Broadcast 1340 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

08 Apr 2010 Dr. Chris Impey
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Guest: Marcia Smith. Topic: Space policy and the workings of the U.S. budget and congress. Marcia Smith, the founder and editor of was our guest for this Space Show program. During our first segment, Ms. Smith told us about her background and space policy experience. We compared today's space programs/policy to what she has seen over the years. You might be surprised by this comparison. I then asked Ms. Smith to explain to us the budget process with congress. Marcia first categorized the budget with its three parts, mandatory spending, the interest on the national debt, and the discretionary part of the budget w includes space, defense and homeland security. Marcia took us through the various stages and steps of the process, talking about the committees and subcommittees, the influence the president has to get his way, the competition among government components for funding and more. As you will hear, budgets are approved on an annual basis and anything else is a projection which may or may not happen. We started the second segment with an explanation of the authorization and the appropriations process and their respective committees. We talked about the possibility of the shuttle being extended, Ares 1 and Constellation sunk costs of nearly $9 billion to date, and the congressional perspective. Marcia explained the Continuing Resolution process and the fiscal year dates and deadlines that Congress deals with in the budget process. We talked about the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which is the congressional office charged with examining all aspects of the budget and which works exclusively for congress. Toward the end of this segment Dwayne asked about infrastructure cost savings as the shuttle program was retired. Marcia told us that the NASA budget has a section for space operations for both the shuttle and the ISS and it was not clear what would be saved or simply shifted within the budget to the other program when shuttle was gone. In the third segment, we talked about the annual budget process and how it impacts programs. Marcia said it impacts NASA more than others because it takes so long for a space program to develop and be fully implemented, sometimes ten to fifteen years or more. Following this discussion, we talked about using five year run outs. For example, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget is what Congress approves. The projections out to 2015 are run outs and may not ever exist. Listener Terry then asked about the effectiveness of space advocacy groups and the role they play in influencing space policy. I asked if Congress pays attention to the media reports about China or India going to the Moon and if such reports influence their policy making. Don't miss her response. Congressional micromanagement of NASA was mentioned as well. We also talked about the most effective ways to communicate with our congressional representatives, including to make sure to vote. We started the fourth segment with a discussion of ISS costs. We looked at the costs from the US perspective but also Marcia gave us some of the foreign costs for the station known to date. ITAR reform came up and a listener asked about the idea of zero g zero tax. Another listener asked if our policy was to go to Mars and what Marcia thought about that, especially if some sort of life was discovered there. At the end of this segment, Marcia commented on the dual use of SRBs by both NASA and the Department of Defense. This is an outstanding issue with the Administration saying that if DOD needed to use the SRBs, they should pay for them rather than getting half of the cost subsidized by NASA. This was an excellent point on which to close our program for today. If you have a comment or question for Marcia Smith, please visit and you can email her at, being sure to reference Marcia and The Space Show in the subject line.



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