle’s retirement and the first mission of its successor, now under development and slated for a first mission in 2015.

    I’m not sure that transition teams automatically terminate on Inauguration Day. I rather think the teams can stay in-place for as long as the President needs.

    Got motivated to finally[sic] update my linkedin account. I hope that answers questions about my aerospace technical background? I moved from aerospace because frankly, the pay was better as a programmer.

    OK, must get back to work. Gotta figure out how to make sure the UIPicker *planetPicked ends up being the planet used in the orbit since ISS orbiting the Moon leads to very interesting results.

  • Couldn’t help it. If is Eric Sterner, ADA-P&P…oh, man, I am so tempted to ask you a lot of questions. But I won’t. Keep up the good work. And good luck.

  • @ Rand

    And to whom would that board be accountable?

    I’m always amused by people who imagine that a federal space program can somehow be divorced from politics./em>

    Did I day that I thought a national space board would divorce NASA from politics? No, I specifically said that a board would be more adept at dealing with Congress and politics than simply having a NASA administrator who has little influence. A board would also minimize the impact in the change in politics enabling NASA to follow a singular comprehensive space policy instead of one that changes every several years wasting billions of dollars with nothing to show for it. We have been stuck in LEO for the last 40 years dammit! Time to get a move on!

  • I messed up my HTML tags on my last post so I apologize for that.

    @ Eric Sterner

    Last I checked, Obama was President of the United States, not the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader. Since when is it his responsibility to compromise with Congressional Republicans in getting legislation passed?

  • common sense

    @Eric Sterner:

    I have to say that you leave me quite perplexed. On the one hand I read posts from someone who tries to be constructive with great insight into NASA, and, on the other hand I seem to read the basic (and I mean basic) Republican party line like your tirade on bipartisanship/healthcare/etc… As if it were the current WH’s action that led us here. I hope you were as much questioning the former WH on all those very issues you cite. Anyway.

    I do like and appreciate your views on NASA and Space but for the rest I am not so sure. In any case I’d rather read your comments than some other’s and hope that you will keep posting.

    But my expectation still is that we get going on something really constructive, from both camps!

  • I have to say that you leave me quite perplexed. On the one hand I read posts from someone who tries to be constructive with great insight into NASA, and, on the other hand I seem to read the basic (and I mean basic) Republican party line like your tirade on bipartisanship/healthcare/etc…

    Maybe because the “basic Republican Party line” on “bipartisanship” is correct?

    Just a thought…

    Since when is it his responsibility to compromise with Congressional Republicans in getting legislation passed?

    No one has claimed that it has. The only claim that is that when he ignores compromise with them, his claim to be “bipartisan” is hilarious, not to mention hypocritical, and in complete opposition to his campaign lies, which many fell for, and seem to continue to….

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg:

    Look we can go on and on and on. How about we, as a community, try and ignore basic politics for a little while? How about we look into what is wrong in what we are doing and try to fix it. Just before we, as a community, try to fix the world and call names. If the people posting here are truly, and I mean truly, commited to and worried about the direction the Space program is going and yet cannot help their political beliefs on everything else get in the way then we are not SERIOUS about it. There will always be politics. BUT exploring Space is based on science, physics and engineering, first and foremost. If and when we get politics in the way is when we abdicate to whomever rules at one given time. If I compare the two strategies for VSE I think O’Keefe had the best approach. A longer term approach but one that does not put you in a hole if you have a problem (i.e. spiral development). Yes it was complicated but Space is complicated. So Space requires complicated and sophisticated thinking.

  • How about we, as a community, try and ignore basic politics for a little while?

    OK, you first.

    Because this sounds like someone losing an argument…

    BUT exploring Space is based on science, physics and engineering, first and foremost.

    Nonsense. It is not about “exploring Space” at all, but on national goals with respect to space, which don’t seem to be agreed upon.

  • Eric,

    Thats not how I see things. Borrowing some from commentor Common Sense, I do enjoy your comments about space, and find them enlightening. As for the Republican party, the stimulus, and other such details – not so much, and I do dispute them

    That said, I do feel we have strayed too far off the beaten path, in terms of the point of this blog. Therefore, if you would prefer, I’d be more than happy to discuss it via email.

    I will add one thing – the idea that the hard left has the reigns of this country, and Obama needs to take them back from them is laughable. Many of Obama’s proposals are very center. The real issue is that what has been portrayed as the “center” is actually quite conservative, and people are finally beginning to realize that.

  • red

    “There are only three ways to fix Constellation. More money. More time. Or less capability.”

    Constellation started with too much money and time, and in some senses too little capability (eg: considering per-mission costs and resulting small number of missions). We can’t allow it to continue to be a bottomless pit for money and time. Here are some other ideas:

    1. Cancellation

    2. Less money. Less time. More capability.

    Given the alternative of (1) above, and freedom to innovate, I’d be surprised if these fixes (or perhaps 1 or 2 of them) wouldn’t work.

    3. Commercial participation in the architecture, and corresponding commercial motivation and “skin in the game”

    4. International participation – This can be done in a variety of ways … some productive, some not so productive.

    5. Fund COTS-D for commercial ISS crew transportation and rescue, allowing Constellation to concentrate beyond LEO.

    Here are some fixes that might not make the numerous Constellation schedule, management, and technical problems any easier, but that might give it more political support so that it can survive in spite of them:

    1. Find credible, affordable uses for components of the Constellation architecture beyond the Moon and beyond missions and competing with U.S. industry for ISS transport business. Examples might include Ares 1/Orion satellite servicing or Ares V launch of non-NASA government payloads. (If you can’t find such credible, affordable uses … that should tell you that something really basic is wrong with the program).

    2. Change the architecture to include inherently useful components (eg: propellant depots, more economical launchers).

    3. Make the lunar effort more attractive through more regular lunar robotic science and engineering missions, ISRU R&D, etc.

    If none of those look promising … did I mention cancellation?

  • Major Tom

    “Jim Muncy,

    As a Space surrogate for the McCain campaign, I would have thought you would have stayed in touch with the campaign subsequent to your one appearance and would have known the work that was being done to bring the economic and space policy folks together. Because, had you, you would have known that what you wrote above is incorrect.”

    Mr. Muncy was correct. He wrote:

    “Senator McCain would not be giving NASA more money than President Obama.”

    The Orlando Sentinel blog entry you quoted claimed:

    “He [McCain] has promised to boost NASA funding by $2 billion.”

    Through the FY09 stimulus bill and the FY10 budget blueprint, the Obama White House has provided or plans to boost NASA’s funding by $2 billion.

    So Mr. Muncy is correct — Senator McCain would not be giving NASA more than the $2 billion provided by President Obama.

    Please, in the future, try to comprehend what the other poster has written before you post. It’s a waste of everyone else’s time when you don’t. And if you’re incapable of basic reading comprehension, then please take it elsewhere.

    “Yes, the campaign was not strong on life sciences. But then, NASA’s primary role is aeronautics and space, not life sciences.”

    There’s nothing in Mr. Muncy’s post or the Sentinel post about NASA life sciences research.

    “I’m a manned guy, not a robots guy…imagine my discomfort at JPL, so that stance was fine by me.”

    There’s nothing in Mr. Muncy’s post or the Sentinel post about the human versus robotic space exploration debate.

    “Gotta figure out how to make sure the UIPicker *planetPicked ends up being the planet used in the orbit since ISS orbiting the Moon leads to very interesting results.”

    Are you off your meds?

    Lawdy…

  • Major Tom

    “Well, in addition to the retrospective, there was a suggestion that they get more money for earth observations. Big whoop.”

    For space cadets like us, I agree. But regardless of where one comes down on the climate change debate, Earth observation research is arguably a a higher priority than anything else NASA does. Before making enormous changes in our energy economy, we should know whether global warming is human-induced and reversible. And if you think we already know that, then better monitoring is going to be needed to contain the plethora of scenarios, understand regional impacts, and devise the best responses.

    “I guess that we should be grateful that it wasn’t proposed to put them to work on renewable energy.”

    Earth observation research has been part of NASA’s charter for more than a decade longer than NOAA. It’s appropriate.

    “I agree, except that now NASA is (at least in theory) the Obama administration. If the White House wants to fix this, it needs to come up with a new administrator and a new plan.”

    Agreed. But again, like the Clinton White House, given the performance (or lack thereof) in NASA’s human space flight programs, the response may be that NASA has too much on its plate, is incapable of managing another large human space flight program, and needs to forgo exploration beyond LEO for the time being.

    Given Obama’s campaign and budget blueprint commitments to a human lunar return and Obama’s apparent personal interest, I don’t think so. But the news out of Constellation has become so bad so quickly since Griffin left that it wouldn’t surprise me, either.

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    @Rand Simberg:

    Losing what argument? What are you taking about? You have a very special way of “thinking” it looks to me. So hey keep it up.

    Exploring Space is done via science, engineering and physics, not wishful thinking. But if you do not even understand that then there is not much we can do, at least together. That much I am confident.

    As to the national goals I am sure you are an authority on them so I’d like to know what national goals are being addressed by say Constellation.

  • red

    Rand: “Well, in addition to the retrospective, there was a suggestion that they get more money for earth observations. Big whoop.”

    Major Tom: “For space cadets like us, I agree. But regardless of where one comes down on the climate change debate, Earth observation research is arguably a a higher priority than anything else NASA does.”

    Given Obama’s space policy document, stimulus package actions, general priorities, electoral implications of locations often involved in such work, abd cutback during the previous Administration, it’s pretty predictable that Obama will propose increases in Earth observation. I’d expect these increases to be substantial. The NAS recommended something like 17 new Earth observation missions over the next decade, almost all for NASA. Compare that to the CBO projection of total NASA robotic science missions in 2010-2025, half again as long for a lot more NASA science areas, dropping to 44 if Constellation is to be kept on schedule. They might also want to add an OCO replacement and DSCVR.

    These traditional Earth observation missions are useful not just for climate change research, but for all sorts of other Earth and (through comparison) planetary sciences. They also tend to be useful for commercial applications on Earth (i.e. use of the data for agriculture, fishing, transportation, and on and on, as well as commercial processing of the data). They often provide good transitions to moving the satellite capabilities to NOAA or commercial space. Plus, they’re helpful to the general satellite and launch industries.

    However, we should encourage the expected increased NASA Earth observation funding to do more than the traditional type of NASA missions. There are great commercial space opportunities with Earth observations in a number of areas: small satellites and their launchers, satellite servicing, commercial suborbital RLVs, hosted payloads, data purchases, etc. It may take some work, though, to make the case that some of the funding should be used with these innovative approaches.

    Beyond Earth observation, and based on similar reasons, I’d also be surprised if Obama’s budget proposal doesn’t include big increases in Aeronautics and Education. These areas also provide lots of opportunities if the space community can make a good pitch for them (eg: smallsats and commercial suborbital RLV use, Aeronautics work in areas of use to RLVs, etc).

    I also think there’s a good chance of other beneficial areas being proposed in the budget. For example, Obama’s space policy “Closing the Gap” section says “Using the Private Sector: Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.” Since this is in the “Closing the Gap” section, I take it as something like COTS-D. There are other useful proposals in that document, and I don’t see any reason why they’d be dropped.

    At any rate, it sounds like we won’t have to wait too long to see how the budget proposal looks.

  • [...] we wait for the Obama administration to name the next NASA chief (sound of millions of fingertips drumming impatiently on desktops), we might do well to recall that we’ve been here before. Piers Bizony points out in The Man [...]

  • [...] “There is some political center that is slow walking this, and I don’t know what it is, who it is or why.” -Sen. Bill Nelson,  as reported by Florida Today (via SpacePolitics.com) [...]

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