Friday, 2 December 1988
THE DEFICIT IS BY FAR THE OVERRIDING CONCERN IN WASHINGTON.
The bad news is that the new administration is confronted with an
explosion of unpaid bills that cannot be avoided. According to a
transition report prepared by the GAO, at least $50B is needed to
deal with the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation
insolvency. Cleanup and modernization of DOE's nuclear weapons
production complex will cost more than $100B. Hazardous waste
cleanup at DOD facilities will cost another $11B. Repair and
replacement of deteriorating bridges will cost the Transportation
Department $50B and another $315B will be needed just to maintain
roads at their 1983 condition to the end of the century. In
addition, the DOD wants $70B for the stealth bomber, $69B for
Phase I of SDI (the GAO says that will rise) and $48B for the Air
Force satellite control system. NASA wants $28B for the space
station. Replacing the outdated FTS system will run about $25B.
The air traffic control system also needs $25B to modernize. The
good news is that government spending on fundamental science is
so small by comparison that it may not seem worth cutting.
. CHANGES ON THE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES THAT DEAL WITH NSF
funding may help. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will replace William
Proxmire as chair of the HUD-Independent Agencies Appropriations
Subcommittee. A consistent foe of government spending, Proxmire
did not spare the NSF. Robert Byrd (D-WV), displaced as Majority
Leader by George Mitchell (D-ME), will assume the chairmanship of
the full committee, replacing John Stennis (D-MS), who has
retired. On the House side, Bob Traxler (D-MI) replaces Edward
Boland (D-MA) as the chair of HUD-Independent Agencies.
3. THE SOVIET UNION IS EXPERIMENTING WITH COMPETITIVE GRANTS.
The "new thinking" produced a major upheaval in the Soviet science
bureaucracy with the creation of a special fund for competitive
proposals. It is part of a whopping 20% increase in the support
of fundamental research announced for the coming year. Creation
of a competitive system of grants was called for by Roald Sagdeev
on 18 Oct 88, in a courageous address to the General Assembly of
the USSR Academy of Sciences. The former head of the Soviet space
science effort said that competitive grants were favored by all
of the Americans he had spoken to--except Soviet emigres to the
US who "could not adapt themselves to the harsher competitive
conditions [in the US]." Sagdeev's embattled antagonist, Yuri
Marchuk, President of the Soviet Academy, will give a public
lecture on Dec 9 at the NAS on "Soviet Science and Perestroika."
4. SDI PROGRAMS ARE BEGINNING TO BE DIVERTED TO OFFENSIVE USES.
As the APS study of directed energy weapons pointed out two years
ago, weapons that are too feeble to defend against missiles may
still be adequate to destroy space-based defenses. While denying
any loss of commitment to defense, SDIO acknowledges a shift of
emphasis toward anti-satellite uses of directed energy weapons.