Tag Archives: deficit

New cost figures for Space Force

A budget analysis by a Washington think tank has proposed a new range of cost figures for a Defense Department unit devoted to space operations.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, unveiled a highly anticipated report on Monday, detailing cost estimates for standing up a Space Force as a separate military branch. Harrison made headlines in September when he criticized Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s estimate — $13 billion over five years to establish a new service and a space command — as overinflated.

Harrison estimated it would cost the Pentagon an additional $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years to stand up a new service, based on the assumption that more than 96 percent of the cost would be covered from existing budget accounts within DoD. Harrison’s numbers, however, are hard to compare directly with the Air Force secretary’s because they do not include costly items that Wilson put into her proposal, such as a Space Command and additional programs and people she argued would be needed to fight rising space rivals China and Russia.

Harrison laid out cost numbers for three options — a Space Corps, a Space Force Lite and a Space Force Heavy. The total annual budget of the new service would range from $11.3 billion to $21.5 billion under the three options. None includes the National Reconnaissance Office whose size and budget are classified.

These options are a much more realistic analysis of the costs for a military reorganization of its space operations. For example, most of the money for these options is already being spent, with the cheapest option including $11 billion of its $11.3 billion cost figure from present allocations.

I however now ask: Why are we spending $11 billion for offices in the Pentagon, with staffing exceeding 27,000? From what I can gather, these budget numbers do not appear to include the cost for any actual military satellite launches. It seems to me this should be doable with far fewer people, especially if the Pentagon is hiring private companies to build the satellites themselves.

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Defense offers much lower $5 billion Space Force cost

The deputy defense secretary yesterday said that the cost for creating a Space Force should be around $5 billion, not $13 billion as proposed by the Air Force.

The cost to create President Trump’s Space Force could be lower than $5 billion and certainly will be in the single-digit billions, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at a briefing Thursday, pushing back against Air Force estimates that put the price tag at $13 billion or more.

Shanahan, the lead Pentagon official working on the Space Force, expressed confidence the project would come to fruition — even though Democrats taking over the House have opposed it and the White House has broadly ordered the Pentagon to cut costs.

It appears that he is proposing that the military avoid the creation of a full-fledged new branch of the military and simply reorganize its space bureaucracy into a single office. This would not require Congressional approval, and is also what the military has been considering for the last few years.

Five billion however for an office still seems an ungodly amount of money to me. But then, this is how corrupt Washington functions.

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Airbus to deliver the first Orion service module to NASA this week

My heart be still! Airbus will deliver this week the first Orion service module to NASA.

Airbus will deliver the first European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft from its aerospace site in Bremen, Germany on 5 November 2018. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. This is the result of four years of development and construction, and represents the achievement of a key milestone in the project. ESA selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the first ESM in November 2014.

Four years to simply build a single manned capsule’s service module. At this pace we might be able to colonize Mars and the Moon in about 200 years, maybe!

Note however that NASA only has funding to build 1.5 of these European service modules. It is possible that Congress has allocated additional funds, but if so, I missed it.

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Trump moves forward on Space Force; commercial space reorganization

In a speech by Mike Pence yesterday the Trump administration outlined its continuing plans to moves forward with a new military branch focused on space as well as a reorganization of the bureaucracies that regulate commercial space into a single Commerce Department agency.

Pence said the National Space Council and National Security Council will review space operational authorities “to ensure that our warfighters have the freedom and flexibility they need to deter and defeat any threat to our security in the rapidly evolving battlefield of space.” A lack of centralized leadership and accountability threatened U.S. ability to “advance our national security in space,” Pence said. “The time has come to stop studying the problem and start fixing it.”

The Trump administration in August announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020. Such a change, which the Defense Department has estimated would cost $13 billion in the first five years, must first be approved by Congress. Pence said at an earlier Washington Post forum that China and Russia have established similar space forces. “This is what our competitors are already doing. And the president is determined to make sure that America leads in space, as well, from a military standpoint,” he said.

…The proposed bill would also create the Bureau of Space Commerce under the U.S. Department of Commerce to liaise with industry representatives and organizations, according to a copy provided to Reuters. It also calls for $10 million per year for five years starting in 2020 to fund the commerce arm.

I am traveling up to Phoenix as I write this to be a talking head on a Science channel television show, so I haven’t yet reviewed carefully this proposal. Based on the quote above, the cost for the Space Force is absurd. This is an office, not a military force. At $13 billion it looks more like gold-plated pork.

Meanwhile, the proposed Commerce agency makes sense only if it truly replaces other bureaucracies. I am not yet sure that will happen.

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Republican Congress boosts NIH spending, rejecting Trump proposed cuts

Failure theater: The Republicans in Congress have given the NIH a significant boost in spending, rejecting both Trump’s proposed cuts and reorganization proposals.

Congress has approved a $2 billion raise, to $39.1 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a 2019 spending bill approved by House of Representatives and Senate negotiators last night.

As expected, the 5% boost matches the Senate’s proposed spending level and surpasses a $1.25 billion increase in a draft bill passed by the House. President Donald Trump’s administration had requested $34.8 billion for the fiscal year that begins 1 October. This is the fourth year in a row that NIH has received a substantial increase, after more than a decade of flat budgets.

Trump had also proposed shifting three Health & Human Service agencies into NIH. Congress ignored this.

This illustrates the bankrupt nature of the Republicans in Congress. Don’t believe them when they argue they want to limit government. They are lying. They pass tax cuts to make you happy and vote for them, then turn around and pour money we don’t have at their Washington friends.

This also illustrates the bankrupt nature of the American voter. We gobble up tax cuts, either ignore or celebrate Congress’s out-of-control spending, and then vote for the elected officials who do this.

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Trump cancels federal employee pay raise

President Trump today used his power under federal law to cancel this year’s scheduled federal employee pay raise of 2.1% as well as a 25% increase for “localities”.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Trump wrote that he’d decided “across-the-board” pay raises as well as locality pay raises for civilian federal workers in 2019 would be frozen. “I have determined that for 2019, both across‑the‑board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” he wrote. “These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce,” Trump added.

In the letter, Trump said a 25.7-percent pay raise for localities, as well as a 2.1-percent pay increase for across-the-board pay, both scheduled for January 2019, would add billions to the federal deficit. Specifically, he pointed to the scheduled locality pay raise as costing $25 billion. “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in the letter.

This is what has made Trump different than every president since Reagan. He is willing to do things that shake up the status quo that are also falsely considered risky by the Washington political class. This will not hurt him politically in the least, despite what you will hear the pundits on the bankrupt mainstream media say. If anything, it will strongly help him and his political allies, as the American taxpaying public has been for many years disgusted with the overpaid federal workforce that has an amazing ability to regularly screw up any job they are given.

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Trump administration goes all in for LOP-G

The swamp wins! In a speech today Vice President Mike Pence made it clear that the Trump administration is giving its full endorsement to the construction of the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), as well as SLS and Orion. These big boondoggles, which will trap us in lunar orbit while the Chinese set up lunar bases and take possession of the surface and its resources, are going forward, with both the president’s support as well as Congress’s.

Providing further evidence that the Trump administration has bought into these projects, in his introduction of Pence NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine gave a big public endorsement to the executive secretary of the National Space Council, Scott Pace, a man who has been a big supporter of these projects of the bureaucracy. Pace believes we need these projects, despite the fact that they have been under construction for two decades, have cost an ungodly amount, and have literally flown nowhere.

Pence also said that they intend to have the space force a reality by 2020, and also hinted that the Trump administration is making a careful review on the future of ISS.

Overall, the speech was a big endorsement for government space, in every way, with the private sector designed not to lead as free Americans following their personal dreams but to follow, servants of the desires of the government and its wishes.

If you want to listen to about 30 minutes of pro-government promotion, I expect it will be posted here at some point.

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California’s coming crash

Link here. Money quote:

Economist Herbert Stein once said: “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.” California, on its current trajectory and with its new Socialist-inspired leadership, cannot go on forever. There simply isn’t enough money. The state will ultimately fail because the math says it has to.

Or as the article’s author also notes, “California’s aspiring new Socialists have already run out of other people’s money.” Worse, they don’t even know it, and plan to spend even more money they don’t have on more pie-in-the-sky communist fantasies.

California today reminds me of Venezuela ten years ago, when things started to go sour but no one there wanted to admit it. It also reminds me of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev in the 1970s. The collapse is coming, but the insane culture and leadership in California continues to do the same failed thing, over and over, expecting a different result. Instead, everything is going to crash. My big fear is that they will take everyone else down with them.

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Senate kills House bill to cut $15 billion from passed $300 billion spending deal

Failure theater: The Senate today killed a House bill that would have cut $15 billion from the $300 billion spending deal passed in March.

In a 48-50 vote, senators failed to discharge the measure from committee. A majority vote was needed.

GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined 48 members of the Democratic caucus in voting against bringing up the bill. “My belief … is that it’s the job of Congress to comb through these accounts and that’s what we do on the appropriations committee,” Collins said.

The vote is a blow to conservatives and the White House, who pushed the package in response to backlash from the GOP base over a mammoth rescissions package passed in March.

I wish Burr and Collins would simply switch parties. At least that way there would be no way for them to fool anyone into thinking they believe in smaller government or controlling spending.

The bill was garbage anyway, as it really did little to really promote smaller government or controlled spending. All it did was give House Republicans a fake talking point when they campaign for re-election in the fall. “I fought to cut the budget!” they will scream, citing the House vote that passed the bill, even though they all knew the bill did little, and that it was almost certain the Senate would kill it.

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House passes tiny $15 billion budget cut

The corruption runs deep: House today passed, by the tiniest of margins, a minuscule $15 billion budget cut designed to make believe they are being fiscally responsible after their passage of a two year budget deal that added $300 billion of additional spending to the already bankrupt federal budget.

They will break their arms patting themselves on the back about this bill, even though they also know there is almost no chance this bill will make it through the Senate.

In other words, this is failure theater. After passing the bloated budget deal the Republicans in Congress went home to discover that the voters meant it when they said they wanted the budget slashed. They are now trying to manufacture a lie that says they are trying to cut the budget. They are lying however. They have no intention of trimming the budget. In this matter they are as corrupt as the Democrats.

And they wonder why we got Trump.

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New NOAA weather satellite has serious problem

Can’t anybody here play this game? The cooling unit required to take infrared images in the new NOAA weather satellite GOES-17, launched in March, is not functioning properly.

“This is a serious problem,” Volz said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “This is the premier Earth-pointing instrument on the GOES platform, and 16 channels, of which 13 are infrared or near-infrared, are important elements of our observing requirements, and if they are not functioning fully, it is a loss. It is a performance issue we have to address.”

Detectors for the infrared channels must be cooled to around 60 Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit) to make them fully sensitive to infrared light coming from Earth’s atmosphere. For about 12 hours each day, the cooler inside the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, is unable to chill the detectors to such cold temperatures, officials said.

Infrared images from weather satellites are used to monitor storms at night, when darkness renders visible imagery unavailable. The three visible channels from the ABI are not affected by the cooling problem.

“The other wavelengths, the near-infrared and infrared wavelengths — the other 13 — need to be cooled to some extent beyond the capability of the system at present,” said Tim Walsh, NOAA’s program manager for the GOES-R weather satellite series. “There’s a portion of the day centered around satellite local midnight where the data is not usable, and that’s what we’re addressing.”

GOES-17 is the second of a four satellite constellation being built by NOAA costing $11 billion.

It appears that an identical cooling system was installed on the first of this satellite constellation, GOES-16, and has been working perfectly in orbit since November 2016. Why the new unit isn’t working remains a puzzle.

The real issue here is the cost and complexity of these satellites. Because they are so complex and take so long to build, replacing them is difficult if not impossible. Wouldn’t it be better to launch many cheaper satellites to provide redundancy at a lower cost?

This is a pattern we see throughout the government aerospace industry. NASA’s Webb and WFIRST telescopes are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. SLS and Orion are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. The Air Force’s numerous military satellites are big and take decades to build. God forbid an enemy takes one out.

In all these cases, failure means we get nothing after spending a lot of time and money. And replacing the loss will take years and billions of dollars.

Common sense says it is time to rethink this entire operation. Unfortunately, this is the federal government. The concept of rethinking anything, or even thinking at all, is too often a completely alien concept. I do not expect anything to change, unless we elect new people in Congress and the Presidency who are willing to take a hammer to this whole insane system and smash it bluntly. Trump is kind of this type of new person, but even he isn’t willing to change that much, only some things, such as the EPA, that irk him in particular. Otherwise, he has left much of the federal bureaucracy alone — as can be seen by his administration and NASA both gearing up to fund both LOP-G and WFIRST— thus continuing this pattern of big and expensive projects that take forever to build.

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29 Republicans and all Democrats vote to kill Senate balanced budget proposal

Apropos of my post earlier today: In the Senate yesterday twenty-nine Republicans and every Democrat voted to kill a balanced budget proposal offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

Paul’s plan would have reduced spending by $404.8 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1. After the budget balanced in five years, spending would be held to 1 percent increases per year, resulting in a budget that was 14.6 percent bigger in 10 years that it is now.

This very mild proposal to trim the equivalent of a penny from every dollar spent was too much for these spend-thrifts. The article at the link lists all 29 Republicans who voted against it, all of whom were liars when they said during their campaigns that they support a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government.

Let me repeat it so no one has any doubts about what I mean: These Senators are liars. They didn’t misconstrue the facts. Their statements weren’t misguided. They simply lied during their campaigns, and they have so done repeatedly.

The only saving grace about this story is that the trend has been to replace these crooks. Since 2010 the voters have been favoring candidates who mean what they say, on both sides of the aisle. And the result has been an increase in the numbers of real conservatives in Congress. Their influence is growing.

We also might be getting outright socialists and communists elected on the Democratic side, but at least they are being honest about who they are, unlike the lying Democrats who in the past were also outright socialists or communists, but tried to hide their beliefs behind equally offensive lies.

This honesty will maybe finally allow us to deal with the issue of the out-of-control federal budget. Or it will bankrupt us with more legislators willing to spend money like it is water. In the latter case, however, the result will be because this is what the American people choose to do, rather than being deceived by their leaders. And if that is what we choose, then at least we will deserve the hell we bring down upon ourselves.

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The federal government’s blank check

Three articles this morning about actions taken by Congress in connection with the budgets for NASA and NOAA illustrate the bankrupt nature of our federal government.

The first story describes how several legislators from the House Appropriations Committee have inserted amendments into their budget bill that will restore a $10 million NASA climate monitoring program that the Trump administration had shut down.

The second story describes how that same budget bill generously funds both NASA and NOAA at levels far above their own requests.
» Read more

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Trump administration shuts down $10 million carbon measuring program at NASA

The Trump administration has shut down a $10 million ground-based carbon measuring program that was being run by NASA.

The program, dubbed Carbon Measuring System (CMS), was a collection of 65 ground-based research projects.

Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts [proposed by the Trump administration], a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The Science article takes the typical journalistic approach of the past century, innocently assuming that this research is vital and must be funded and that it is a tragedy that it is being cut. Mainstream reporters today seem incapable of exercising any skepticism when it comes to government spending.

Look, this research might be worthwhile. Then again, maybe not. More importantly, why is NASA funding this ground-based climate research? The agency’s task is the exploration of space. This work has nothing to do with that task. If environmental scientists need this work done, they need to go to the appropriate funding sources, which in the federal government would be NOAA, EPA, or the Department of Energy, not NASA.

Meanwhile, it appears that much of this work is going to be made somewhat redundant anyway, with the launch of several carbon monitoring satellites by both NASA and Europe, one of which is already in orbit, according to the article.

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House committee boosts NASA budget while micromanaging its projects

A NASA budget proposal released earlier this week by the House Appropriations Committee boosts NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion, while also micro-managing some of NASA’s planetary projects.

The bill, though, does specify funding for some programs. It calls for spending $545 million on the Europa Clipper mission and $195 million for a follow-on lander. NASA requested only $264.7 million for Europa Clipper and nothing for the lander.

NASA said in the budget proposal it was seeking to launch Europa Clipper in 2025 on a commercial vehicle, while the bill calls for the use of the Space Launch System and a launch by 2022. In its budget proposal, NASA estimated needing $565 million in 2019 to keep Europa Clipper on track for a 2022 launch but warned of “potential impacts to the rest of the Science portfolio” if funded at that level.

The bill also included $3.5 billion for SLS/Orion, continuing that boondoggle as it continues to fall behind schedule and go over budget. Also in the bill was a half billion dollars for LOP-G, confirming Congress’s desire to get this new boondoggle running, even though the rocket and capsule necessary to fly it, SLS/Orion, hasn’t even come close to completion after almost two decades of work and almost $40 billion so far in spending.

Overall, this NASA budget proposal illustrates once again why we have Trump. Congress is corrupt, is only interested in distributing money to its corporate buddies, and doesn’t care if that cash ever produces anything. In fact, it appears they prefer that nothing ever get built, as a real space effort would carry risk, and we can’t have that!

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GAO predicts more delays and cost increases in NASA’s big projects

The Government Accountability Office is predicting more delays and cost increases for most of NASA’s big projects in its tenth annual report.

The cost and schedule performance” of NASA’s major projects “has deteriorated, but the extent of cost deterioration is unknown” because NASA does not have a cost estimate for Orion. Orion is “one of the largest projects in the portfolio” and NASA “expects cost growth.”

As for schedule, “the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years” of making these assessments. GAO said the 12-month average delay is up from 7 months in last year’s assessment.

Further, NASA faces the risk of more cost and schedule growth because of “new, large, complex projects that will enter the portfolio and expensive projects remaining the portfolio longer than expected.” Europa Clipper, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, and Europa Lander are cited as examples of those future large, complex projects. GAO did give NASA credit for putting processes in place to control the costs of Europa Clipper and WFIRST.

GAO identified nine existing projects as the biggest contributors to the poor cost and schedule performance: SLS, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS), the Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS) cited in the 2017 report, Mars 2020, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), ICESat-2, NISAR, ICON, and GRACE-FO (GRACE-Follow On).

Orion has cost already cost the taxpayer about $15 billion, all of which will only buy the taxpayer three capsules (two unmanned test flights and a single manned flight). And yet they don’t have enough money yet, and NASA can’t provide a total cost estimate? To me, this appears to be outright theft. Building three capsules simply shouldn’t cost that much. (Note: the report claims Orion has cost about $6.6 billion. My number above comes from actual appropriations by Congress specifically for Orion. I think my number is a far more accurate reflection of the project’s true cost.)

Though the report expresses concerns about schedule delays in the commercial crew program, it is with the NASA-run projects that the report finds the worst cost overruns and delays. All of the usual suspects above come in for criticism: Webb, WFIRST, SLS (and its associated ground facilities), Orion, LOP-G.

I will make a prediction: All these NASA projects will be cited for further cost overruns and further delays in next year’s GAO report. By that time, we shall have also seen the first test flights of the commercial crew capsules by Boeing and SpaceX.

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DARPA announces $10 million launch challenge for smallsat rocket companies

Capitalism in space: DARPA yesterday announced a new launch challenge competition for smallsat rocket companies, with prizes of $10, $9, and $8 million for first, second, and third prizes, respectively.

Contest rules call for teams to be given the full details about where and when they’ll launch, what kind of payload they’ll launch, plus what kind of orbit the payload should be launched into, only a couple of weeks in advance. And that’s just half the job. Teams will be required to execute another launch, from a different site, no more than a couple of weeks later.

The precise time frames for giving advance notice are still under discussion, but “I would measure the time scale in days,” Todd Master, program manager for the challenge at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told reporters today.

Considering that we right now already have at least two smallsat rocket companies, Rocket Lab and Vector, on the verge of doing exactly this, without the need of government money, with a slew of other companies to soon follow, I wonder why DARPA is proposing this competition. It seems somewhat irrelevant at this point, making me wonder if its real purpose is not to encourage rocket development but to find a clever way to hand some government cash to these specific companies.

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NASA might scale down the first manned SLS flight

In order to meet its present schedule and budget, NASA is considering scaling down its first manned SLS flight in 2023 by using the same smaller version of SLS that will fly the first unmanned test flight in 2020.

The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA’s main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won’t be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. “If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can’t do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS],” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. “The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

The problem here really is that Congress keeps throwing money at this boondoggle. It will fly, but it will never be able to make the exploration and colonization of the solar system possible. It is simply too expensive and has a far too slow launch rate. Instead, it will allow for NASA to do stunts in space, while elected officials can preen and prance about, bragging about the jobs they brought to their districts.

And the nation’s debt will grow, and grow, and grow.

I hold to my prediction that private companies will bypass SLS in the 2020s, doing far more for far less. The differences between them will become downright embarrassing to SLS and Congress.

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Congress pumps pork money to NASA in omnibus budget

The omnibus budget that Congress plans to pass this week for 2018 gives NASA $20.7 billion, significantly more than requested and funding almost every pork project Congress could conceive of, including a second mobile launcher for SLS.

The budget gives SLS and Orion more than $3 billion, funds all the Earth science and education projects the Trump administration wished to cut, as well as WFIRST, which the Trump administration wants to cancel because of cost overruns. In general, the NASA budget is a microcosm of the entire spending bill, which does nothing to cut any program anywhere, including Obamacare and a number of liberal programs that the Republicans have repeatedly promised to shut down, until they are in a position to do so. Then they act like leftist Democrats and fund everything.

This is posted between Tucson and Phoenix. I am heading up to the Grand Canyon for a four day cave expedition, which is why I can’t do a more thorough analysis. This really isn’t necessary however, as it is very clear that the Republican leadership in Congress are continuing their corrupt passion for spending money that does not exist. And they wonder why they may lose seats in 2018.

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Trump mentions interest in creating military “Space Force”

Blather and pork: In comments to soldiers in San Diego President Trump yesterday expressed interest in creating a military “Space Force” similar to the Air Force

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said during a Tuesday speech at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy.”

The administration’s National Security Strategy, released in December, repeatedly identifies space as a contested domain, a somewhat more dire take than its Obama-era predecessors, which recognized “threats posed by those who may wish to deny the peaceful use of outer space.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said. “And I was not really serious, but I said, ‘What a great idea.’ Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

Trump as usual is talking off the cuff, but might very well have a negotiating purpose. There are members of Congress who want it. Trump could possibly be considering a trade, I give you that, you let me cut this.

Or not. It is dangerous to over analyze many of Trump’s off-the-cuff statements. Many times he just does them to get some publicity and to annoy his opponents. Note also that top Air Force officials dodged this issue when asked at hearings to comment on Trump’s statement.

Bottom line however remains the same: Spending money on a Space Force dedicated to fighting in space would be, at this time, a complete waste of money. It would be pork, pure and simple.

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Parkland Underscores How Americans Pay For Garbage Government While Doing Its Job Ourselves

Link here. Essentially, the article outlines how, at every single level, government in the U.S. is failing, while demanding more money and more power as a reward. Parkland is only a recent single example.

Each day Americans wake up to hear new revelations of government incompetence that enabled the Parkland, Florida school shooting. First it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to follow existing protocols to investigate a highly detailed tip that the shooter was planning and had the means to do exactly what he did. The FBI and local police received at least four separate tips warning of the shooters’ plans and means, and local police had received 45 calls summoning them to the family’s home since 2008.

Then we learned of the police officer — the only person initially onsite able to return the shooter’s deadly force and tasked by his salary-paying community with doing precisely that — hesitated for approximately four minutes to enter the high school as students lay dying. Then local sources told reporters three other Broward County police officers joined that onsite officer in hiding behind their vehicles until police from another jurisdiction showed up. Reports say the Broward County police didn’t even follow the others inside.

Then it was that police didn’t know they were watching the wrong security tape, putting them off the shooter’s whereabouts by 20 minutes, leaving a mass murderer to endanger more people longer. To add insult to literal injury, the hesitating onsite school police officer, Scot Peterson, was allowed to resign and will receive a lifetime public pension of approximately $60,000 a year plus benefits.

The list of failures above for Parkland is actually not complete. However, they do provide a metaphor for our government, which functions about as badly in every other area as well. Readers of Behind the Black will of course be aware of SLS/Orion, NASA’s own failed boondoggle that will never get us into space.

What must happen is a major house-cleaning. Many thought Trump would do it. I continue to see Trump as a transitional figure, willing to slash and burn in a few areas (EPA) but not in most other areas (FBI, Justice Department, NOAA, NASA, to name a few). Essentially, almost everyone working in Washington needs to be fired. Many can reapply for the work, but no one should be guaranteed a job.

Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. Instead, I see this cabal in Washington teaming up with corrupt elected officials and a corrupt national press to defend their positions of power, even as they fail again and again to simply do their jobs. Witness for example how so-called conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) to criticize the mere suggestion by the Trump administration that ISS will be transitioned to private hands by 2024, no longer getting federal funds.

This is just one example. The power in Washington is deep and profound, and the people who have it will not give it up lightly.

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Off to Israel

I am about to leave on a ten day trip to Israel, which is why I have not commented yet on the Trump budget [pdf] and how it effects NASA and science.

The links above will give you a chance to form your own opinions, and to comment here. I will absorb them myself and post on the subject at some time I think during the trip, though in truth it generally doesn’t matter that much what a president proposes in his budget. Congress makes the decision, and usually ignores the president’s suggestions, especially if such ideas threaten their pork.

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Trump signs two-year budget deal

Big spending wins! The new two-year budget deal, which provides increased spending and eliminates the sequestration budget caps, has been signed into law by President Trump.

I know people might think me insane when I say this, but Trump’s comments upon signing the bill remind me of Ronald Reagan when he signed compromise bills with the Democrats that were not what he really wanted. Trump calls it a victory, but also said this:

“Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military,” he wrote. “Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!”

Trump continued to praise the bill as a victory, because of the big spending boost to the military. He criticized Democrats for “waste” in the bill. “Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond,” he said. “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes.”

Though I strongly think we have plenty of waste in the military as well, and that the Defense Department didn’t need any increases and could have been cut considerably, in many ways Trump’s comments here reflect reality. For the American public to get its federal government under control, that public is going to have to vote out the people who presently run it in an uncontrollable manner. And while there are many establishment Republicans to which this description applies, the vast majority of the legislators who are pushing out-of-control spending are Democrats.

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New budget deal dumps budget caps

The swamp wins again! The new budget deal negotiated today between Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) eliminates the sequestration budget caps that for the past half dozen or so years have put at least a few limits on government spending.

The deal removes sequestration budget caps for two years, increases defense spending and also boosts funding for domestic programs that were priorities for Democrats, such as opioid addiction programs. It also raises the debt ceiling until 2019.

It was unclear if the Senate deal will get enough support when it goes to the House.

According to this report, the deal will raise government spending by $300 billion over the next two years.

Even as the two parties make a lot of noise over the FBI scandal, their leaders move to keep the spigot of cash flowing to their buddies, and thus to themselves. And as they do so the federal debt grows, and grows, and grows. And we get closer and closer to outright bankruptcy and collapse.

Update: Trump has endorsed the deal.

“The Budget Agreement today is so important for our great Military,” he wrote on Twitter. “It ends the dangerous sequester and gives Secretary Mattis what he needs to keep America Great.”

“Dangerous sequester”? The sequestration rule has been the only thing that has kept any reins on budget spending for the past few years. In this matter Trump reveals his old liberal Democrat roots.

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Proposed budget deal lifts all spending caps

It appears that the spending in the budget deals being proposed in Congress include hefty spending increases and would also end up lifting all the spending caps imposed by the 2011 budget deal.

In order to secure more money for national defense, Democrats are demanding an equal amount of extra funding for domestic social welfare programs. So to get an additional $108 billion for the Pentagon, the Republicans may agree to another $108 billion-plus in ransom money for domestic agencies. But when all the emergency funding is included, the ratio could be closer to $2 of additional domestic spending for every dollar of increased military funding. What a deal.

If this treasury raid deal gets cut, the budget caps from the 2011 budget act will be officially and irrevocably washed away. So will any pretense of fiscal discipline and debt control. “Almost no one here on either side of the aisle wants to control spending,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tells me. “It’s sad, but it’s the new reality.”

If he’s right, then any allegiance to spending control has been tossed aside at the very time the debt has been spiraling. The $4 trillion federal budget is expected to exceed $5 trillion within eight years. The $20 trillion debt is already headed to $30 trillion over the next decade — even without this new spending spree.

In other words, the corrupt swamp in Washington, from both parties, continue to win in its desire to empower itself at the cost of the nation.

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The corruption in Washington DC

If you think there has been any draining of the swamp in Washington DC with recent elections, think again. The passage this weekend of the new tax package illustrates that the Republican-led Congress really is little different than the Democratic-led Congress that passed Obamacare without reading it.

PJMedia asked Rounds if he would have time to read the full text before casting his vote.

“No, because the entire bill, there’s two separate parts, first of all, there’s a summary of what each of the parts does, that part we’ve been able to read. The actual text itself will be completed and then it will go into a conference committee where it will come back out again. So most of us have looked at all of the analysis of each one of the sections, section-by-section, that part has been completed,” Rounds told PJM on Capitol Hill on Friday evening.

“But there will still be more work to be completed in terms of the actual fine language within the bill itself.”

In other words, we need to pass the law to find out what’s in it.

This stinks. Though there is some evidence that the new tax law will lower taxes (which generally is a good thing), no one really knows what the law’s full consequences will be. A responsible Congress would never pass such a thing. Congresses before the 1960s never did.

Laws are made of words. If you vote for a law but don’t know the words that actually make up the law you guarantee that some of those words will impose tyranny. This process, and the law that results, is no different than Obamacare, and will likely result in similar disasters.

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Washington swamp creature hints that SLS could be in trouble

Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today expressed strong disappointment with the repeated delays in the the launch of SLS and Orion, noting that the problems could lead to Congress considering “other options.”

“After all these years, after billions of dollars spent, we are facing more delays and cost overruns,” Smith said. While he noted that some delays were caused by factors out of NASA’s control, like a tornado that damaged the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in February, “many of the problems are self-inflicted.”

“It is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution, when the U.S. taxpayer has invested so much in these programs,” he added.

Smith, who announced Nov. 2 he would not run for reelection next year after more than three decades in the House, including serving as chairman of the science committee since 2013, warned about eroding support for the programs should there be additional delays. “NASA and the contractors should not assume future delays and cost overruns will have no consequences,” he said. “If delays continue, if costs rise, and if foreseeable technical challenges arise, no one should assume the U.S. taxpayers or their representatives will tolerate this forever.”

“The more setbacks SLS and Orion face, the more support builds for other options,” he said, not elaborating on what those options would be.

Smith is part of the establishment in Congress that has been supporting SLS and Orion blindly for years. Unfortunately, he is retiring this year, and the other members of his committee did not seem as bothered by SLS’s endless delays.

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Senate kills military “Space Corps”

As part of this year’s military budget bill, the Senate has eliminated a House proposal that the military create a new military branch called the “Space Corps.”

The bill also completely overhauls the management of the military’s space effort, as described in detail here.

The NDAA conference report blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise,” strips key authorities from the service and shifts much of the management of military space to the deputy secretary of defense.

The second link focuses on the management changes, while the first reviews in great detail the Senate’s budget proposals, which (surprise, surprise!) give the military more money.

In addition to changes in space-related policy, the bill would also fully authorize a pay increase for service members, increase missile defense, and add additional ships and aircraft. “The bill fully funds the 2.4% pay raise our troops are entitled to under law while blocking the President’s ability to reduce troop pay,” according to the summary.

It authorizes funding for a wide variety of additional military hardware including 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the service branches — 20 more than requested by President Donald Trump’s initial budget — and three additional Littoral Combat Ships.

The bill also “adds $4.4 billion above the President’s initial budget request to meet critical missile defense needs” — authorizing up to 28 additional ground-based Interceptors and “requiring the Missile Defense Agency to develop a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense,” according to the summary.

However, the bill would also set defense spending well above the $549 billion cap under the Budget Control Act [sequestration] and Senate Democrats have vowed to block major increases to defense spending without equal increases for domestic programs.

I am not sure what to make of the management changes, though I like the elimination of the Space Corps, which was an absurd waste of money. The proposed budget increases are disturbing, however. I am especially appalled (but not surprised) at the push to eliminate sequestration, which has been the only bill passed by Republicans that has done anything to control the federal governments wasteful spending.

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Democratic congressmen falsified records says computer man Awan

Imran Awan, the computer expert hired by Democrat who is now charged with bank fraud, is saying that the Democratic representatives with whom he worked systematically falsified records to encourage theft.

If members or senior staff instructed IT aides to misrepresent how budgets were spent, that could potentially explain why officials have not charged the Awans with crimes related to procurement, even a full year after House authorities gathered documentation showing invoices that claimed expensive technological items cost $499 instead of their true price: potentially an open-and-shut violation. “The only reason you’re not seeing charges is because the Democrats who employed him are not cooperating,” a senior Republican congressional official with direct knowledge of the probe told TheDCNF last month.

The scale of this scandal continues to grow.

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Fannie Mae’s new headquarters included $250K chandelier

Government in action! In building its new gold-plated Washington headquarters, officials at Fannie Mae made sure they had the best, spending about $32 million in questionable expenses, including a chandelier that cost $250,000, according to an inspector general report.

The inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which acts as a conservator for the mortgage lender, recently noted $32 million in questionable costs in an audit for Fannie Mae’s new headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. Fannie Mae will be the flagship of Midtown Center, which is scheduled to complete construction in June 2018. The inspector general reported that costs for the new headquarters have “risen dramatically,” to $171 million, up from $115 million when the consolidated headquarters was announced in 2015.

The inspector general blamed expensive upgrades for cost overruns, such as a third glass walkway costing $2 million to connect Fannie Mae buildings, $1.2 million for “decorative wood slatted ceilings,” decorative wood “lunch huts,” and pergolas, or garden-style pavilions, in elevator lobbies. FHFA officials have had poor oversight of the project, according to the inspector general, because they “did not review whether any of the major upgrades were cost-effective or whether lower cost alternatives were available.”

Among the upgrades: a $250,000 chandelier that no one was quite sure what it was for.

Read the whole article. It outlines some disgusting corruption in Washington that is unfortunately now the norm.

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