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  Space Leadership Act: Revamping NASA funding

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Author Topic:   Space Leadership Act: Revamping NASA funding
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-13-2012 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An editorial in the Houston Chronicle today (Aug. 13) outlines an effort by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to "move NASA a little further away from the political fray when it comes to budgeting."
Culberson's and Wolf's bill would model NASA's budget process after that used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Doing so would make the agency less political and more professional. It calls for the president to appoint the NASA director to a 10-year term and would make the budget cycle multiyear rather than annual.

The notion has [Johnson Space Center director Michael] Coats' endorsement. He notes that if they were able to plan out four or five years "it would be amazing what we could do with our team."

...the logical next step is to align the agency's budget cycle with its projects, which tend to be long term in nature. Culberson is right when he says we have to stop "whipsawing" NASA and its people with politically driven budget changes year to year.

Space advocates have been calling for a multi-year budget for NASA for decades. Ironically, it could be the current political climate that might make it difficult to pass any change to the way the space agency is funded.

Jay Chladek

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 08-13-2012 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't believe this is likely to get much legs either. But, at least it is an attempt. With a multi-year budget cycle, more projects would have a chance of getting funded for longer, so they are potentially less likely to die in the embrionic stage (or have too much money thrown at them too late in some vain attempt to save a project).

It will be interesting to see where this goes. But members of the Senate are going to need to come up with something as well or this will die like so many other bills, even if it does manage to get traction in the House.

As for the ten year term for a director... I don't know. Those that have taken on that job have had a hard enough time in their relatively short careers. For somebody to serve for that long, it could be 10 years of good things or 10 years of hell in that position. A five year term, concurrent with a budget I see as maybe a little better (and they could always get retained for a second five year term if things are going well).

posted 08-14-2012 03:24 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While this sounds like a good idea in principle I would want to see the fine print before endorsing it. I would also feel more comfortable if one of the sponsors was not Rep. Wolf, who is responsible for some fairly serious meddling in who NASA can and can't talk to. This is not to be partisan, since I would also suggest that it would certainly help if the bill was co-sponsored by both a Republican and a Democrat. God knows, these days good legislation is shot down simply because it originated with the "other" party.

Fra Mauro

Posts: 1015
From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 08-14-2012 10:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The bill has some immediate appeal, esp. as far as the budget process goes. I like the idea of the Administrator's job not being a political football as well, maybe a 7 yr. term, with one renewal is a better term.


Posts: 829
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-21-2012 09:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From: Reps. Culberson, Wolf, Posey and Olson introduce the Space Leadership Preservation Act
The last 30 years have been marked by canceled programs due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration. In the past 20 years alone, 27 programs have been cancelled resulting in over $20 billion wasted on uncompleted programs. This legislation establishes a new Board of Directors to provide a quadrennial review of space programs and a vision for space exploration that will set a tone for NASA's endeavors to ensure American preeminence in the space industry.

The Space Leadership Act will:

  • Create a Board of Directors chosen by the administration, House, and Senate, made up of former astronauts and eminent scientists responsible for:
    • Preparing a budget submission approved by the Administrator and submitted CONCURRENTLY to House and Senate Appropriations and the president.
    • Recommending three candidates for NASA Administrator, Deputy Administrator and CFO; the president is encouraged to select one of the above, who would then be approved by the Senate.
    • Preparing a quadrennial review of space programs and other reports.

  • Board terms would change to three, three-year terms. (Currently, two, six-year terms)
    • It will also include a clause that states that no board member can work for a company which has business with NASA.

  • The Administrator would be selected for a 10-year term.
    • This mirrors the FBI directors 10-year term.
    • The board will be allowed to remove the NASA Administrator for cause.

  • The legislation extends the provision for long term contracting from EELV (Evolvable Expendable Launch Vehicle) to rocket propulsion systems and manned and unmanned space transportation vehicles and payloads, including expendable launch vehicles, and related services.
"We have filed this bill today to make NASA less political and more professional by modeling their internal leadership after the FBI and the National Science Foundation," said Rep. Culberson, member of the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee which funds NASA. "We also plan to make NASA funding more stable and predictable by enabling them to design and build new rockets and new spacecraft in the same way that the Navy designs and builds new submarines and ships. These reforms will save money and help their budget go farther in tough times, but more importantly, we hope to restore the NASA we knew when we were young and America landed the first man on the moon. Neil Armstrong's death has renewed our determination to preserve America's leadership in space exploration. We are confident these reforms will restore the NASA we have known, loved and admired and help guarantee that America continues to lead the world in space exploration in the 21st Century."

Captain Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, also offered his support. "America's Space Program is just that - AMERICA'S Space Program," said Captain Cernan. "It has been a bi-partisan commitment in the Congress since the days of JFK's challenge to go to the moon. But, it has lacked long-term stability and focus because of the constantly changing political whims of the Executive Branch of government. This legislation is critical to providing the much needed continuity for the future of NASA's far-reaching goals in space."

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