Campaign '12, NASA

The curious case of the Glenn cuts

Late Wednesday afternoon the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County (RPCC), Ohio, which includes the city of Cleveland, sent out a press release claiming that it had become aware of plans to move work on human spaceflight activities from the NASA Glenn Research Center there. “This move will have devastating effects on the economy of northeast Ohio,” the RPCC release stated, adding that “that this move will not be officially announced until after the 2012 presidential election.”

An email message to NASA Headquarters late Wednesday seeking comment wasn’t answered, although agency officials did provide statements to local Cleveland media outlets about the RPCC statement. “NASA is not transferring human spaceflight research and development activities from the Glenn Research Center,” a spokesperson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The RPCC pressed its case, though, with an event Thursday that included former NASA administrator Mike Griffin and Scott Pace, who both advise Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Neither were present at the Cleveland event in a campaign advisory, according to a WEWS-TV account that referred to them as “Michael Griffith” and “Michael Pace”.)

Griffin also provided a quote in the RPCC release on Wednesday, only citing his affiliation as a former NASA administrator and not as a space policy advisor to the Romney campaign. “The fact that the Obama administration is seriously considering moving Human Space flight work out of Glenn is a [sic] deeply troubling,” he stated. “To eliminate Glenn’s role in human spaceflight is to call into question its very participation in NASA’s future.”

On Friday the RPCC sent me a chart from an “internal NASA document” that the party said was proof of the planned cuts. (This document was also apparently distributed at the Thursday event.) The chart, titled “HEO Cum FTE total reduction By Center FY13 thru FY16 2014 PAA vs FY13PB”, showed the “work scope change” in terms of numbers of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees that would be cut by center, presumably for the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) mission directorate. For Glenn it showed a cut of 244 FTEs. However, other centers would also suffer job cuts under this plan, including 311 at the Johnson Space Center and 254 at the Marshall Space Flight Center; others centers would lose fewer than 100 positions each. The chart did not indicate when those staffing changes would take place beyond the fiscal years 2013-2016 timeframe in the chart title.

An RPCC spokesman declined to provide additional information on the source of the chart, only saying it came from “inside NASA.” A NASA spokesperson told the Plain Dealer in a follow-up article that the chart came from a “budget-planning exercise conducted by mid-level staff” and did not represent final NASA plans. A White House spokesman said they had not seen any plans to cut jobs at Glenn “and we have no intent to transfer such activities.” And, for good measure, the article noted that NASA said Glenn had already lost 214 positions—during the four years Griffin served as administrator.

Glenn is getting this attention since Ohio is a key state in the November election, with both major parties looking for any advantage that can win votes. Here, though, the focus is on jobs, not space policy. The coverage of the alleged planned job cuts said little about broader policy issues, beyond a comment made by former Sen. George Voinovich at Thursdays event and reported by WEWS. “If the President gets reelected… he should be asked, where are you going, what do you want?” he asked, either unaware of or unsatisfied with the existing policies of the space agency. “And if he’s not elected, it’s going to be up to President Romney to lay out what is his vision, where are we going.” So far, of course, Romney has said little about what his space policy vision might be if elected in November.

15 comments to The curious case of the Glenn cuts

  • Robert G. Oler

    Late Wednesday afternoon the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County (RPCC), Ohio, which includes the city of Cleveland, sent out a press release claiming that it had become aware of plans to move work on human spaceflight activities from the NASA Glenn Research Center there. “This move will have devastating effects on the economy of northeast Ohio,” the RPCC release stated, adding that “that this move will not be officially announced until after the 2012 presidential election.”

    So much for the GOP theory that the federal government should not be used to create jobs…

    Wait though as sequestration grows near this argument is going to be cranked up harder as the folks who one hand squeal about infrastructure jobs move to protect jobs from the MIC and SIC RGO

  • The Republican Party in general, and Governor Romney in particular, seem incapable of telling the truth about anything.

    The fact that they lie about so much, without disclosing any plans of their own, suggests they know that if the truth came out they would have no chance of winning in November. So they choose to lie.

  • William Mellberg

    Here is some additional information about consolidation … Some might recall that Dr. Harrison Schmitt called for similar changes in his proposal for a new space agency last year … “NASA aeronautical research and technology activities should be placed in a re-creation of NASA’s highly successful precursor, the NACA. Within this new-old agency, the Langley Research Center, Glenn Research Center, and Dryden Flight Research Center could be reconstituted as pure aeronautical research and technology laboratories as they were originally. The sadly, now largely redundant Ames Research Center should be auctioned to the highest domestic bidder as its land and facilities have significant value to nearby commercial enterprises. These actions would force, once again, consideration of aeronautical research and technology development as a critical but independent national objective of great economic and strategic importance.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ June 30th, 2012 at 6:12 pm The Republican Party in general, and Governor Romney in particular, seem incapable of telling the truth about anything.” Yeah they got use to having lies be the truth under Bush43 and now Romney is simply incapable of telling a is a sort of shell game where they are all reinventing themselves at a moments notice…all along the lines of keeping their “base” plugged in. The base is like Frank Burns when he told Flagg “If we do not blindly follow our leaders how does our democracy based on free thought work”. The fact that the very people who are calling for less government spending are the same ones supporting SLS and Orion, which are poster children for bad government spending…illustrates the lie. RGO

  • William Mellberg

    Stephen C. Smith wrote: “The Republican Party in general, and Governor Romney in particular, seem incapable of telling the truth about anything.” Really? How about these comments from two prominent Democrats, including Barack Obama? “Absolutely not a tax increase.” The Supreme Court just ruled otherwise. As for space … “Barack Obama will support renewed human exploration beyond low earth orbit. He endorses the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.” “Obama supports increased investment in research, data analysis, and technology development across the full suite of exploration missions including the Mars Sample Return mission.” Promises made. Promises broken. The fact of the matter is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a monopoly on broken promises (a.k.a., lies).

  • josh

    I wish griffin would just shut his mouth and never open it again in public.

  • Coastal Ron

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 30th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    The fact of the matter is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a monopoly on broken promises (a.k.a., lies).

    While that statement is true, your Obama example is not.

    Candidate Obama said he “endorsed” the then existing Constellation program goals, but that was before the Augustine Commission found that the Constellation program was in dire financial straits. Doing a reassessment with up-to-date facts should be encouraged in politicians, not discouraged.

    The Republican Party of Cuyahoga County (RPCC) on the other hand is trying to make an issue out of something that’s not even official policy – it was a mid-level management study, the kind of study that management is supposed to do when faced with an uncertain budgetary future.

    But the really funny thing is that Republican’s are the party that wants to rid the government of as many employees as possible, so they should be celebrating a potential decrease in federal employment levels. However, this being an election year, Republicans are not immune to the desire to say or do whatever it takes to win – something members of their rival party are not immune to either, but this is a clear case of the Republicans being the most blatant.

    That they have Griffin, whose fiscal mismanagement led to the cancellation of the largest program in modern NASA history, trying to lend some air of respectability to this farce is pretty funny too.

  • Robert G. Oler

    William Mellberg wrote @ June 30th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I would make three points to your repetition of right wing flackery.

    The first is that Obama or at least the folks he has running NASA recognize a common reality that seems to escape you. The current NASA is not capable of doing any of the missions a lot of people would like to do….at almost any price.

    Maybe Obama should have known that as a candidate but the view is different on the campaign trail…and the notion that an Apollo style program has any political support (not to mention the dollar signs) should have vanished for even the most nutty GOP right winger here…after the Florida GOP primary. That is the reality.

    Second a very aggressive human spaceflight program in any nation begins and thrives with a functional commercial space industry. UNless one is trying to do every single human spaceflight effort as an Apollo one (something you seem to embrace) with nothing but national pride as the selling point…you have to have a thriving commercial human spaceflight industry to do it. That there is a thriving commercial aviation market is one reason all that wants to be done at the South Pole, can be done.

    Finally as to the ACA. YOu are simply repeating GOP lies. One just one of the Justices (the Chief) who affirmed the bill and the penalties in it did so under the taxing provision of The Constitution. The other four justices did it under the commerce clause. That no more makes it a tax then SLS is a space program. AT BEST what it is is a tax penalty, a fairly limited one that will if people decide to not get health insurance (a failure of personal responsibility) most likely simply lower their deduction. there are no criminal penalties despite all the GOP handwrining nor is it a very large penalty. To Willard Mitt Romney it is probably not even pocket change.

    The tax code of the US is littered (as The Chief pointed out) with such penalties and exceptions; and they are not taxes. What happened is that the GOP got caught flat footed because they have been high fiving the notion of ACA repeal even as The Chief who is a conservative made it clear in oral arguments that he was trying to uphold the bill…as a true conservative would.

    I am making no more comments on the ACA as that is outside this forum. But the GOP lies. They lied about Saddam, they lied about 9/11 they lied about the war, they lie about taxes and Willard simply lies about his entire life. He is now claiming he really wanted to go to Vietnam and fight there, his various deferments to the contrary.

    We will never get anywhere in human spaceflight as long as we depend on the “bread and circus” routine…if you have not figured that out…you are part of the problem. RGO

  • And without going so far off-topic that Jeff won’t publish this, but this morning I awoke to my Sunday Florida Today to find that Space Coast Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) claims the Affordable Care Act caused the recession!

    The Supreme Court’s ruling does not change the fact that the health care law has been a tremendous burden to our nation’s economy, job creators and the seniors whose care is at risk.

    So a bill that doesn’t take effect until 2014 caused the recession.

    This is the same nut job who, when she took office, claimed that U.S. astronauts were being forced to fly on Chinese rockets.

    I’ve sent letter after letter to Adams calling her on her lies, but she never responds of course.

    Thanks to redistricting, Adams won’t represent KSC and north Merritt Island any more after this year. Unfortunately, now I get Bill Posey, who’s almost as bad.

  • Jeff Foust

    Discussion of healthcare and the ACA ruling is off-topic here. Thank you for your cooperation.

  • Aberwys

    Could NASA use the sales revenue from selling off Silicon Valley real estate at Ames to bolster their coffers? I imagine the going rate per square foot is high in Mountain View…

  • I would point out that while Romney has said almost nothing about his space vision, he has promised an immediate 5 percent across the board cut in non-defense related discretionary spending. That would be an $855 million cut out of the $17.7 billion the administration requested for NASA for FY2013. The precise amount would depend upon what Congress ultimately decides to do with the space agency’s budget for FY 2013.

    Don’t know if that would be on top of sequestration or not should that time bomb actually go off. Whatever the case, Romney has promised to cut far more out of the agency’s budget in his first months in office than this supposed reduction would save over four fiscal years. How much that would affect Glenn is TBD. But, it’s really what they should be focused on.

    Griffin and Pace showing up in a key battleground state to pronounce their “personal concerns” about this supposed plan with no connection to the Romney campaign is BS. They’re acting like these supposedly independent Super PACs whose attacks are none-the-less perfectly aligned with the candidates’ campaigns. Griffin and Pace’s supposed independence shields them from the obvious questions about Romney lack of a space vision (which these guys are supposed to be developing, right?) and the overall cuts he wants to make in government.

    Is this going to be a pattern? Are Laurel and Hardy here going to show up in other battleground states like Florida and Virginia to try to scare people? Does Romney just want to use members of this advisory board as attack surrogates? Will the candidate ever explain what he wants to do with the space program?

  • The Mitt Fraudney campaign is once again trying to manufacture an issue to hide the fact that they have no ideas and no case for him to become President. It’s an ironic thing that such people would be attacking Obama for allegedly planning cuts, since the only basis of those cuts would be the GOP Congress’s refusal to fund the country above Third World levels. It would be further ironic given Mr. Fraudney’s stated intention to gut federal spending even further, and use the proceeds to give himself more money.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Even for someone as politically inept and budgetarily tone-deaf as Griffin, I’m surprised at Griffin and Pace’s incompetence in this episode. Regardless of whether they’re genuinely concerned about the human space flight workforce or politicizing that workforce for the benefit of the Romney campaign, you’d think they’d be smart enough not to:

    1) Confuse and conflate, even purposefully, an internal, mid-level NASA budget exercise with White House-level decision documents. It’s too easy for the Obama Administration to refute.

    2) Forget to check their record of workforce reductions at Glenn Research Center. The fact that the Glenn workforce shrank during Griffin’s tenure as much as Griffin claims he is worried that the Obama Administration will shrink it makes Griffin look like a grasping, desperate fool.

    I mean, c’mon, we’re talking about a NASA Administrator who served four years and his AA for Program Analysis and Evaluation, who previously worked at OSTP. Of all the people in the world who should be able to differentiate between NASA and White House deliberations or think to doublecheck prior workforce figures before making a political play, it should be these two.

    I guess I’ve come to expect Griffin to shame his tenure as Administrator with this kind of ham-fisted and ineffective politicking. But Pace should know better and did at one time. It’s hard to believe that the guy who was smart enough to recommend opening up our GPS signals to the rest of the world and make it the de-facto positioning standard with all the power that entails is foolish enough to play these schoolyard-level games with Griffin.

    Big disappointment.

  • D. Messier

    Here’s an interesting story about possible field center consolidation:

    Note that this is a $1 million strategic review ordered by Congress, with Republican Rep. Frank Wolf pushing for center consolidation. I’m guessing he figures Wallops is safe as long as its launching COTS rockets and Barbara Mikulski is in the Senate to protect it. (Wallops is run by Goddard.)

    This is a bigger potential threat to NASA Glenn than whatever Griffin is worried about.

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