With the deadline for budget sequestration now just over a week away, Congress is… on break this week. As members of Congress spend time in their home districts this week, some are offering varying perspectives of what budget sequestration would be for NASA, and the centers in their districts.
In Huntsville, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) offered some relatively good news. The Marshall Space Flight Center “is going to survive sequestration a little bit better than most of the centers around the country,” he said in a speech to community leaders, the Huntsville Times reported. That assessment is not surprising, since Marshall’s key programs, notably the Space Launch System, were not singled out for reductions in NASA’s sequestration plan released last week.
Brooks, though, warned of long-term budget trends that work against NASA as a whole. “The short time I’ve been in Congress, I have noticed a disturbing trend that the budget for NASA is getting harder and harder to sustain it or even keep it from dropping too much,” he said, adding he would work with other members of the state’s congressional delegation to secure funding for the space agency.
In the Houston area, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), whose district includes the Johnson Space Center, was also advocating for NASA funding, putting the blame for cuts squarely on the White House. “Obama’s proposed sequester would be disastrous for NASA, which is already his punching bag,” he claimed in comments to the Bay Area Citizen.
Stockman visited with JSC officials and “outlined his plans to stop proposed cuts to NASA funding,” according to the report. Exactly what those plans are weren’t clear in the article, although Stockman indicated he preferred to fund NASA over some social programs. “I am working with other Texas members of Congress to stop sequester and instead focus the cuts on wasteful or unnecessary spending,” he said.
In Florida, the concern is about commercial crew, a program that would, under the proposed sequestration plan, grind to a halt, at least temporarily, later this year. All three companies currently funded under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program plan to eventually launch from the Cape, and some have plans for nearer-term tests there as well as development of facilities to support those efforts.
“This is going to push out that much longer the amount of time before we can have our own U.S.-built vehicle launching U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil, and I think that’s unsatisfactory,” former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said in a speech Wednesday on Florida’s Space Coast, Florida Today reported. A delay in commercial crew, he warned, meant spending more money on Russian crew transportation services later this decade. However, few in Congress or elsewhere are thinking much beyond March 1 right now.