Friday, 17 May 1991 Washington, DC
1. HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE VOTES TO KILL SPACE
Constrained by last year's budget agreement, the
allocation for the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee
was $1.3B below the President's request for the programs it
funds. Following the recommendation of the Chair, Bob Traxler (D-
MI), the Subcommittee terminated Space Station Freedom. Traxler
pointed out that, "if we cannot afford to fund the space station
this year, there is no way we would be able to fund it next
year." Shocked space station supporters will launch the mother-
of-all floor fights to save the program in the House--but it will
be Dan Quayle directing the troops, not Norman Schwarzkopf.
Yesterday, Quayle accused the Democrats of "undermining the
legacy of John Kennedy," but it was not a simple party line vote.
In the Senate, the corresponding Appropriations subcommittee,
under Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), is expected to be more sympathetic
to the space station. Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee
last week, NASA Administrator Richard Truly emphasized NASA's
devotion to science--in which category he ranks space medicine
and microgravity at the top.
2. THE CARCASS OF FREEDOM WAS USED TO FEED NSF AND SPACE
as well as certain social programs. By eliminating
about $2B for Space Station Freedom, the HUD/VA/IA Subcommittee
was able to provide full funding for NASA's space science
activities, other than microgravity and life sciences. The
Subcommittee also recommended all but $3M of NSF's $1.963B
request for research and added $45M to the NSF request for
education. The only serious casualty was elimination of the $23M
for LIGO. The stunning vote came as the scientific community
closed ranks against Freedom (WN 3 May
91). The Council of Scientific Society Presidents, composed
of the presidents of 57 scientific societies, unanimously adopted
a statement opposing the space station. The CSSP statement was
patterned after the APS statement (WN 25 Jan 91), but went even
further by questioning the value of a permanently manned space
station to the life sciences as well as to the physical sciences.
3. SDI SPENT $24B IN THE LAST EIGHT YEARS WITH "PUZZLING"
according to General Accounting Office testimony
before the House National Security Subcommittee. "We can tell
you where the money went," said an Assistant Comptroller General,
"but we do not have information to evaluate what SDIO got for its
investment." John Conyers (D-MI), the Subcommittee chair, was
more explicit. "We got nothing for it," he said. The Assistant
Comptroller General observed that many billion-dollar programs no
longer exist. He faulted SDIO's "high degree of concurrency,"
which translated as "working on a technology designed to be
integrated with another technology before it's known how the
other technology is going to work." SDIO Director Henry Cooper
described this first stage of the SDI program as "letting a
thousand flowers bloom." The fruit it bore in stage two was
"brilliant pebbles." SDI is now in the "global protection against
limited strikes" or GPALS stage.