Congress, NASA, White House

Please, sir, we’d like some more stimulus

Yesterday most of the Texas Congressional delegation—both senators and 26 of its 32 representatives—sent a letter to President Obama asking him to direct additional stimulus funding to NASA. Specifically, the letter requested that the White House request a redirection of $3 billion in stimulus funding from unspecified programs to NASA to provide initial basis for the additional funding the Augustine committee identified as necessary for NASA.

One reason they asked for the redirection of stimulus funding is that it’s late in the FY2010 budget cycle, so therefore it would presumably be easier to get the additional money that way than through the conventional appropriations approach (the full Senate is expected to take up the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which includes NASA, this week.) A second argument is that, as Congressman Pete Olson notes in the release accompanying the letter, “only 15% of the $787 billion in ARRA funds have been spent”. That statistic is a little misleading, since only about $581 billion of the $787 billion is actually stimulus spending (the rest are tax cuts); of that $581 billion, $107 billion (over 18%) has been spent and an additional $144 billion is “in progress” of being spent, according to ProPublica. That leaves $330 billion left to spend: still a lot.

A second issue is that this provides a short-term solution only: the Augustine committee identified a need for an increase of at least $3 billion a year, not a one-time stimulus. The Texas legislators’ letter to the president recognizes this, noting the need for “the projection of at least that level of increase, as recommended by your Committee, at a 2.4% rate of inflation in the out-year projections included in the initial FY2010 Request.” However, Congressional appropriators have been reticient to provide even a fraction of that level of increase to NASA in the past, and it seems unlikely future Congresses will be as spendthrift as the current one. Getting $3 billion in stimulus money only defers the problem; it does not solve the agency’s budget issues.

Of tangential interest: the ProPublica data shows that NASA has been one of the laggard agencies in spending what stimulus money it did receive: only $27 million of the $1 billion it received has been spent, although nearly $400 million more is in “progress”. Only four agencies—the EPA, the Departments of Energy and the Treasury, and the NSF—have spent a smaller fraction of their stimulus funds to date.

37 comments to Please, sir, we’d like some more stimulus

  • I imagine there’s no disagreement on this, but although it’s entirely true that it’s just kicking the rock down the road, it would still certainly be nice to have those additional funds.

    Aremis

  • Robert Oler

    this is what is known as “A futile gesture”…it wont do anything but it has to be made to save the most important jobs that the elected officials are worried about…theirs.

    Robert G. Oler

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Robert has seen through this transparent attempt at money grabbing!

    The folks signing this appeal are far more interested in the next election than in space exploration. And they may hope to trap the Administration into taking money away from one constituency to give to another.

    Certainly we should redirect the “stimulus” funding but most of it should be returned to the lenders and NEVER spent. And instead of just giving NASA a big shot of money (that they would actually have a hard time spending – their procurement people are very busy, contracts would have to be modified, projects would have to have new engineers, etc etc) we should more gradually ramp up a more reliable funding profile.

    One of the huge problems with a shot of money like this is that you cannot hire people to spend it – in case the money is not consistently provided! And the organization is sized for it’s budget – it is terribly inefficient to suddenly increase or decrease the size of the budget (and workforce). We need reliable, gradual changes.

  • Jeff,
    Of course we all know that the reason for the lagging stimulus spending at NASA is mostly due to the Senator who thinks NASA == Northern Alabama Space Administration…

    ~Jon

  • Robert Oler

    There are three things funny about all those advocating “stimulus” funds for NASA…

    First off is the blatant hypocrisy. Pete Olsen for instance has done nothing but rail (in his mailers and such) against the entire concept of the stim bill. Now of course he is like Horace the pig bellying up to the spending bar…this is actually par for the course for GOP lawmakers… Almost as a Person they were oppossed to the stimulus bill(s) but when it comes to spending the money…At least Horace waits his turn in the feeding order and when it comes to making piglets Horace can go down thunder road with the best of them!.

    Second…the very people who are against “socialized medicine” are all for a socialized space program. It is odd to read all the right wing trogolytes braying about “it will end competition” etc for the public option…and yet they are all for spending money on government jobs for a program that really means nothing to the American people as a group.

    Third is the blatant charade the lawmakers are pulling to the American people…and in particular the folks in their districts. There is as much chance of Obama changing the stim funds around as the Iranians putting a special on an American city. Indeed how things are going almost guarantees that there will be no more money.

    I am starting to imagine how this is going to work out…It could be that the “antibodies” are using this time to nuke the Augustine commission report…but my alternate view is that the Administration is slow walking the outcome of the commission to ensure that there really is no more money for the Agency…and to work it out so that various programs start dying gracefully…

    As Sarah “Rogue” Palin would put it…the death panels are at work

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    Darn!

    TAKE IT! But… DON’T WASTE IT!!!

    If you don’t know what to do with it inside NASA then fund COTS-D, the people are there and a “quick” turn around RFP could get the whole show going next year since people are already working on CCDev. You could also use it to fund the new NASC and the new NIAC.

    OR give some of it back to those programs that suffered all the cuts during the past last 5 years! Science and Aero. It will be a good gesture and help get their support for the future.

    One can always dream right?

  • Major Tom

    Several comments:

    1) Regardless of whether they’re spent or not already, the stimulus funds are committed. Directing another $3 billion to NASA means that Congress has to pass legislation redirecting $3 billion away from some other spending item in the Recovery Act. No matter how much the Texas delegation wants that to happen, it won’t, because another congressional delegation or faction will oppose taking stimulus funding away from their priority.

    2) When it comes to appropriations, the President proposes, and the Congress disposes. Even if the White House agreed and proposed amending the Recovery Act to redirect another $3 billion to NASA, Congress has to decide on how to dispose of that proposal. It makes little sense to send this letter to the President, unless it is accompanied by letters to and lobbying of the appropriators and leadership in Congress.

    3) Why is this letter only from the Texas delegation? The civil human space flight program is a national program with activities in multiple states. If the sponsors were actually doing their homework, they would have obtained signatures from the Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Lousiana, etc. delegations.

    Like most congressional hearings and letter writing, this exercise is more about making these legislators look good to their constituencies back home, rather than a serious attempt to influence budgets or policy.

    FWIW…

  • Anne Spudis

    All government agencies have been ordered to green up. This should pretty much clean out the stimulus piggy bank.

    October 6, 2009 – “Urging the government to “lead by example,” President Obama ordered federal agencies on Monday to set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy use, save water and recycle more.

    ”The order calls for a 30% cut in vehicle fuel use by 2020, a 50% increase in recycling by 2015 and the implementation of high-efficiency building codes…..

    ”The federal government, which operates 600,000 fleet vehicles, occupies 500,000 buildings and employs 1.8 million workers in civilian jobs, is the nation’s largest energy user.

    “White House officials said the initiative, which is detailed in an executive order and does not require congressional approval, would yield significant energy and environmental benefits and — because of Washington’s huge role as a consumer — encourage savings throughout the economy.

    “No cost estimates were provided, but officials said initial expenses — mainly to make buildings more energy-efficient — would be largely covered by the federal stimulus program.”…. Los Angeles Times

  • Dick Maxwell

    Using stimulus dollars to clean up the Earth and cut energy use instead of heaping cash on an increasingly discredited space transportation architecture with questionable goals? Sounds right to me. But as pointed out already, this request isn’t about space exploration, but about keeping constituents employed.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Actually the Texas legislators are doing their jobs, which in this case is trying to save a program of national importance that also happens to be of benefit to their state. They are doing it in the language that the President understands, political pressure. It is certainly clear that the socioeconomic arguments do not work with this administration.

    As for the hypocrisy charge, besides the fact that Democrats who supported the Stimulus also signed the letter, it seems to me that since there is no chance that the remaining stimulus is going to be “returned to the American people” it behooves a legislator who is doing his job to grab as much of it as he can for something he thinks is useful. Better to explore space than subsidizing gay porn.

  • Better to explore space than subsidizing gay porn.

    The way NASA wants to spend the money, we can pretty much count on getting neither.

  • common sense

    “Better to explore space than subsidizing gay porn.”

    A great voice of support for NASA and HSF in general, very appropriate. I hope you write this stuff to Congress and I suppose you don’t mind having children reading this. A real role model. Obviously there are all kinds of hypocrits including those who preach moral values for others but don’t apply them to themselves…

  • Robert Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote
    Actually the Texas legislators are doing their jobs, which in this case is trying to save a program of national importance that also happens to be of benefit to their state. They are doing it in the language that the President understands, political pressure. It is certainly clear that the socioeconomic arguments do not work with this administration. ..

    LOL. All the Texas delegation is doing is fooling the weak of mind.

    This is zero political pressure, it is like the “sign the petitions” or “write form letters”…this letter will be recieved filled and no one above the Congressional liason level will see it and then they will say “just the home folks cheering”.

    You might think it has some value…but politically it has none. Nothing will change by it, other then the folks who signed it will say, when President Obama does what he is going to do anyway “we fought for (insert this or that) but it was Obama’s fault”.

    Socio economic arguments? There are none except subsidized federal jobs…that dont do anything of any lasting affect to the economy…the money could be spent on “roads” and The Republic would come off better.

    However..my main thrust is this:

    “Better to explore space than subsidizing gay porn.”

    this is just cheap right wing gay bashing and nothing else.

    It is false on so many levels. I’ll pick a few

    First off it is not a “number 1 or 2 choice”. The money going to what you describe as “gay porn” wouldnt even meet the viewgraph budget of the government work project Ares 1 that you are carrying water for.

    Second it is an attempt to toss out right wing red meat on a serious issue, that is the only way it can be interpreted…an attempt to say “Obama is funding this evil thing but not our blessed space program” you present a false choice.

    If the money would fund NASA completly and it was an “A or B” choice then you might have an issue, but it wont and so you dont.

    Thats on par with thinking that this useless effort by Olsen did something.

    What is going to happen is still going to happen.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Anne Spudis

    that the effort will be covered by the stimulus program does not mean that the stimulus program will be devoured by it.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote:

    “it behooves a legislator who is doing his job to grab as much of it”

    here is a thought…if Olsen was going to do that…he should have given it a try when the legislation was passed….

    or well here is another shocker…why doesnt Pete just try his own bill? Get the other Congressfolks who signed the letter to co sponsor?

    reason is…he isnt doing it for anything but the PR

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    And just in passing… Who the heck started the whole bailout nightmare? Remember? Ever heard of Hank Paulson? A famous democrat? Lying on his knees to Nancy Pelosi to get it. That must have been some sight to see!

    Usual pathetic rant just getting even lower…

  • Robert Oler

    common sense

    in the main I was against the bailout(s) although I cheerfully admit that I really dont have the economic background (thank the Creator) to judge if it was or was not needed to stop the Apocalypse…or that we are not headed for one anyway. tjhere is a distinct possibility that all the spending did was stop a complete melt down and we are going to be stuck “here” for quite a bit of time as the carnage that was going to happen happens anyway (ie the weak businesses and organizations go under).

    I do feel comfortable with three judgments…

    First IF one was going to do the spending then there were places that the spending would have made a difference…for instance 20 billion (zounds) to modernize the ATC system would have eventually “paid” itself back….and I am not sure that most of the spending will ever pay itself back in terms of making The Republic better. Most of the spending strikes me as “Nasaish”…ie going for so much pork.

    Second.Having said all that, every dime spent in the stimulus package is a far better expenditure then all of the money that was/is/going to be spent in Iraq or Afland. National insanity is a sad thing to watch and all the dolts who bought into going to Iraq and Afland, should in my view keep their mouths shut and not be part of any real decision making, as they have to be dumber then the chickens to have bought the nonesense that Bush and his thunderheads were peddling.

    Three…unless we get our spending/taxing in line (and I am for large tax increases particularly on the over 200K crowd…and right wing radio talk show host in particular…grin) we are not going to last long as a nation.

    doing that is going to take some really hard choices…and it is clear from the arguments about a useless human spaceflight program that most of the “right wing” are not prepared to make them

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    “doing that is going to take some really hard choices…”

    Well either that or we may join the thirld world countries soon. Or would that be the Fourth World now? Hmmm…

  • in the main I was against the bailout(s) although I cheerfully admit that I really dont have the economic background

    Then why are you even commenting on it? And why should we take seriously anything that you say about fiscal policy?

    doing that is going to take some really hard choices…and it is clear from the arguments about a useless human spaceflight program that most of the “right wing” are not prepared to make them

    What in the world is this nonsensical comment supposed to mean? What is the “right wing” and what does it have to do with space policy?

  • Robert Oler

    Rand Simberg

    I ran the statement that you called “nonsensical” past the 10 year olds and they figured it out…so I’ll let it lay and go to this

    “What is the “right wing” and what does it have to do with space policy?”

    The right and left wing are people who believe in rhetoric, not reality. Rhetoric is easy because whatever they are babbling fits their preconceived notions of what is, rather then exploring the facts of the situation.

    So for instance “the right wing” believes that Obama might not be a citizen, or that Hillary killed Vince Foster…etc while the left wing believes equally silly notions like “Bush had the twin towers blown up” or that he purposely let the levees fail in NOLA and (to paraphrase one left wing commentator) “Had the lower areas flood first”.

    These are examples of the folks whose opinions are shaped by what they “want” to be accurate without any facts or objective reality to base it on. In fact they are good at ignoring real facts… Right and left wing politicians (and newsies) are officials who pander to that base. (and they are quit good at it, Fox News has a special kind of female “newscaster” to rope in the right wingers).

    Enter human spaceflight. “most” not all (as I Note in my post) right winger space advocates are fixed nicely in the middle of a logical overload…they dont like the stimulus and think its a bad idea but well they like NASA and human spaceflight and are quite willing (now it seems) to bend their opposition to the stimulus if it funds their program. As a sort of logical “bandaid” they use examples like Mark W did…which are nonsensical.

    As must be obvious to all now, Rep Olsen (TX 22 R) effort which is the post of this thread is clearly a pander to those who dont have a clue how things work on a fundamental basis in DC. There are steps that he could have taken if he really wanted to change the world, but really all he wanted to do, is look like he was.

    As for the stimulus comments, try reading the thing without some notion of preconceived rhetoric. First off I dont know that anyone is really sure how the stimulus is going to turn out…having said that I do point out the three things I am quite comfortable making judgments on….

    glad you got back to CA successfully.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Obama will increase the NASA budget by at least $3 billion. There’s no way he wants to lose Florida in the next election!

    That should be enough to keep the shuttle program going while allowing NASA the ability to use $5 billion a year in other funds to develop the next flight system. The question is, what system will Obama choose to use that $5 billion a year for.

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ October 6th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Obama will increase the NASA budget by at least $3 billion. There’s no way he wants to lose Florida in the next election!..

    Not so much.

    The “space coast” did not vote for Obama to start with…(go check the county breakdowns) …and the rest of the state of FL is hardly going to “go as the space coast” goes.

    President Obama’s reelection chances hinge on the economy as a whole and who the GOP puts up.

    If the economy is in 2012 as it is now…he is in trouble…as long as the GOP doesnt put up a nut cake…if the economy has recovered…he is going to get (absent someother major issue) a landslide victory.

    to put it simply, it is wishful thinking to believe Obama carries Florida based on the space program getting 3 billion dollars more.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Even with a $3Billion/year increase, if you actually wanted to continue the insanely-costly-to-operate Griffin Constellation model, you’d have to dump the ISS in the water in 2016.

  • Anon

    If government agencies are into getting green killing the Ares family would be a good start. SRB’s are nasty polluters both in the production process and during launch.

    Also leveling the VAB at Kennedy would not only cut NASA’s energy bill but ensure that neither the Shuttle or any SDV raises from the dead to terrorize the NASA budget. I know its a historical landmark, but it doomed to be destroyed someday by a hurricane, (its capable of surviving only 105 mph winds) so its better to demolish it now in a more organized fashion.

  • NASA’s problems are a lot worse than they or the Texas Congressional delegation might suppose. I have good reasons to believe that, soon, NASA’s function will be relegated to that of a mere regulatory agency. Their biggest problem is space transportation’s reliance on primitive technologies. We are not going to colonize the moon or the rest of the solar system, let alone the nearest star system, with a bunch of expensive, cumbersome and dangerous rockets.

    The only way that the space transportation industry can free itself from the technological shackles of the baby-boomer century is to abandon rocket propulsion altogether. Obviously, this will not happen any time soon if the industry must rely on 20th century physics for a solution. But that is what you get for thinking inside the box; and your technology is only as advanced as your thinking. It follows that thinking outside the box is precisely what is required to transform space exploration and exploitation into something worthy of the 21st century. In this vein, there is excellent cause to suppose that physics is about to undergo a radical paradigm shift that will forever transform the way we travel and generate power.

    A reevaluation of our understanding of the causality of motion leads to the inescapable conclusion that we are immersed in an immense lattice of energetic particles. Soon, we will use the lattice for both propulsion and clean energy production. We will have vehicles that can go almost anywhere at tremendous speeds and negotiate right angle turns without slowing down and without incurring any damage due to inertial effects. Floating cities, earth to Mars in hours, New York to Beijing in minutes… That is the future of energy and travel.

    My advice to all policy shapers and decision makers in the energy production and global transportation arena is this: take a careful and open-minded look at the writing on the wall and prepare yourselves for the coming changes. The future is at your doorsteps and it is stranger than you can imagine.

    The Problem with Motion.

  • Rhyolite

    In the absence of a better plan from NASA for spending it, I would rather see the stimulus money go into fixing our roads, bridges, transit systems, and power grid.

    NASA would be better off being more creative with the money they have, reforming their procurement practices, and cutting their own dead wood. We can talk about more money when they have proven themselves better stewards of what they have.

  • @Robert Oler

    You don’t need to live on the space coast or in Florida to be for the space program. And something tells me that Obama didn’t lose 99% of the space coast votes (Just a hunch). It took only a few votes (maybe) for George Bush to win Florida from Al Gore– and the presidency. So every vote from every county will count in Florida. And Obama won’t be running against King George this time. He’ll be running on his own achievements the last 4 years. But I think Obama’s smart enough not to gut the manned space program.

    But if Obama doesn’t raise the NASA budget, as recommended by his own commission, I’m pretty sure the Republicans will play it up in commercials in Florida how he gave stimulus money to every place but Florida’s space program, maybe even showing how Obama turned his back on the legacy of John F. Kennedy (the ultimate Democratic icon).

    So I don’t think Obama wants to go down that road! And I don’t think any Democrat politician in Florida wants him to go down that road!

  • eng

    What’s the difference between the 2 parties in our 2 party system, again? And why bother voting?

  • Anne Spudis

    @ Robert G. Oler

    It is permissible to have an unexpressed thought.

  • Obama will increase the NASA budget by at least $3 billion.

    Obama has no power to increase NASA’s budget. He can ask for an increase, but only Congress can actually do it.

  • Robert Oler

    Marcel.

    three points

    First almost nothing you post in the 0336 has a thing to do with the basic statement that unless Obama cranks up the additional 3 billion dollars for NASA he wont carry FL.

    You might believe that but almost no one else does. The dynamics in 12 will center around the state of the economy, maybe something that happens between now and then that is unknown now, and who the GOP puts up.

    History doesnt repeat itself, it echoes but if there is any Presidency that Obama is echoing “now” it is Ronaldus the Great’s first term. In 82 no few would have given him a chance for a reelect, the economy was “bad” (and todays is far worse) …and yet by 84 it was “Morning in America” and the Dems put up a left winger who Reagan trounced.

    Obama wont be running against Bush in 12 UNLESS the GOP puts up someone who reminds the people of Bush (ie a right wing nut) and or the people still view the problems we are in as problems stemming from Bush…with Obama viewed as having tried to make them better.

    Right now if I had to guess (and that would be all it is) the 12 election might “look” a lot like the 36 election. IE the ghost of Hoover was still over the GOP.

    Second, as I note Obama won FL without the “space coast”…and no I dont see 12 being a 00 election where it boils down to a few votes. The overall state of the economy will be far more important.

    Third, you overestimate wildly how interested Americans are in spaceflight, particularly human spaceflight.

    Robert G. Oler

  • “Obama has no power to increase NASA’s budget. He can ask for an increase, but only Congress can actually do it.”

    True! That’s the way our system works.

  • Anon

    @Louis Savain

    “I have good reasons to believe that, soon, NASA’s function will be relegated to that of a mere regulatory agency.”

    The FAA AST already has that job and DOT will not give it up to NASA. Nor would I want NASA anywhere NEAR having the authority to regulate space flight. No, NASA will likely be relegated to a space version of NSF merely funding robotic science missions for the amusement of the masses.

  • [...] after the majority of the Texas Congressional delegation pushed for diverting stimulus funding to NASA to support the agency’s exploration efforts, members of Florida’s delegations are [...]

  • [...] month most of the Texas Congressional delegation sent a letter to President Obama asking that $3 billion in stimulus funding be redirected to NASA. Beyond the question of whether the president has the authority to do so (as the money was [...]

  • [...] reprogramming $1 billion in “leftover” stimulus money to NASA. This is only a third of previous requests by members of Congress to redirect stimulus funds to NASA; why Nelson was asking for just $1 billion instead of $3 billion wasn’t mentioned. The [...]

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