Friday, 19 Nov 1993 Washington, DC
1. SILENCE OVER CROP JOB SAVES PERKIN-ELMER $62M ON HUBBLE SUIT.
In May 1981, an interferogram test of the Hubble mirror showed
the straight parallel lines actually curving at the ends--clear
evidence of a spherical aberration. If anyone in NASA had seen
the results, the mirror would never have flown. But NASA never
got the full picture! A Perkin-Elmer employee cropped the shot
to show only the straight part of the lines--indicating a perfect
mirror. If the government had found the employee, they could sue
Perkin-Elmer for "criminal intent" and get the full $87M cost for
repairs. The government's general counsel explained to Congress
Wednesday that since all employees claimed ignorance of the crop
job, the case was settled out of court for just $25M. Meanwhile,
the repair mission will be launched 1 Dec and NASA predicts a 95%
chance for success. NASA acknowledges that no spacewalk task has
ever gone as planned, so they intend to make "every press release
convey the difficult nature of the mission." According to a
program manager, "At this point, we're in the hands of fate!"
2. APPROPRIATORS PIG OUT ON ACADEMIC PORK IN THE DEFENSE BUDGET!
WHAT'S NEW reported last month (10-29-93) that academic earmarks
were down as much as 87% in FY 94 spending bills. Had the
appropriators been converted to democracy, we asked, or were they just
planning an end run? Cynicism wins again; they were saving their
earmarks for the Defense Appropriations Bill. To avoid any
unpleasantness in the House, they moved the start of the session
up by a half-hour and passed the $240B bill by voice vote 15
minutes later, while most members were still rubbing sleep out of
their eyes. It will take time to dig it all out, but George Brown
(D-CA) found $2B in earmarks in the RDT&E section alone. So what
about the Technology Reinvestment Project? As you recall, the
House bill was amended to require that TRP funds be awarded
(WN 10-1-93); the Senate agreed. The appropriators
thumbed their noses and earmarked $221M of TRP anyway.
3. OVERHEAD ON RESEARCH IS AN EASY TARGET FOR THE BUDGET CUTTERS!
Need to find a way to pay for a crime bill? Why not just cut the
overhead universities charge! The Hatch/Dole crime bill proposed
to pay for itself with a 10% cut. The bill went nowhere, but the
screams of university presidents hadn't died out when along comes
the Penny/Kasich bipartisan plan to cut federal spending
(WN 11- 12-93). It calls for a "50% cap on
the payment rate for overhead
costs." P/K may not pass either, but the target is still there.
4. LOS ALAMOS MANAGEMENT BUNGEE JUMPS TO CREATE A "TEAM SPIRIT."
Responding to demands for change, Los Alamos sent its managers to
Pecos River Learning Center to climb pegboards and leap off tall
poles. One exercise required the courage to balance on a "wobbly
platform" and another involved blindfolding a manager and having
him stumble through a maze like a mouse. They returned to Los
Alamos as a "team" capable of performing many perplexing feats.