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The Space Leadership and Preservation Act of 2012 is NO Good - Part 1

Last Thursday Congressman Culberson (Texas), along with Congressmen Wolf (Virginia), Posey (Florida), and Smith (Texas) introduced the “Space Leadership and Preservation Act of 2012”. It was widely covered by my media outlets and overall, and in some cases, wildly praised. However, monumental legislation like this deserves scrutiny as often times, monumental legislation contains monumental errors.

The 13 page bill would change Title 51 – National and Commercial Space Programs. This document is 122 pages in length which directs bureaucrats on how to administer our nation’s space program. The document has been amended many times, however, nothing has been proposed that is as radical as the bill put forward by the congressmen above.

With Sequestration rapidly approaching and with NASA budget being reduced by $1.5 billion, it is the opinion of TEA Party in Space that this legislation would do much more harm and there is little good that could come from this legislation. We therefore recommend all members of Congress oppose this bill.

“The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”
– Oscar Wild

In short, this bill would protect the institutional bureaucracy that has flowed $100s of billions of dollars into Republican states and congressional districts since the creation of NASA and do nothing to grow, some would say regain, America’s leadership in space.

Point 1 – The legislation strips the executive branch of power

While the bill would allow NASA to remain under the executive branch all of the powers of the chief executive would be neutered. The bill would establish a term for the NASA administrator of 10 years and thus, presidents who were elected after the nominating president would be unable to change the administrator should they so choose.

Moreover, the president would have to choose a new administrator from a list of candidates provided by a newly formed board of directors. The president would not be allowed to pick “his guy” or “his gal” and would be at the mercy of a board. What would happen if the president did not like any of the people nominated for administrator?

The only way a sitting administrator could be removed for misconduct or negligence is by an action of a newly formed board that we will discuss in a moment. The nominee would still have to be confirmed by the Senate. The same process would also be true for the deputy administrator.

Currently the NASA Administrator serves at the pleasure of the President. This is how NASA was established in 1958.

Point 1 Takeaway – Current elected senators and congressmen in space states and districts are not happy that the president canceled the Constellation program even though it was behind schedule and over budget.

The Constellation program had many severe technical challenges which caused further delays with the program. In fact, there was no business case for the Constellation Program. The fact that many of the same congressmen underfunded Constellation in the middle years directly resulted in schedule slips and thus, costing billions of dollars more than was originally projected.

The cancellation of Constellation was a direct threat to government jobs in their states and districts. This is why Space Launch System (SLS) was selected to replace Constellation, even though it is essentially the same rocket. Yes there are some changes; however, the design may be entirely different if the design was not legislated.

One could argue that it was “good government” to cancel such a program. There is no need to throw good money after bad. No matter how you look at it… from a business perspective, and a technical one as well, it was fiscally responsible to end Constellation.

The President of the United States, either President Obama or a President Romney, would be foolish to sign a bill that strips them of any of their executive powers. Especially in this instance, where no malfeasance occurred, should power be stripped. Elections mean things, the winning party, Democrat or Republican, should be allowed to select a nominee of their choosing.

If these congressmen are so upset they need look no further than their counterparts in the Senate. The Constitution, Article II, Section 2, in fact is quite clear about how the nomination process takes place:

He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Elections have consequences. With winning elections come designated powers. If these congressmen were so concerned with the nominee for NASA administrator, they are in more of a position than any of us to pick up the phone and make their opinion known.

For this reason alone, the Space Leadership and Preservation Act of 2012, should not be supported. We hope all of our members, as well as those in other space organizations, follow suit and inform their members that they should not vote for this bill.

In Part 2 - TEA Party in Space will cover perhaps the scariest reason not to vote for this bill… “The board”.




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