POLITICIANS AT IT AGAIN
- QUESTION: DO POLITICIANS ALWAYS JUST GIVE LIP SERVICE?
With lawmakers scrambling to wrap up a massive spending package
before Thanksgiving, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe complained
Friday about efforts to strip $200 million from the international
space station budget.
The Senate passed a $15.3 billion budget for NASA on Tuesday, but
not before reducing the $1.7 billion President Bush wants to spend
on the space station.
In July, the House approved a $15.5 billion budget for NASA,
slightly more than President Bush had requested.
The agency's spending plan is in the hands of Senate and House
negotiators, who are trying to hammer out a gigantic $280 billion
package to fund NASA and dozens of other federal agencies for the
2004 budget year, which began on Oct. 1.
Senate appropriators argue that a reduction in the space station
budget is justified because NASA is getting help from its Russian
partners, who are providing spacecraft to keep the orbiting outpost
going while American shuttles are grounded.
The station project also has saved some money since the Feb. 1
Columbia shuttle accident because it has reduced the station crew
from three to two, the Senate Appropriations Committee said in its
report on the bill.
With reserves of more than $250 million, the report said, NASA
should be able to cover "this modest reduction."
The Senate version of the spending bill also took away $20 million
that NASA planned to spend on a project to explore the icy moons of
Jupiter. At the same time, senators added $50 million to NASA's
aeronautics research budget and moved some other funds around.
One of the problems identified by the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board was the unpredictability of NASA's fluctuating
funding levels year to year. Yet, here we see the Government
running things their common way in total disreguard to those
findings. This seems to suggest that our own Politicians tend to be
at least part of the problem that is wrong with the space program.
It also tends to send a message that these same Politicians care
little about the same safety and modernizing of the space program
that they in public statements give lip service too. Perhaps it is
time here that the American Public let their own voices be heard in
the next elections before we run into future repeats of the Columbia
accident or worse.