Tag Archives: Richard Shelby

Shelby blocks Export-Import Bank nominee

In a move that is preventing the recently renewed Export-Import Bank from functioning, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) has been blocking the nomination of a new board member.

Until the board position is filled, the bank cannot finance any deals greater than $10 million, which essentially prevents it from doing much.

I find this story quite surprising. It says that Shelby has opposed the Ex-Im Bank because he considers it the worse form of “crony capitalism”. Yet, Shelby is also the king of aerospace pork, pushing NASA to fund SLS (thus pouring money into Alabama and the Marshall Spaceflight Center), despite the fact that SLS is a gigantic boondoggle that will never accomplish anything in space.

I suspect that Shelby’s real goals are twofold: 1. He doesn’t like the deals the bank has been financing, and wants to apply pressure on them to instead give deals to his own corporate buddies. 2. He is trying to extort campaign contributions from the parties involved.

Sadly, I can’t believe for an instant that Shelby has altruistic motives.

Senate committee throws money at NASA

The Senate appropriations subcommittee has announced its proposed 2017 budget for NASA, including significant budget increases for SLS and Orion.

SLS is the big winner in the bill, according to a summary of its contents provided by the committee. The heavy-lift launch vehicle would get $2.15 billion, $150 million more than it received in 2016 and $840 million above the administration’s request. The SLS funding includes $300 million directed for work on the Exploration Upper Stage with the goal of having it ready as soon as 2021, the earliest planned date for the first crewed SLS/Orion mission.

The bill also provides $1.3 billion for Orion, $30 million above 2016 and $180 million above the administration’s request. It also directs Orion to be ready for its first crewed mission in 2021.

The bill provides $5.4 billion for science programs overall, $200 million below the request. The summary does not break out spending among the various science mission directorates. Commercial crew would get $1.18 billion, the amount requested by NASA, and space technology would get $687 million, the same as 2016 but $140 million less than requested.

Meanwhile, in order to keep NASA’s overall budget about the same as last year the subcommittee, led by porkmeister Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), apparently trimmed the agency’s science budget.

The full plan will be revealed tomorrow. Moreover, the House still has to make its budget proposal, and then the House and Senate have to agree. Regardless, this Senate budget proposal is more indication that this Republican Congress is going to throw endless gobs of money at SLS and Orion, so the boondoggle can fly once, maybe twice, and then get mothballed. What a waste.

It also tells us how insincere many Republican elected officials are when they claim they are for fiscal responsibility.

Sierra Nevada favors Alabama for Dream Chaser’s commercial port

The competition heats up: At a workshop in Alabama this week Sierra Nevada’s vice president indicated that though the company has not yet finalized its decision, it is strongly leaning to picking Huntsville as the commercial spaceport for its Dream Chaser mini-shuttle, being built to ferry cargo to ISS.

“There was a leap of faith on the Huntsville side that we would be a company that could get this vehicle built and start servicing the space station…,” Sierra Nevada Vice President John Roth said Thursday. “Yes, we have been approached by other airports for ventures. We’re not moving forward at this time with any of those. Right now, Huntsville is the only community we’re moving forward with a (landing) license on.”

A preliminary local study identified four hurdles to landing Dream Chaser at the Huntsville International Airport: required licenses for the craft and airport, environmental impact approval, Federal Aviation Administration approval of the landing path and possible runway damage.

Why do I sense the unseen hand of porkmeister Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) in this story? Could it be that one of the reasons NASA finally included Dream Chaser in its cargo contract was that the company had not only chosen the Alabama-based Atlas 5 rocket for its launch vehicle but was also courting Alabama for its commercial base, and Shelby had made it clear behind the scenes that he wanted that business? Could it be that Sierra Nevada is now returning the favor, having gotten the contract?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it was a good choice for NASA to give that contract to Sierra Nevada. I just think it important to note how giving some of our power away to politicians allows them to wield that power over us, sometimes to our benefit, sometimes against it, but always to make themselves more powerful. In the end, giving that power away is never a good option.

Spat between senators over Russian rockets

Pig fight! In response to Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-Alabama) effort, with the lobbying aid of ULA, to slip an amendment into a budget bill that would allow ULA to use Russian engines in its Atlas 5 indefinitely, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has written a scathing letter condemning the effort.

In a Nov. 19 letter, McCain asked Cochran to “respect the well-informed work my committee took” and to avoid the “year-over-year relitigation” of the engine issue.“Recent attempts by the incumbent contractor to manufacture a crisis by prematurely diminishing its stockpile of engines purchased prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea should be viewed with skepticism and scrutinized heavily,” McCain wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews. “Such efforts should not be misconstrued as a compelling reason to undermine any sanctions on Russia while they occupy Crimea, destabilize Ukraine, bolster Assad in Syria, send weapons to Iran and violate the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”

McCain is no saint when it comes to pork, even if he is right on this issue. Shelby however is and has always been a pork pig. He has always put the needs of local companies ahead of the needs of the country. This story illustrates this perfectly.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today expressed concern on the Senate floor over the budget language inserted by Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) that many think will cripple the new commercial manned space companies with high costs and extensive paperwork.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today expressed concern on the Senate floor over the budget language inserted by Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) that many think will cripple the new commercial manned space companies with high costs and extensive paperwork.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor June 18 and tapped the brakes on a powerful appropriator’s plan to subject NASA’s commercial crew program to strict federal accounting standards the agency waived when it solicited bids for crew transportation in November. Nelson, the chairman of the Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee, said NASA’s commercial crew program to fly astronauts to and from the international space station aboard commercially designed spacecraft needs “the right mix of oversight and innovation” to start ferrying crews by NASA’s target date of late 2017.

The senior senator from Florida was alluding to a directive Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, personally fought to include in a report appended to a spending bill now awaiting debate on the Senate floor, and which would if signed into law require NASA to either comply with section 15.403-4 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations, or risk a legal mandate to do so. Nelson said he wanted to work with Shelby “as the bill goes to the conference committee to make sure that we have the right mix of oversight and innovation in how NASA contracts for this competition.”

While Nelson was apparently very careful in how he stated his public criticism of Shelby, he also made it clear that he wants the language changed. As the article noted, this gives opponents of Shelby a powerful ally in the Senate. Expect the Shelby language to be significantly watered down.

Richard Shelby’s poison pill in the Senate NASA budget bill that will double the cost of manned commercial space.

Senator Richard Shelby’s poison pill in the Senate NASA budget bill that will double the cost of manned commercial space.

Essentially Shelby wants to require the commercial companies to follow the older paperwork requirements used by NASA in the past. Presently, the contract arrangements NASA has used for these new companies have been efficient and relatively paperwork free, allowing them to build their cargo freighters (Dragon and Cygnus) and their manned spacecraft (Dragon V2, CST-100, and Dream Chaser) for relatively little.

The older contract rules are what NASA has used for Constellation and SLS as well as all past attempts to replace the shuttle. In every case, the costs were so high the replacement was never finished. In the case of SLS, the costs will be so high it will never accomplish anything.

Why has Shelby (R-Alabama) inserted this language? He wants pork, and SLS is the way to get it. Rather than cut the cost of SLS to make it more competitive (and which will reduce the pork in his state) Shelby instead wants to make the new commercial companies more costly, thus making SLS appear more competitive. It will still cost too much and will not accomplish anything, but this way he will be able to better argue for it in congressional negotiations.

Shelby illustrates clearly that the desire to waste the taxpayers’ money is not confined to the spendthrifts in the Democratic Party. Republicans can do it to!

The porksters arrive!

A draft bill in Congress is proposing the Pentagon develop an engine for the Atlas 5 engine to replace the Russian engine now used.

The legislation passed by a House subcommittee Wednesday calls for up the U.S. military to spend up to $220 million next year to kick off full-scale development of the engine, which could be ready for flights no later than 2019. The bill states the Defense Department “should develop a next-generation liquid rocket engine that is made in the United States, meets the requirements of the national security space community, is developed by not later than 2019, is developed using full and open competition, and is available for purchase by all space launch providers of the United States.”

There is no reason for this funding gift to the aerospace industry. For one thing, there are two rockets that already exist that use all U.S. parts, the Delta family of rockets and the Falcon 9. For another, if Congress stays out, the private sector will take care of this need and do it for a lot less and far quicker, while costing the taxpayers relatively little. By making this a government project we guarantee it will be expensive and take forever, thus keeping the pork flowing to Congressional districts without solving the problem.

And speaking of keeping pork flowing to Congressional districts, pork king Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) today ripped into NASA for trying to trim a little from the budget of SLS (which sends a lot of cash to Alabama). He also condemned NASA’s manned commercial effort.
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