Tag Archives: deficit

Space Force lobbies for $1 billion extra

The Space Force has put forth an extra wish list of missions/projects that require an $1 billion more above the $15 billion the agency has already requested in the next federal budget for 2021.

While about 10 percent of the request is for classified programs, the remaining funding runs the gamut, from bolstering space situational awareness to accelerating the development of navigational satellites to establishing new commercial satellite communication capabilities in low earth orbit.

Overall this wish list appears properly focused, aimed at upgrading or improving existing space military assets rather than growing the Space Force’s bureaucracy. We shall see over time if this proves true. I can’t help having doubts.

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Trump proposes an increase in science spending in 2021

Read any analysis by any mainstream news or science publication of Trump’s 2021 proposed science budget, released this week, and you will come away thinking that the future of science research in the U.S. is doomed and that Donald Trump is a neanderthal who wishes to send us back to the dark ages.

Consider for example this article from the journal Science, Trump’s new budget cuts all but a favored few science programs, which begins like so:

For the fourth straight year, President Donald Trump has proposed sizable reductions in federal research spending. To be sure, it’s no longer news that the president wants deep cuts to the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and science programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA. And in past years, Congress has rejected similar proposals and provided increases. But Trump’s 2021 request brings into sharper focus what his administration values across the research landscape—and what it views as unimportant.

The article then outlines how Trump is slashing spending on science research across the board, even to the point of spinning the NASA budget to make a significant budget increase appear as a cut, by cherry-picking only some of that budget’s science programs.

This article is typical of the mainstream press. These articles never provide any context for the proposed budget numbers. They look at what was spent the year before, see what is being proposed for the next year, and if they see any reduction they scream. And if it is an evil Republican president proposing the cuts they scream far harder, implying that those cuts will guarantee the coming of a new dark age.

Trump's proposed science budget compared to Obama's last science budget

To the right however are the budget numbers (shown in thousands) for five of the biggest science agencies in the federal government, comparing Trump’s 2021 proposed budget numbers with the last science budget approved at the end of the Obama administration in 2016.

Notice anything? » Read more

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NASA get boost in Trump proposed budget for 2021

The 2021 budget request by the Trump administration includes a big budget increase for NASA while also proposing major cuts to many of its science programs.

According to the analysis at the second link, the big gainer is Artemis. The losers in astronomy are the space telescope WFIRST and the airborne telescope SOFIA, both of which the administration wants terminated. Also on the chopping block are two climate satellites.

I plan to go through the budget in the next day or so and do my own analysis, which will also provide a longer term context that I guarantee no other news source will do. For example, routinely when most mainstream sources declare a cut in any program, it only means either a reduction in its growth rate, or a reduction to spending levels deemed entirely satisfactory only a few years before. To understand any new budget proposal, you need to look at the long term spending trends.

I will, as I have done in the past, also include more than just NASA in my analysis, reviewing the budget changes for all the science agencies.

I would do this today, but an eye doctor’s appointment this afternoon takes priority.

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Congress gets first organizational plan for Space Force

The Air Force has delivered to Congress the first of a regularly required series of reports on its organizational plans for creating the Space Force.

At first glance, the article makes it appear that both Congress and the Air Force under Trump are making an attempt to avoid the birth of a new bureaucracy that will coast billions of additional dollars. The following quotes highlight this:

The report delivered Feb. 3, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews, stresses that the Space Force will not have the traditional layers of bureaucracy that Congress cautioned it did not want to see in the new service.

…The Space Force in fiscal year 2020 is allotted a total of 200 people. The plan is to grow the staff over the next five years “within existing DoD resources,” says the report.

The article also outlines how the bulk of the Space Force’s staff will be taken from the Air Force.

One would think therefore that the overall military budget would not rise significantly. Hah! Fooled you!

The report says in the future the new service will not require more than $500 million annually over and above what DoD spends currently on space organizations. Total additional costs would not exceed $2 billion over the next five years, says the report.

Only in the government would spending an extra $500 million annually for an office operation taken from other parts of a company be considered inexpensive. For example, the initial capital funding for almost every single one of the new private smallsat rocket companies has generally been under $100 million, total. Later rounds of funding have generally only doubled or tripled that. The extra $500 million the military wants for the Space Force is actually a lot of money, and indicates that the Pentagon is definitely trying to pad the budget.

Our incompetent federal government grows again, and I guarantee we are getting less for our money than we should.

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Trump signs defense bill which includes Space Force

It’s official: Trump today signed the annual NDAA defense authorization bill which also includes the creation of a new military branch dubbed the Space Force.

Whether this new branch will function to make the U.S.’s space military more effective, or merely act as a foundation for a bureaucracy in Washington requiring lots of useless jobs and lots of wasteful spending remains at this moment an unknown.

My instincts favor the latter, based on a lifetime of watching how Washington operates. Every time in the past half century Congress has created a new agency that was supposed to make the federal government more efficient it has instead accomplished the exact opposite. I see no reason at this moment to expect otherwise.

Note that for the immediate future not much is going to change, as this new branch will be operating initially from within the Air Force, where space operations have been based for decades anyway.

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Shelby delivers big bucks to SLS, Gateway

The boondoggle that never ends! The Senate has passed a 2020 budget that includes an increase of $1.2 billion for NASA’s Artemis program and Trump’s 2024 manned lunar landing proposal, almost all of which will go to Alabama, the home state of Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).

In the Exploration section of the budget that does include the Moon mission, the big new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) would get nearly $2.6 billion in 2020, a $1.2 billion jump from this year. SLS is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The Orion crew capsule program would get $1.4 billion for continued development, the planned Lunar Gateway would get $500 million and lunar landers would get $744 million.

If the Democratically-controlled House ever decides to do anything but pursue sham impeachment charges against President Trump (such as approve a budget or deal with the Senate’s proposed commercial space legislation), it remains doubtful it will approve similar increases. During recent hearings on the budget, when the House was actually doing its real job, the Democrats were very hostile to funding Trump’s 2024 Moon proposal.

And even if the House should eventually go along, unlikely as that is, the money will not really get us closer to the Moon. The bulk of this cash is targeted to pay the salaries of NASA bureaucrats at Marshall, not actually build anything.

Meanwhile the second link above, “Cruz criticizes House for lack of action on commercial space legislation,” highlights the irresponsibility of the House under Democratic control.

Cruz and several other senators from both parties reintroduced the Space Frontier Act in March. The bill, favorably reported by the Senate Commerce Committee in April, calls for reforms of commercial launch and remote sensing regulations, which are already in progress, extends the authorization of the International Space Station through 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce, led by an assistant secretary.

The House, though, has not introduced a companion bill or related legislation, a lack of action that Cruz criticized. “It’s now been nearly a year since the Space Frontier Act has been on the House floor, and airlines, airline pilots and commercial space companies are no closer to getting greater certainty or having more of a voice on how our national airspace is managed than they were a year ago,” he said.

The Democrats might not agree with the language in this Senate bill, but they have an obligation to offer some alternative. Instead, they spend their time trying to overturn a legal election that they lost.

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NASA to give Boeing cost-plus contract for 10 more SLS rockets

The boondoggle never ends! NASA is now planning to purchase ten more SLS rockets from Boeing, but it appears it plans to do so under a cost-plus contract, where the prices will never be fixed and the agency, not Boeing, will pay for any cost increases, plus 10 percent.

On Wednesday, NASA announced that it is negotiating a contract with Boeing to purchase up to 10 SLS core stages. The news release does not mention costs—NASA and Boeing have never been transparent about costs, but certainly production and operations cost for a single SLS launch will be well north of $1 billion. It also does not mention the mechanism of the contract.

A spokesperson for the agency, Kathryn Hambleton, told Ars that terms of the contract were not finalized yet. “NASA anticipates the contract will be a hybrid of cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-award-fee, potentially transitioning to firm-fixed-price,” she said. “The cost incentives are designed to reduce costs during early production to enable the lowest possible unit prices for the later fixed-price missions.” [emphasis mine]

If anything provides us a perfect example of the utter corruption and waste inherent in the present leadership within NASA and Congress, it is this deal. Cost-plus contracts were created in the 1960s to allow companies to build new and revolutionary things for the government, such as the missiles and capsules it needed then for the cold war and the space race. Today, rockets like SLS are hardly revolutionary or new, and to give Boeing a cost-plus contract to buy ten more rockets, essentially a blank check for the company, is unconscionable.

While I personally think all cost-plus contracts are corrupt, I can understand the arguemnet for them for the first development contract. This contract however is for the purchase of ten more rockets that Boeing has supposedly already figured out how to build. In essence NASA is just buying some rockets off the shelf. Cost-plus is entirely inappropriate for this purchase.

Worse, this announcement also illustrates the dishonest partnership between NASA, Boeing, and Congress. It is a maneuver by NASA and Boeing to force Congress to fund these extra rockets. At this moment Congress has not yet appropriated this money for more SLS rockets. The contract is basically NASA and Boeing’s fantasy of what they want to happen. This announcement thus signals to Congress where they want the pork spent, and our corrupt lawmakers, from both parties, are going to read that signal and are going to quickly follow through with the cash.

Sadly, I now fully expect Congress to go along. Welcome to the lumbering wasteful modern American empire, corrupt to the core.

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UN faces financial shortfall

My heart bleeds: The head of the UN today announced that it faces a financial shortfall in October that might force it to cut its bloated budget and reduce the number of posh conferences it holds.

The United Nations (UN) is running a deficit of $230 million, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, and may run out of money by the end of October.

In a letter intended for the 37,000 employees at the UN secretariat and obtained by AFP, Guterres said unspecified “additional stop-gap measures” would have to be taken to ensure salaries and entitlements are paid. “Member States have paid only 70 per cent of the total amount needed for our regular budget operations in 2019. This translates into a cash shortage of $230 million at the end of September. We run the risk of depleting our backup liquidity reserves by the end of the month,” he wrote.

To cut costs, Guterres mentioned postponing conferences and meetings and reducing services, while also restricting official travel to only essential activities and taking measures to save energy.

For a short but detailed explanation of the present status of the U.S. policy and politics towards funding the U.N., see this Congressional Research document [pdf]. It appears that the effort by the Trump administration to stop funding certain UN operations, including Palestinian terrorist organizations, might be a major contributing factor to this shortfall.

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Congressional Budget Office: Budget deficits about to explode

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new budget analysis today that predicts the federal budget will see trillion dollar annual deficits for years to come, based on present government spending.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a grim update Wednesday to its economic outlook for the next decade, predicting average national deficits of $1.2 trillion every year through 2029, due in large part to recent budget and border security bills.

The CBO report noted that, as one of many repercussions from free-spending policies, federal debt held by the public is projected to reach heights not seen since the 1940s, almost equaling the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. “As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow steadily, from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 to 95 percent in 2029—its highest level since just after World War II,” the report says. The GDP itself is also expected to see a slowdown in growth in the coming years.

The CBO report underscores how deficits are rising once again, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress — and the Trump administration — show little interest in tackling the red ink. [emphasis mine]

Trump is not breaking any promises in doing nothing to restrain spending. He has never shown much interest in reducing the deficit, and in fact has often appeared eager to spread government cash around freely.

The Republicans in Congress however have repeatedly campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility. They have also repeatedly proven that platform to be an outright lie. Once elected they have routinely spent money as willingly as the Democrats, and the new budget bill recently agreed to by Congress and Trump underscored this, as they went along with a deal that removed all the restraints of sequestration that had helped limit budget growth for the past six years.

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Washington’s spectacular effort to crush the American space effort

Three stories today illustrate once again the incompetence, idiocy, and inability of practically anyone in our federal government to get anything done sanely and efficiently and with success.

In the past half century that federal government has saddled the American people with a debt that is crushing. In that time it has also failed to do its job of properly enforcing the law to control the borders. It has spent trillions on social problems, only to have those social problems worsen exponentially.

I could go on. The problems imposed on American society by our failed ruling class in Washington since the 1960s is myriad. In the area of aerospace and space exploration, my specialty, the following three stories today alone demonstrate again that continuing track record, with no sign that anyone in Washington recognizes how bad a job they are doing.

First we have incompetence and idiocy by Congress. The first story outlines how our sainted lawmakers have mandated by law that the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon must fly on NASA’s SLS rocket and “launch no later than 2023.”

This legal requirement, written into the appropriations bill, was imposed because the SLS project is being managed from Alabama, and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) wants that rocket to get some work to justify this pork to his state. The requirement was further pushed by former Texas Congressman John Culbertson, who has a special place in his heart for Europa, and has specifically imposed that mission on NASA.

Shelby’s demand is especially egregious and makes little sense. First, even after twenty years of effort, NASA will likely not have that rocket available in 2023. Second, the cost to use SLS is about $4 billion per launch (not the fake $1 billion number cited in the article). A Falcon Heavy rocket could do the job for $100 million, which would more than pay for the extra operating costs incurred because it will take the three more years to get to Jupiter.

To deal with this conflict, NASA is presently doing as much lobbying as it can to get Congress to change the time limit, or to allow them to fly the spacecraft on a Falcon Heavy. Not surprisingly, Congress is resisting, even though their position makes no sense and will likely cost the taxpayer billions unnecessarily while likely delaying or even impeding the mission itself.

The article as usual for the mainstream press is filled with misconceptions and errors that are all designed to make any change in this Congressional act seem a mistake. These mistakes were all fed to the reporter by the powers in and out of Congress who oppose changing things, and the reporter sadly was not informed enough to realize this.

Next we have the incompetent and power-hungry federal bureaucracy, as described in the second article.
» Read more

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Marshall wins Artemis manned Moon lander pork

As expected and despite opposition from some Texas lawmakers, NASA yesterday announced that it has given the bulk of the management of its Artemis manned lunar lander project to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Marshall will be in charge of two of the contractors who will build what NASA conceives as three components for the lander: the transfer vehicle, the descent module, and the upper ascent stage:

The lunar lander, consisting of three components, also will be launched atop commercial rockets and docked at the Gateway before any astronauts arrive. One component, a sort of carrier craft known as a transfer vehicle, would take the lander from Gateway down to a lower orbit. From there, the lander’s descent module will make a rocket-powered landing on the moon, initially carrying two astronauts.

The astronauts would ride down to the surface in the pressurized cabin of an upper ascent stage. That stage will use the descent module as a launching pad, much like the Apollo astronauts did 50 years ago, to climb back up to the transfer vehicle and then on to Gateway.

Marshall will supervise construction of the transfer vehicle and the descent module, while the Johnson Space Center in Texas will manage construction of the upper ascent stage.

Does no one in NASA or the Trump administration see the stupidity of this? It is as if Ford decided that the interior and exterior sections of its cars will be assembled in two different factories, and only combined after they are assembled. The logistics of making sure they will fit and work together during final assembly could only increase costs, delay assembly, and almost guarantee engineering issues. No intelligently run business would do such a thing.

Government however is not an intelligently run business. It is run by politicians, whom we the public have not held to any kind of quality standard for the past half century. Thus, NASA is forced to spread this pork around because politicians in Alabama (Senator Richard Shelby) and Texas (Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) demand it do so.

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Texas and Alabama fight over space pork

Turf war: Several powerful Texas lawmakers announced yesterday their opposition to NASA’s decision to give the lead management for the next lunar lander to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

The question is which Center will manage development of the landers, a plum assignment. NASA plans to procure them through public-private partnerships rather than traditional contracts. The actual design will be determined by whatever companies win the contracts, but NASA’s concept is for a trilogy of vehicles: a transfer vehicle to take the crew from the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, then a descent vehicle to take them to the surface and an ascent vehicle to return them to Gateway.

…According to Ars Technica, … NASA is assigning overall responsibility for the lunar lander program to Marshall, which will also oversee acquisition of the transfer and descent vehicles. JSC will oversee the ascent vehicle.

In a letter to Bridenstine today, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Rep. Brian Babin, all Republicans, expressed surprise and asked Bridenstine to reconsider. They argue that JSC should be in charge of the entire program, not just one of the three vehicles. Marshall’s expertise is in rocketry while JSC is “ground zero for human space exploration.”

They also disagree with splitting the work between two Centers, “an unnecessary and counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success” of the lander for the Apollo program.

This fight is not over who will actually build anything, but how to distribute the pork. In truth, the NASA agency that does this “management” does almost nothing. It is the contractor that builds the spacecraft. You could condense the management into a team of less two dozen (and that’s probably high). Instead, NASA and these politicians use the contractors to justify the existence of whole departments and hundreds of employees and large facilities, all of which are mostly irrelevant, especially if the Trump administration is serious about letting private industry do the job.

Worse, this fight — and NASA’s need to make these politicians happy — is forcing the agency to turn the work once again into a Frankenstein monster, distributing responsibility in absurd ways. I guarantee that in the end the management will not all go to Texas, meaning that the management of the different contractors will be split to different agencies, making for a very inefficient and badly managed program.

The result is going to be, as always, delays, cost overruns, bad designs, a lot of wasted money, and little accomplished.

I want to make special note of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in this affair. He ran for president as a new conservative, out to drain the swamp of Washington. Now, as senator, he is increasingly becoming captured by that swamp, participating in all the same corruption he railed against during his presidential run.

If he was really serious about draining the swamp, he would be pushing to trim NASA’s management, both in Alabama and in Texas. Instead he is fighting to build it up.

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Why drastic education cuts in Alaska tell us everything about the coming dark age

Faced with a gigantic $1.6 billion budget deficit, last month Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, used his line item power to veto about $444 million from the state’s total budget of $8.3 billion. Among those cuts included an unprecedented almost 41% cut in the state’s university system.

Understanding the background for these cuts is not something easy to pin down in today’s partisan press. I first came across the story today in this Nature article, clearly written to lament the cuts and the harm they will do to education and science. This quote will give you the flavor:

Researchers are waitivng anxiously to see how university administrators will apply the cuts, which could fundamentally reshape science in the state — including UA’s world-class Arctic and climate research programmes. The first hint came on 30 July, when the university’s governing board voted to consolidate the system’s three main branches — in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

“It’s awful,” says Milligan-Myhre. “I had to turn away a student planning on starting in the fall because I just don’t know what the department or his degree would look like in a year or two.” She’s also encouraging her current students to graduate as soon as possible.

The problem with the article is that it gave literally no background into the cuts, and Dunleavy’s reasoning for doing them, a example of today’s typically bad journalism. We might justly oppose these education cuts, but before we as sane citizens can do that we must at least understand why they are being made. Nature failed to give us that information, and instead spent its time propagandizing for the blind spending of money for education.

I started doing searches on the internet to find out some background information. (More on that experience later.) Most of the articles were very superficial, though this article at least outlined the difficult budget situation faced by Dunleavy.

After a lot of searches on two different search engines requiring me to dig down several pages on both, I finally found this article at U.S. News & World Report that outlined in a very non-partisan way the issues.
» Read more

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Senate passes budget-breaking bill

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate today passed the Trump budget deal that will end sequestration and other budget limits.

Congress sent a two-year budget and debt ceiling deal to President Trump over the objection of 22 Senate Republicans. Many Republicans failed to heed a last-minute tweet from President Trump urging them to back the accord. It passed by a vote of 65-28. Five Democrats voted against the deal.

Once signed by Trump, the deal will permit unfettered federal borrowing through July 31, 2021 and busts federal spending caps by $320 billion over the next two fiscal years. It leaves out an extension of the Budget Control Act, which expires in two years. The act imposed spending restraints meant to force lawmakers to impose fiscal reforms.

“This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we have done in the history of the United States,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, declared ahead of the vote.

Republicans bolted away from the deal much the same way they rejected it in the House when it passed the measure last week over the objections of 132 GOP lawmakers. [emphasis mine]

These votes reveal the real political battle going on right now in the U.S. This spending bill passed because about half the Republicans in both houses of Congress teamed up with the majority of Democrats. Those that voted against are the remains of the tea party movement, and are also the remains of the original American dream. They are also now a minority with little power, so little that they do not even have Trump on their side.

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Agreement on bankrupt budget deal today?

Update: It does appear a deal has been reached, and it appears at first glance to be as bad as I suspected.

Initial post: It appears that the White House and House Democrats are about to finalize a budget deal that will guarantee the national debt will continue to balloon for years to come, thus growing the power of Washington.

These sources tell FOX Business that the deal includes spending caps and debt ceiling increases for two years each, respectively. The deal reportedly includes spending increases for defense and non-defense spending.

A source close to the negotiations tells FOX Business that, for now, the deal would put no restrictions on reprogramming money for spending items – like a border wall.

Sources tell FOX News’ Chad Pergram that the deal would permanently end the sequester and also suspend the debt limit until July 31, 2021. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words will also continue the decades-long shift of power from Congress to the President. Congress might allocate money to specific projects, but this deal, if agreed to as described, will now allow the President to rearrange the budget however he sees fit.

While Republicans might celebrate this change so that Trump can build his wall, in the end we will all suffer, because this arrangement ends up putting almost unlimited power in the hands of a single individual.

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NASA awards Maxar Gateway power/communications contract

The never-ending boondoggle: NASA this week awarded the company Maxar its first official Lunar Gateway contract to develop the power, propulsion, and communications systems for the station.

Interestingly, the contract is structured somewhat similar to the commercial contracts for ISS cargo and crew.

This firm-fixed price award includes an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion and carries a maximum total value of $375 million. The contract begins with a 12-month base period of performance and is followed by a 26-month option, a 14-month option and two 12-month options.

Spacecraft design will be completed during the base period, after which the exercise of options will provide for the development, launch, and in-space flight demonstration. The flight demonstration will last as long as one year, during which the spacecraft will be fully owned and operated by Maxar. Following a successful demonstration, NASA will have the option to acquire the spacecraft for use as the first element of the Gateway. NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a commercial rocket in late 2022. [emphasis mine]

It is fixed-price, and Maxar will own the design with the ability to sell it to others as well as NASA.

The problem is that Maxar will not be building something that others might want. Their only customer will be NASA, and the design will be focused entirely to NASA’s needs in building their Gateway boondoggle. I am pessimistic anything productive for the future of space travel will come from this.

Moreover, the highlighted words reveal the corrupt nature of this deal. Development could go on forever, and should it do so, do not be surprised if the contract’s fixed price nature gets changed.

Our federal government, including NASA, is very corrupt. They are not interested in the nation’s interest, only the interests of themselves and the contractors they work hand-in-glove with in DC.

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House ignores request for more NASA money for moon mission

A House committee today approved a NASA budget that ignored the Trump administration’s request for $1.6 billion more money to support its attempt to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024.

Instead, the committee shifted more money into earth science and Gateway.

Whether this budget is what ends up being enacted remains to be seen. It does appear however that Trump will have great trouble funding his Moon project. Sadly, that lack of funding does not mean the overall federal budget is coming under control. On the contrary, it appears the Democratic-controlled House simply wants to spend lots of money, but on different things.

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Trump walks out of infrastrucure negotiations

President Trump immediately walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) yesterday, saying he will hold no discussions on infrastructure as long as the Democrats continue their investigations into his administration.

Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.

The article suggests that Trump planned this as a way to get out of the negotiations. Maybe, but I think his goal is to get the investigations stopped. He is quite willing to make a deal to spend trillions that we don’t have on “infrastructure,” as are the Democrats. By walking out he is putting pressure on the Democratic leadership to shut those investigations down in order to get him to work out a deal to spend the money they also want.

The result, for the moment, is that we have no infrastructure deal. I hope this stalemate lasts forever.

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America’s 10 largest cities drowning in debt

The coming dark age: According to a new report [pdf] from an independent government watchdog, the United States’ ten largest cities are all deep in debt, with taxpayer burdens for that debt ranging from $119K to $13K per taxpayer.

Almost all the cities on this list are and have been run by Democrats for decades, with Democratic strongholds Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia holding the four top spots. Nor have the Republicans been innocent or responsible. In cities where they had some control, such as New York when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, little was done to rein in spending. Still, Democrats have held the bulk of political control in big American cities for the last century, so much of this debt comes from their policies.

The watchdog group that issued the report, Truth in Accounting, also focused on the dishonest accounting practices used by all these cities to hide their debt.

“The largest cities in the U.S. issue so-called ‘Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports,’ but most of them aren’t so comprehensive,” Bill Bergman, Truth in Accounting’s director of research, told Fox News via email.

The report questioned if cities’ annual financial reports “comprehensively track municipal accounts such as school districts, transit agencies, utility systems, etc.” Annual financial reports “for a city doesn’t present the full picture of their fiscal position, and is deceptive to the public,” the report said.

None of this is news. Politicians of all strips at every level of government have been faking their accounting for decades to allow them to spend more money than they have. The result is debt across the board, at every level of American government, with the worst debt held by our out-of-control federal government.

Are the politicians to blame? Yes, but the source of their corruption really falls on the voters, who have favored such politicians because they have been giving money away to those taxpayers. Rather than be responsible citizens, Americans for the past half century have been greedy and selfish, using their governments to get as many free handouts as possible. Or they have been willing to countenance big payouts to unions and others, sometimes for naive idealism, and sometimes because of pure laziness to pay attention to such matters.

Can the U.S. clean up this mess before the whole house of cards collapses? That remains unknown. Trump’s election hints that the voters might be willing to try, but then, Trump is no budget-cutting hawk. He believes in lots of government spending as well, from NASA to infrastructure. It remains to be seen whether the American public has begun to recognize this unsustainable situation. My sense is that they have become aware, but are still unwilling to make the hard sacrifices necessary to fix the problem. For example, the worst political offenders here remain the Democrats, and there is absolutely no indication of them losing power in the big urban cities named in this report. The debt grows, but the voters continue to support them.

Until we see a full house-cleaning in the Democratic Party, the situation is simply not going to improve.

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Trump & Democrats work out $2 trillion spending deal

The coming dark age: President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats have come to a preliminary deal for spending an additional $2 trillion for “infrastructure.”

The dozen Democratic lawmakers in the meeting with the president called it a constructive start. They said Trump agreed that infrastructure investments should go beyond roads and bridges and include broadband, water systems, and enhancements to the electrical grid.

Democrats also put the onus on Trump to come up with a funding source, and said they would meet again in three weeks, when the president will present his ideas. The nation’s top business groups and labor unions support increasing the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.3 cents a gallon. It was last raised in 1993. [emphasis mine]

Everything about this deal illustrates the corruption and bankruptcy in Washington. They all think money falls from the sky like rain, and can be spent freely without any thought or discipline. Instead of looking for available cash to pay for this work, they will make a deal to spend the money, and hope new gas taxes will pay for it. They won’t, not by a long shot, and we will fall deeper into debt, even as we cripple the already handicapped citizenry with more taxes.

Worse, most of this spending is for local projects that should be paid for by local governments, as had once been the tradition. Now every Senator and Congressperson is making deals to bring federal cash back to their state or district, even if the federal government doesn’t have the money. And Trump is joining in the game, to win votes and claim he helped rebuild the country! No one mentions that we are going bankrupt, including the bankrupt press which joins the politicians in playing this gamel.

The politics of this deal also illustrate the corruption that is rotting the heart of the country. Too many voters cheer this wild spending on, voting for these very politicians because they bring home this bacon, even though it is bacon no one can afford. It is why the politicians spend the money. They benefit from it at the voting booth.

A dark age is coming. Be aware.

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Key House Democrat announces opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal

Adam Smith (D-Washington), the House Democrat who now heads the committee that approves military space funding, has announced his opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal.

He revealed two objections. One, he claimed the proposal was top heavy in management, with its leadership delegated to one civilian and two generals. The second complaint I think is more pertinent.

The Trump proposal includes language about the Space Force’s civilian workforce that the Democrats just can’t stomach. In his statement, Smith says that “a large part of the proposal is an attack on the rights of DoD civilian employees. It asks for broad authority to waive long-standing and effective elements of civil service rules, pay rates, merit-based hiring, and senior civilian management practices.”

As usual, the Democrats are more interested in acting as union reps for the government workforce than serving the needs of the country. Trump’s proposal, as put forth, might not make sense, but Smith is clearly not interested in fixing it. Instead, he wants shape this new bureaucracy so that it provides him and DC with more funding and power. The country can go to hell.

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Trump’s budget will not “destroy” or “gut” science

Our terrible press does it again. Yesterday the Trump administration released its proposed 2020 federal budget [pdf], and as usual the pro-government propagandists in the media got to work to lobby against it.

This proposed budget will do none of these things.

These articles all fail to apply even the slightest and tiniest bit of context to their analysis. The budget numbers proposed by the Trump administration might reduce the budgets of some science agencies from what they had gotten the year before, but overall the proposed budgets remain gigantic, far more than received by these same agencies only a few years before.

You don’t believe me? Let me open your eyes.
» Read more

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NASA schedules Orion/SLS launch abort test

My heart be still! NASA has now scheduled June 12 for its second Orion/SLS launch abort test.

Called Ascent Abort-2, the upcoming uncrewed test will launch from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and last less than 3 minutes. Once Orion reaches an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,448 meters) about 55 seconds after liftoff, the tower-mounted abort rocket motor will rip the Orion space capsule from its booster to simulate a launch emergency escape.

The article also notes that this second abort test follows the last, which took place in May 2010, nine years previously. I want that amount of time to sink in. NASA allowed nine years to pass between its first and second Orion abort tests. Nine years. We fought and won World War II in about a third of that amount of time. The Civil War took about half that time. In fact, it took SpaceX less time to conceive, design, and launch the Falcon Heavy.

Any project that takes this long to accomplish anything is a fraud. It indicates that the goal of SLS/Orion is not to build and fly a manned capsule, but to suck money from the taxpayer for as long as possible.

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How NASA’s X-34 ended up rotting in someone’s backyard

Link here. The story is a wonderful illustration of the epic failure that NASA has represented for the past thirty years. They spent billions, and threw it all away before even one flight.

How the two partly built X-34 spacecraft ended up in someone’s backyard is fascinating in itself, and worth the read.

One detail the article misses is why the X-34 got cancelled in 2001: politics. This program was part of a range of space initiatives under the Clinton administration (including the X-33). All were overpriced and essentially boondoggles. When George Bush Jr. became president, his administration reviewed them all and junked them, replacing them with his own boondoggles (Constellation and Orion).

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Trump signs directive outlining Space Force proposal

President Trump yesterday signed a directive that roughly outlines the creation of a Space Force office operating within the Air Force.

This directive lays out the groundwork that Congress and Air Force official must still work out in detail. The essence however is that this new office will initially be small, will takeover all military space operations, and will be a separate division within the Air Force, for now.

[The directive] does not kill the idea of a separate department but defers it to a later time, after the Space Force has a chance to mature as a service. “What we don’t want to do is do it all at once,” the senior administration official said. If the White House had pressed for a separate department, he said, “we would spend a lot of time dealing with bureaucracy and structure and not focusing on warfighting. We decided to leverage the capabilities and the expertise that is already resident in the Air Force.”

An Air Force spokesman said that if the draft legislative proposal is enacted, “it will be our responsibility to deter and defeat threats in space through the U.S. Space Force, which will organize, train, and equip military space forces.”

But while the Air Force has owned the space mission and has the technical expertise, it still faces enormous political and logistical challenges organizing a new branch that has to be independent and will have to be staffed with members from other services who must be qualified for space-related work.

“Personnel issues are critical,” the senior administration official said. “People in the space business tend to be very highly trained and specialized.” Key personnel issues are being addressed in the legislative proposal, which will suggest a process to transfer service members from other branches to the Space Force. “We’ll focus on the headquarters functions to begin with,” he said. So the Space Force initially would be a few dozen people and then would grow over time. [emphasis mine]

The reason they are emphasizing the small size initially is that they got a lot of opposition to the idea of creating a new and large bureaucracy, something the Air Force and Trump initially pushed. Whether its stays small once Congress joins in the negotiations remains doubtful, however, consider that at least one politician is already lobbying to have a new Space Force headquarters established in Florida.

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First SLS launch faces more delays

No surprise here: The scheduled June 2020 first unmanned launch of NASA’s Space System Launch (SLS), already delayed by three years, appears threatened by more delays.

[NASA needs to perform]a similar structural test of the liquid oxygen fuel tank before what is known as a “green run” test. For this exercise, NASA will assemble the two large tanks and then integrate them with the rocket’s four main RS-25 engines. Then, at a test stand in southern Mississippi, the rocket will fire its engines through a standard launch of the rocket.

NASA has yet to formally set a date for this “green run” test, but whenever it does occur will be a key indicator for when we will see the first actual launch of the SLS rocket. If the green run test is conducted late in 2019, there would still be a chance for a 2020 launch. However, the agency and its prime contractor for the core stage, Boeing, are on a tight timeline that has little margin for technical problems that might occur during the structural tests of the tank or the green run tests. Historically, during this integration and test process with other large rocket programs, major problems have often occurred.

It is not clear how deeply the shutdown affected the SLS timeline, even though core stage work did proceed. “The shutdown impacted at least day for day,” one source said of the schedule. “But I am sure it was more than that.”

NASA originally planned to launch the SLS rocket on its maiden flight in November 2017, so the rocket will now be at least three years later than originally anticipated. The program’s budget is more than $2 billion a year, so these delays have cost the agency considerably.

The article also outlines the problems NASA is having developing the rocket’s upper stage.

I predict that the June 2020 launch will slip, maybe as much as six months, into 2021. This means the first manned flight will also be delayed into 2024, at the earliest.

That means it will have taken NASA more than twenty years and more than $60 billion to build and fly a single manned mission. Moreover, the cost and difficulty of operating SLS will make it impossible to get the second manned flight off the ground any earlier than three to four years later, at the earliest.

There is no chance the U.S. will put new footprints on the Moon if it continues to rely on this boondoggle. Worse, a continued reliance on SLS will force the government, for political reasons, to use its power to squelch competing private efforts, something we are seeing with the endless delays NASA has imposed on the commercial crew program.

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Federal workers will get a bonus on top of salary for shutdown

The coming dark age: Because their pay will arrive late, federal workers deemed essential and required to work during the government shutdown should expect to get a significant bonus.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees could collect late-pay penalties of at least $1,160 each — on top of anticipated back pay — after missing a second paycheck Friday due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The supplemental pay is being sought under a Great Depression-era law that authorizes damages for workers who are not paid on time, with potential government liability nearing $500 million as workers end a second pay cycle without a check.

A law firm representing workers suing under the Fair Labor Standards Act began a lawsuit sign-up drive Thursday on 2018governmentshutdown.com. FLSA lawsuits require opt-in, and many workers missed an opportunity to join a successful FLSA lawsuit following the 2013 federal shutdown, which resulted in four days of extra pay in addition to back pay.

It’s all a racket to fleece the taxpayer. This shutdown is and continues to be a joke designed to shovel tax dollars into the hands of government workers. Those that don’t work will still be paid, according to a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House, the Republican-controlled Senate, and signed by so-called swamp-killer President Trump. Now we find that those that do work will not only get their salary but will receive bonuses costing the taxpayer millions.

Don’t complain however. We get the government we deserve, and based on recent elections, we don’t deserve much. The voters should have fired practically everyone in office in the past two decades, based on their repeated and continuing failure to do their job, while accumulating a debt that cannot be paid off for generations. Instead, the voters send them back, again and again and again. The turnover in Congress is pitiful in the past half century, so much so that these power-hungry crooks have found themselves well cemented to their cushy positions and able to use those positions to screw the country and the taxpayers.

The future of our country looks very bad. And it is even worsened in that no one is paying attention, being too busy fighting childish twitter wars over nothing.

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Democratic House threatens Webb cancellation

The House, now controlled by the Democratic Party, has threatened cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope should that project, already overbudget by $8 billion and 9 years behind schedule, fail to meet its present budget limits.

[The House budget] bill includes the full $304.6 million requested for JWST in 2019, but the report accompanying the bill offered harsh language, and a warning, regarding the space telescope given the cost overruns and schedule delays announced last year.

“There is profound disappointment with both NASA and its contractors regarding mismanagement, complete lack of careful oversight, and overall poor basic workmanship on JWST,” the report states. “NASA and its commercial partners seem to believe that congressional funding for this project and other development efforts is an entitlement, unaffected by failures to stay on schedule or within budget.”

The bill does increase the cost cap for JWST by about $800 million, to a little more than $8.8 billion, to address the latest overruns. “NASA should strictly adhere to this cap or, under this agreement, JWST will have to find cost savings or cancel the mission,” the report states.

I really don’t take this Congressional threat seriously. Our Congress is universally known in Washington as an easy mark for big money. The technique is called a buy-in, where you initially lowball the budget of your project, get it started, and then when it goes overbudget, Congress routinely shovels out the money to continue. Webb is a classic and maybe the worst example of this, but this game has been going on since the 1960s, with no sense that the Congresses of the last half century have had any problem with it.

And I especially don’t take it seriously from the Democrats who, even more than the Republicans, like to shovel money out.

The bankrupt unwillingness of both parties to care for the interest of the country for the past few decades in this matter explains why we have federal debt exceeding $20 trillion.

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Bill to pay federal workers will not pay those not working

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers (see comments below), it appears that the essence of this story is wrong, and that the bill did provide for payment of salaries, even to those who did not work during the shutdown, essentially giving these federal employees a free paid vacation. What makes it even more galling is that federal workers generally are paid about twice what employees in the private sector get, and also get far better benefits, including vacation and sick time that is far far far longer. Now they get a cherry on top of that.

Some fiscal sanity enters Washington: The bill passed and signed this week by President Trump to pay federal workers will only provide pay to those who actually worked during the government shutdown.

While this might seem cruel to these workers, it is no different that the reality experienced by everyone in the private sector, and it is very fair to the taxpayers.

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Astronomers begin their 2020 decadal survey

The astronomy community has begun work on their 2020 decadal survey, the report they issue at the start of every decade since the early 1960s outlining their space priorities for the upcoming ten years.

While the first four decadal surveys were very successful, leading to the surge in space telescopes in the 1990s, the last two surveys in 2000 and 2010 have been failures, with the former proposing the James Webb Space Telescope and the latter the Wide Field Infared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), both of which have not launched, are behind schedule, and significantly over-budget.

The new survey appears focused on addressing this.

The 2020 decadal survey will develop detailed cost estimates for each project, as well as guidance for what managers can do if money gets tight. “We have to look at the budget reality while also doing things that are visionary,” says Fiona Harrison, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and co-chair of the effort.

Unfortunately, it is also going to focus on leftist identity politics.

Responding to problems of racism and harassment in science, the survey will also assess the state of astronomy as a profession and make recommendations for how it can improve. “We’re going to go there,” says the other co-chair, Robert Kennicutt, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Texas A&M University in College Station.

I do not have high hopes for this decadal survey, or for space science in the 2020s. The space astronomy community chose badly in the past twenty years, and it is likely going to take another decade for it to recover. For example, WFIRST appears to be going forward, and it also appears that it will be the same financial black hole that Webb was, eating up the entire space astrophysics budget at NASA for years.

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