Politicians who don’t want to do their job

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The Houston Chronicle today has an editorial entitled “Let’s bring logic to NASA’s budget process” which describes and supports a bill introduced by two Republican Congressmen which 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 editorial also quotes sponsor Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) as explaining the goal of the bill is ” to take the politics out of NASA … and create continuity in the space agency.”

Bah. The last thing I want is to take the politics out of NASA’s operations.

I, along with a growing majority of the voting public, is sick and tired of these kinds of attempts by politicians to “take the politics out” of anything they have to do, whether they are Republicans or Democrats. It is exactly for this reason that the tea party movement exists, and why it has moved to kick out incumbents from both parties who won’t do their job of balancing the federal budget and running the government.

I am also disgusted that the Houston Chronicle is so out of touch that it falls for this load of crap. Haven’t we had enough of a failed Congress who wants nothing more to do but sit on its hands and collect their salaries? For a major newspaper to support such idiocy suggests that they haven’t been reading their own reports for the past three years.

It is the job of these damn politicians to deal with this agency, and to adjust its operation as politics change. “Taking the politics out” is to absolve these idiots from their responsibility. It would allow them to get their big salaries and big staffs and big offices in both Washington and their home districts and not have to do anything!

More important, what is “taking the politics out” but removing the influence of the voter from the running of the agency. Why would we want to do such a thing? Giving the NASA administrator a ten year term means we might be stuck with a guy like Sean O’Keefe or Charles Bolden for ten years. Much better for politicians to have some freedom of action. If a guy is doing a bad job, they can fire him. And if the voters decide to change politicians they will then be picking people who will then have the freedom of action to change the direction of the space agency.

Finally, the true way to “take the politics out” of space exploration is to no longer look to the government for space exploration and to get rid of NASA entirely. Making the agency immune to the winds of politics will do just the opposite.



  • Craig Beasley

    I understand what you are saying about term limits and hire/fire issues for NASA administration, but these politicians do have a point that is not being addressed very well at all. NASA programs are often constrained by limits of production, and physical limits that demand that its programs have major milestones with timespans longer than an annual budget cycle. There is something to be said for trying to find a way to ensure that a program has the proper amount of time and money guaranteed to make the progress it says it can make, without having to have management cloister away for 1-3 months every year just to pull a story together to justify a program’s existence. Really, companies like SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, etc., they’re put through this gauntlet yearly as well, so this is a concern not only for NASA-centric work, but for the commercially defined stuff, too.

    This is not to say that underperforming programs should get fat budgets and long timelines as some sort of entitlement, but I do think that it is a thornier problem than just advocating the end of NASA and leaving it to purely commercial interests.

  • wodun

    Hmm, I think I need more information. It would be nice if NASA didn’t have to worry about congress cutting them every year. But NASA’s budget problems are mostly due to their cost overruns both in time and money.

    NASA does need a long term strategy that isn’t changed every four to eight years. One of the things that I didn’t like about Obama’s canceling of Constellation was that getting rid of the Ares I meant the the entire strategy had to be scrapped. Tactics should be something that can change but the over arching goals and strategy shouldn’t.

  • wade

    in my entire 55yrs on this planet, i have seen time and time again, once the government gets involved with nearly Anything, it goes to hell in a hand basket.

  • Robert

    Perhaps you should not look at every issue through the narrow viewpoint of your own political beliefs. Sometimes, when analyzing decisions, some actual thinking and understanding of facts are required. This bill would eliminate a lot of the sort of issues that plague the agency and make space exploration so expensive. Right now, NASA must stretch out development on projects like the SLS, JWST, and interplanetary robotic probe missions over several years to stay within its tiny budget (relative to the size of the entire federal budget). This results in substantially higher costs because of the costs of keeping required personnel while waiting on things like procuring parts. They could save a ton of money by say, doubling their budget for a couple years and speeding development of whatever projects are in the pipeline and then reducing it slightly over the next 8. This is why things like the JWST mushroomed in cost from less than $1 billion to over $8 billion.

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