Congress

No quick end for 2015 appropriations process

For a time this spring, it appeared that Congress would make quick work of fiscal year 2015 spending bills. The House, for example, passed its version of a Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds NASA, NOAA, and NSF among other agencies, in late May. Meanwhile, debate on the Senate version of the bill started in mid-June before it got bogged down over other issues. It appeared that Congress might be able to pass the bills before the fiscal year started on October 1. It seemed too good to be true.

Because, as it turns out, it was too good to be true. With signs that the overall appropriations process is stalling, National Journal reports that House Republicans are planning a continuing resolution (CR) that would funding the government through perhaps election day. THe House is considering voting on the CR next week, before the August recess, an unusually early step that signals there’s little hope of getting appropriations bills passed before October 1.

46 comments to No quick end for 2015 appropriations process

  • Why on Earth is there no provision in the U.S. system that a budget has to be finalized by the time the previous FY is over? Like: if Congress doesn’t have one, all lose their office …

    • Neil

      Like removing the CR facility altogether but this means going against political interest and as Donald has state below, why would a politician do that.
      Cheers

  • Congress writes the laws. Why would they write that one?

    Likewise, the Republican leadership are trying hard to keep their goals quiet and stay under the radar through the next two elections. In the unlikely event they can keep the tea party swept under the rug for that long, why would they do anything to rock the boat?

    – Donald

    • E.P. Grondine

      “The Republican leadership are trying hard to keep their goals quiet and stay under the radar through the next two elections.”

      Does the GOP have any viable presidential candidate?

      Will there be a third party?

      If so, what is his/her position on space?

      Finally, does it really matter, as his/her course of action is likely to be dictated by factors outside his/her control. (g*d I hate this politically correct usage. Anything else to use besides his/her?)

  • In formal English, the gender free pronoun is “they,” as in “If so, what is their position on space?”

    From the Oxford English Dictionary, generally accepted as the final word on English usage, They

  • Hiram

    This is from a Congress filled with businessmen (and women) who swear by the rules of “good business sense”. This is also the Congress many of those here look to be responsible for a federally funded sustainable, rationale- and consensus-driven human spaceflight program. What a joke. Welcome to dysfunctionality land. Who knows. Maybe if we start a new state on the Moon, their government will work better than it does here.

    • Paul Scutts

      At least they will only have 1/6th the weight to throw around.

    • Dick Eagleson

      I think you will find that there are rather few businessmen (or women) in Congress. The vast majority of them, even on the Republican side, are lawyers. This article says 89 of 100 senators are either lawyers or former government officials at some lower level. Only 26 claim any business experience. In the lower house lawyers and businesspeople are roughly equal in number, but both are outnumbered by those who identify as former government officials at some lower level. So at least 2/3 of the House and even more of the Senate seem never to have drawn a significant private sector paycheck. Explains a lot I should say.

  • Hiram: Who knows. Maybe if we start a new state on the Moon, their government will work better than it does here.

    I’m not sure if you meant this seriously, but I do. If our culture, and probably our species, are to survive, this is a must. Again, from an archaeological perspective, no state lasts forever. Historically, democracies or republics tend to last a few hundred years before enough people get rich enough to establish an aristocracy of some sort, then it lasts a similar period as a dictatorship before collapsing through infighting amongst the rich. (Contrary to popular mythology, true popular uprisings of the poor or the middle class that overthrow an aeristocracy are rare; it’s usually the lower tiers of the aeristocracy that pull down the state.) Far be it from me to predict the future, but the United States is not immune from these trends and the forces that drive them. Certainly, there are no shortages of serious threats on our immediate horizon, and if we have lost the ability to act, we’ve also lost the ability to respond to them.

    There is essentially no place on Earth a new state could really be established that is not an extension of, or destroyed by, an existing one. New social experiments — like the U.S. Constitutional form of government (though it’s not all that new, of course, having been closely modeled on the Roman Republic) — require space (with a small s). With the possible exceptions of under the oceans and Antarctica, the available space today is in Space.

    For me, this is the single most important reason for spaceflight, though not the only one, and why I put such a high emphasis on human spaceflight. In my opinion, any future we have as a culture or species depends on it.

    – Donald

    • Hiram

      I think I agree that a transplanted nation will not last. They never do. When we form a “state” on the Moon, it won’t be long before they declare their independence. So space settlement and colonization isn’t about nation saving. It may be about species saving, if done right. It may be about culture saving, but I think the precepts of a culture are heavily embedded in the way of life, which would be totally different in space. I think that’s why our Congress is totally uncommittal about space settlement and colonization. Because the historical evidence is that it may not end up extending or saving the nation. Our Congress is charged with preserving the nation. Not creating new ones. Not preserving the species.

    • Vladislaw

      You are discribing the pulibian cycle and the founders of America were aware of this cycle and our republic was set up to try and break that cycle of anarchy > monarchy > aristocracy > democracy > anaracy ….

      The house was the democratic branch, the Senate the aristocracy and the president the monarchy.

      Funny how it plays out.

  • Hiram: You are, of course, correct. However, I am focussed on these issues and trying to think up ways around Congress and the four year election cycle. That is why I think the COTS / CCtCap is such an important strategy: I think it has the potential to survive the issues that have killed space strategies (e.g., Constellation) in the past.

    but I think the precepts of a culture are heavily embedded in the way of life, which would be totally different in space.

    I agree, but that is a strong argument for space exploration. Humanity has generally conducted social experiments, especially successful ones, in the new environment and isolation of a new frontier. Life on Earth’s moon will be very different from anything at home, and that is a good thing because it will drive new ways of living and new arts and help fight cultural and political stagnation; cultural diversity improves our species’ chances of success over the long term and in today’s world, in the absence of a total collapse on Earth, radically new ways of living and culture (in the wide sense) are only possible in inner the Solar System.

    In the same way that most European languages are today derived from Latin, and not the languages and cultures Rome’s (Eastern) enemies (of course German and English are both derived from the “barbarian” Celtic languages, but the Celts had much more in common with the Romans than the Eastern empires Rome competed with), I would prefer that future cultures and languages are derived from the West and English, rather than, say, Chinese. But I’ll take what I can get. If China chooses to do it, and we choose not to, there will be little future for English and the West, but humanity will survive to try cultural freedom (i.e., “democracy”) again another day.

    – Donald

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi Don –

      “However, I am focused on these issues and trying to think up ways around Congress and the four year election cycle.”

      The impact hazard will be with us until it is dealt with.

      My guess right now is that the Hubble images of 73P in 2017 will pretty much change things.

      Thus ARM will survive, with changes made to it then.

      • Hello, E.P. Grondine,

        My guess right now is that the Hubble images of 73P in 2017 will pretty much change things.

        I doubt it. Things will change when a lot of people in a rich nation get killed by an impact. (Note in proof: the closest we’ve come to seriously considering serious action was following the recent Russian impact.)

        Meanwhile, I’ve donated as much as I can to the B612 Foundation, and I would encourage others who consider this important to do the same.

        – Donald

    • Hiram

      “Humanity has generally conducted social experiments, especially successful ones, in the new environment and isolation of a new frontier.”

      I think the question is, to the extent that space settlement is rationalized as insurance, what exactly is it we’re trying to preserve by doing it? But that’s exactly right about China. If China ends up leading the way in planetary settlement, we may not preserve English, and western traditions, or even democracy, but we might be preserving the species to some extent. Though perhaps not a racially diverse one.

      I think you are exactly right about commercial space. Government will NOT organize space settlement. Just won’t happen. For the reasons I gave above. So if space settlement is important to you, best to look more broadly.

    • Dick Eagleson

      I see a tendency in these comments toward making the same mistake about the Chinese that a previous generation made about the former Soviet Union – that it would be around essentially forever in more or less its then-present form. Almost no one – with the notable exception of Ronald Reagan – thought the Soviet Union would fall right up until it actually did. Even after this, there were some pathetic cases who seemed disinclined to accept the new post-Soviet reality. I remember a then-prominent “Kremlinologist” as they were called back in the day – Prof. Stephen Cohen – appearing on a number of television news and commentary shows in the 1989-92 time frame as the Soviet Union was incrementally coming apart after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He looked more and more glassy-eyed and pathetic as events unfolded and his whole comfortable conventional-wisdom-based left-wing academic worldview fell in around his ears.

      Do not be similarly foolish about the Chinese. Traditional Chinese governmental forms are based on a rigid hierarchy and rule by a tiny elite. The current government is nominally Communist, but is actually quite continuous with the previous royalist dynastic norm of Chinese governance.

      But the traditional China in which these governmental norms were established was one in which the normative Chinese was an illiterate subsistence agriculturalist. There has never been a rigid authoritarian government that has lasted very long in a developed country where the population is well-educated. Even in countries that started out mostly peasants, like the former Soviet Union, Communist tyranny failed when the country reached a level of development and education well below that of the United States, Western Europe or Japan. The current Putin regime represents a doomed attempt to turn back the clock to Stalinist days, but I do not expect his regime to be either successful or long-lasting. The current Chinese regime is similarly unstable and for the same reasons.

      Half tongue-in-cheek, I have, on several occasions, propounded what I call the Eagleson Olympics + 9 Rule of Totalitarian Ruin. Nazi Germany hosted a Summer Olympic Games in its capital, Berlin, in 1936. By 1945, Nazi Germany was finished. The Soviet Union hosted a Summer Olympic Games in its capital, Moscow, in 1980. In 1989 the Berlin wall fell and the Soviet Union unraveled rapidly over the next two years. China hosted a Summer Olympic Games in its capital, Beijing, in 2008. It is now 2014. the current Chinese rulers have three more years to put their affairs in order according to my Rule of Ruin. 2017 may not be literally the year the current Chinese government falls, but it hasn’t got all that long before enough of the Chinese get fed up with the “princelings” now in command and put an end to them.

      Shit happens, people. And that isn’t always bad.

      • Andrew Swallow

        China has a few more years to go. It has not run out of money yet. Whilst it still has money from exports the people can be bribed.

      • Dick Eagleson: I fully agree. The Chinese state has tremendous problems and large numbers of very unhappy people and communities, requiring huge bribes of foreign money to keep them in line. The depopulation of the countryside and the explosion of the cities, alone, are creating vast social tensions. China could explode at any time, though I doubt they’ll go as “quietly” as the Soviet Union did. On the other hand, the Chinese leadership is very aware of these problems and attempting to address them — in sharp contract to our leadership.

        – Donald

        • Dick Eagleson

          The Chinese leadership is certainly aware that their natives are restless. As to attempting to address problems, not so much. All the Chinese leadership can do is play for time with a musical chairs game of favors granted and withdrawn. There is an endpoint to schemes of this type. To actually preserve their power the Chinese leaders need to remain in charge of everything. Their problems, though, mainly derive from being in charge of everything. Quite a few of their most intractable problems, for example, are predictable downstream consequences of the disastrous “one-child policy” enacted decades ago by a previous generation of absolute Chinese rulers who were also – wait for it now – in charge of everything.

  • Hiram: So if space settlement is important to you, best to look more broadly.

    That is exactly what I am trying to do in my various posts here.

    – Donald

    • Vladislaw

      You should look at it as why do ALL species explore? Our reasons for going into space will be for the same reasons all species explore.

      • Vladislaw: I agree, though amongst macroorganisms, humans explore more, and more successfully, than most.

        – Donald

        • Vladislaw

          I believe we explore more only because we also have the ability to EXPLOIT more freely than other species.

        • Vladislaw

          A codicil might be… species only explore where they have the ability to exploit.

          • Vladislaw

            A second codicil might be .. individuals and corporations only explore where the government allows them to exploit in the future…

            on a roll here .. LOL

            • Where does SpaceX fit in? They’re trying to create the tools to go to Mars for essentially ideological reasons. (Gold aside, as I recall, much of the exploration of the New World was done for something called Manifest Destiny and for other religious reasons.)

              • Vladislaw

                Monopolies, in general, can only last if they are protected by the government in one way or another.

                Capital, automatically flows towards extra normal profits. ULA and the parents were a monopoly along with the NASA monopoly/monopsony. While the government protected those monopolies capital was not flowing in that direction unless it was first bascially guaranteed a small slice of that pie.

                That protection was lifted and SpaceX capital automatically flowed towards those extra normal profits. Once all protections are removed, more than likely SpaceX will become pretty close to a monopoly. If they price accordingly more capital will start flowing into the launch business.

                SpaceX does appear to be guided by more than a pure profit motive, as they have not went public yet which can put pressure on corporate direction.

              • Vladislaw

                Usually a new player that introduces an innovation prices two ways. Just under what the current suppliers charge. Or agressively lower than the competitors.

                If you price just under the current suppliers you can defensively match each drop of the current competitors might uses to keep business this maximizes profits in the short run but, as I stated extra normal profits automatically brings in competitive capital.

                If you agressively price downward it is usually a defensive move against capital flowing in. The profits are not extra normal but a lot closer to the industry standard. That means the cost of entry has a longer pay back period and is harder to find investment capital.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Don’t discount the importance of ideology in driving exploration and/or settlement of freshly explored territories. Sometimes the ideology involves conquest of new lands for the greater glory of, say, Islam. Sometimes it is reactive, a consequence of being persecuted and driven out of the more settled areas, as with the Mormons starting out in New England and winding up in Utah. Religious motives have probably impelled as much exploration and expedition as any other force except possibly the lure of financial gain.

                SpaceX’s Martian Odyssey seems to involve both. There is no question that ideology is the impetus, but Elon expects Mars colonization to be profitable too. He has both a mission and a business plan. As Vladislaw notes, Elon has deliberately chosen to leave quite a bit of money on the table in the near term in order to retain freedom of action for the longer term. Elon plays the long game. I think he’s going to win.

              • Dick Eagleson: Religious motives have probably impelled as much exploration and expedition as any other force except possibly the lure of financial gain.

                I fully agree. Although I consider myself agnostic leaning heavily toward atheism, I also admit that my advocacy for human spaceflight is, at bottom, essentially religious.

                I am not the only one honest enough to admit this: I once quoted John Pike as saying, “You have this very small minority of people who have had this personal ‘revelation’ that [human] spaceflight is important and means something. They have to trick the other ninety-five percent of taxpayers into paying for their own private, religious obsession.” Does Pike share this ‘religion’? He laughed, and said, “Yes! My first conscious memory was when I was four years old and went out into the back yard and saw Sputnik-1.”

                Elon plays the long game. I think he’s going to win.

                I agree with the first phrase, but I doubt the second. In the sense of giving commercial space transportation a good push in the seat of the pants, he has already “won.” But successfully establishing colonies on Mars will be far harder than he thinks — it’s a project for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years — and the first ones are very likely to fail. None of this reflects on Elon’s ambitions, skills, or achievements so far: it is simply a reflection of how hard colonization is, especially of an unremittingly hostile place like Mars, and the difficulty of getting and staying there and successfully living off the land. The colonization of Iceland and Greenland are probably good models. Neither went well, but Iceland was the first post-Roman democracy and, today, remains the longest-surviving one. More relevantly, it now has a large and established population.

                – Donald

              • Dick Eagleson

                With you entirely on the atheism/space colonization as religion thing. I’m two years older than Pike and I remember Sputnik too. Also the Echo satellites a couple years later. Now those puppies really showed up over the ‘ole backyard. Brighter than Jupiter or Mars.

                As for Elon winning on Mars, I think he will because he is just audacious enough, but not more than enough. True genius, I think, is often a matter of consistent finesse. Elon seems to have that. There are only a handful of people now on Earth who might get Mars colonization “right.” Elon is definitely one of them and, hey, he’s also the only one who will have the money to do it in a few years.

                Fun times ahead, DFR! Fun times ahead!

              • Vladislaw

                Donald wrote:

                “it’s a project for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years — and the first ones are very likely to fail. None of this reflects on Elon’s ambitions, skills, or achievements so far: it is simply a reflection of how hard colonization is, especially of an unremittingly hostile place like Mars, and the difficulty of getting and staying there and successfully living off the land.”

                A couple assumptions are going to make it a whole lot easier than a top down government controled, pork laden settlement attempt and a commercial attempt.

                A heavy lift that isn’t designed, developed, tested and built at totally insane prices.

                A heavy lift launch vehicle that is reusable.

                Speed of commercial firms in pushing technology and innovations in to current production streams.

                Think about the Shuttle and ISS that was still using archaic computer processors 10 – 15 years old. Commercial interests would have been shoveling in new tech a lot faster.

                Look how many iterations of the Merlin engine we have seen in the last decade ..

                If SpaceX can pull off a reusable 200 ton launcher that can drop 150 TONS of cargo on mars multiple times per year. Colonization could happen at whirlwind speed not seen since NASA’s infancy.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Vlad is quite right. Elon will win because he will be looking six or eight moves ahead at all times and never making a move that is not well-considered and well-prepared. He’s going to summit an unknown rock face, but he’s not planning to make the initial ascent freestyle; he’s going to use ropes and lots and lots of pitons. Elon’s signal advantage over governments and bureaucracies who may be inclined, in their stupid and careless ways, to try doing the same is that he has his vision as an ever-present navigational reference, and he is able to be persistent and consistent in pursuit of his goal.

                It’s essentially impossible for government, or even corporate, bureaucracies to marshal these necessary qualities over time. The U.S. Apollo program had Von Braun as its visionary-in-chief. The early Soviet program had Korolev. I think a lot of the reason for the Soviet’s ultimate failure to either win the Moon race or even to place a close second was because Korolev died in 1966, whereas Von Braun lasted through to the end and beyond. Interesting to contemplate how things might have gone quite differently had Von Braun expired in 1966 and Korolev lived until 1977. In that case, afficianados of 60′s-era trivia might well be getting the real-life team of Neil and Buzz mixed up with the fictional team of Tod and Buzz and either one could be a $1,000 dollar answer on Jeopardy.

      • Hiram

        “You should look at it as why do ALL species explore? Our reasons for going into space will be for the same reasons all species explore.”

        Roger Launius has called out the “three Gs” — gold, glory, and God. That’s one way to look at why species explore.

        But don’t be misled. A contemporary joke in historical circles is that humans explore because they are curious. That this is part of our DNA. In fact, they explore because they are threatened or hungry. If a civilization is healthy, happen and well fed, they don’t go to see what’s on the other side of the hill. That’s exactly the reasons that other species explore. When they are threatened or hungry.

        • Vladislaw

          “Roger Launius has called out the “three Gs” — gold, glory, and God. That’s one way to look at why species explore.”

          He must have mean’t why OUR species explore I do not believe bark bettles explore for God or gold. *unless more new bark is gold to them .. grins)

          I agree, about healthy and happy, but only to a point. If product x is keeping you happy but I believe if I “explore” other options to make you happy with a less expensive more abundant product Y then exploring for greed can take place. I believe some other human emotions, besides fear and hunger, can also be a root cause for “exporing”.

          • Hiram

            “He must have mean’t why OUR species explore”

            Quite right. I phrased that wrong.

            Making you happy with less expensive more abundant product is indeed about “greed”, which could be considered as making you happier, and is probably the equivalent of gold. There is some glory in that as well.

            But the idea that human civilizations reach out and travel to new destinations because their DNA makes them curious really isn’t supported by history.

            • Vladislaw

              It would seem it would be more closely related to a fight or flight mechanism versus curiousity as a genetic trait to be inherited?

              • Hiram

                “… fight or flight mechanism versus curiosity as a genetic trait to be inherited.”

                That’s sensible. But HSF folks find it hard to map onto “fight or flight” these days. “Fight” probably pertained well to Apollo, however. I think “glory” always works for HSF, though making large federal investments in “glory” can be considered questionable.

          • Hiram: Roger Launius has called out the “three Gs”

            Roger Launius has a new book on this very subject, reviewed in Frank Morring’s column in the 21 July 2014 AvWeek and called Historical Analogs for Stimulation of Space Commerce. Morring quotes him as writing, “The time has arrived for NASA to shift from building and operating space launch systems to purchasing these services from commercial firms.”

            – Donald

      • Andrew Swallow

        Reason to explore – food.

        Any given bit of land can only produce so much food. Once eaten the creature has to go somewhere else for its next meal. When they grow up the children of the creature will need their own hunting grounds.

        Humans like birds need a nesting area to bring up their young. Materials for the nest (house) also need finding.

        The food source can be scouted out in advance and its location remembered. One advantage of big brains and maps.

        • Hiram

          As I said, humans travel to explore because they are threatened or hungry. As a rationale for contemporary human space flight, however, hunger is laughable. At least Apollo did what it did because we were threatened. Food is cheap, and loads of it is sitting on shelves at the grocery store. Housing materials are not hard to find either. If we’re looking for food, the Moon, for example, is a really, really bad place to look.

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