Friday, 10 Sept 1993 Washington, DC
1. "CREATING A GOVERNMENT THAT WORKS BETTER & COSTS LESS,"
Vice President Gore's report of the National Performance Review,
was released on Tuesday. "The Bridges of Madison County" it's not,
but it's the hottest read in Washington. Insiders sopped up the
first press run, so we called the White House to find out how to
get a copy. It was an object lesson. We could order a copy from
the Government Printing Office for $14, we were informed, but it
would be next week before we got it. No way! A private-sector
print shop was already spewing them out at $11. Unlike previous
attempts at reinventing government, the report focuses on how
government should work, rather than what it should do. Examples:
o A new National Science and Technology Council would combine
the functions of FCCSET (the Federal Coordinating Council
for Science, Engineering and Technology) with the National
Space Council and the National Critical Materials Council.
o DOE would "consolidate and redirect" labs to "meet post-Cold
War national priorities." The word "consolidate" sounds a
lot like "close-a-lab" to nervous weapons-lab scientists.
o The President would have power of "expedited rescission,"
the euphemism of the year, meaning "line-item veto." The
power to veto individual items in appropriations bills would
be powerful medicine against earmarking ("pork"), but it
would be a miracle if Congress relinquished that authority.
2. SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE SLASHES FY 94 NSF REQUEST.
It's a familiar pattern by now. Congress is determined that NSF
will get more education funds than it asks for--and less research
money. The House had already recommended $2.045B for research;
that's a 10% increase, but it's well below the 18% the President
requested. On Wednesday, the Senate Subcommittee cut that to
$1.940B, only a 4% increase. For education, however, both House
and Senate call for a 17% increase, compared to a 14% request.
House/Senate conferees will not necessarily split the difference;
last year in conference, the House got mugged (WN 24 Sept 92).
3. SENATE APPROPRIATORS UNEASY ABOUT THE SPACE-STATION DU JOUR.
The subcommittee approved $14.6B for NASA in FY 94, including
$2.1B for whatever space station NASA is building. But a lock
was put on almost half of the space station funds pending a full
explanation of a merger between Freedom-Lite and Russia's Mir-2,
announced by the space agency last week
(WN 3 Sept 93). According
to the Washington Post, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the subcommittee
chair, said members support a cooperative effort with Russia--but
the space station "must be an American space station." At the
very least, astronauts must sleep on the American side. A string
of recent NASA failures can be expected to narrow the margin of
support for the station when a bewildered Senate votes next week.