Friday, 25 July 97 Washington, DC
1.DOD: HOUSE APPROPRIATORS PROPOSE A FREEZE ON BASIC RESEARCH.
The Administration requested a 10% increase in DOD's $10B basic
research budget, but the House National Security Appropriations
Subcommittee said no way. According to the Subcommittee draft,
"The Committee questions whether never-ending budget growth in
basic research is wise, particularly in the context of the
Administration's failure to adequately address weapons system
modernization needs." Translation: A weapons system manufactured
in the home district of a subcommittee member has been canceled.
2. DOE: HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL TIES THE AGENCY'S HANDS.
House has its way, the less than stellar performance ratings of
the Department of Energy could plumb new depths. The recently
passed Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (H.R.2203) calls for
the Department to: 1) get approval from the Army Corps of
Engineers for all new construction projects; 2)go with the lowest
bidder on all non-R&D management contracts; 3) stop soliciting
proposals for new programs that have not been funded by Congress.
The bill also has a gag provision preventing DOE employees from
"directly or indirectly" influencing congressional action on
anything. Frustrated by their failure to kill DOE outright (WN 6
Jun 97), the DOE hit squad has inserted language that would
paralyze the Agency. But it must still be reconciled with the
Senate, which has no such language in its version.
3. FILM REVIEW: "MISSION TO MIR" AT THE AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM.
Yesterday, I went to see the new IMAX feature showing at the
museum. The last one I saw, "Cosmic Voyage," was an inspiration
(WN 23 Aug 96). "Mission to Mir" was, uh, -- well, maybe a non
scientist would see it differently. Our loyal secretary Delia
volunteered for the mission. One look at her face when she got
back told me I was pushing the staff too far. "They should send
them all to Mars," she snapped, "and they should take that guitar
with them!" "They" were the astronauts and cosmonauts, smiling
and hugging in backyard cookouts, smiling and hugging on the
Shuttle, smiling and hugging on Mir, smiling and ... well, you
get the idea. The Russian commander strummed the guitar as the
crew gathered around the fire on Mir and sang Russian folk songs.
As the movie began, an astronaut gazed into the black void of
space. "Wow, that's cool," he reflected. That's as deep as it
got. Mission to Mir was presented by Lockheed Martin, no doubt
as a public service. "Shameless propaganda," Delia snorted.
4. THE GOLDEN YO-YO AWARD: FOR THE BEST SPIN CONTROL OF 1997.
According to an unnamed NASA official, quoted this week in The
New Republic, "Someday when there's a fire aboard one of our
spaceships to Mars or Venus, we'll extinguish it. That day we'll
think back and say thank you to the Russians." That sets the bar
pretty high, but it's only July and nominations are still open.