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Guest: Marcia Smith; Topics: NASA budget, congressional workings for space policy & finance, US Civics 101-600. Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.
We welcomed Marcia Smith of www.spacepolicyonline.com back to the program to discuss the proposed NASA budget, Congress, space policy, civics lessons, and much more. Our program was about 89 minutes in one segment. We started our discussion talking about the lack of a 2017 budget so far, our being on a continued resolution (CR) once again, and the requirements for a FY 2018 budget. As we are working on a CR at this time, the FY 2016 budget is still in force. Ms. Smith spent considerable time during our discussion explaining the budget process to us, how congress works, the role of the White House, and what we can do to influence members of congress by contacting those that represent us in our districts. The CR process was explained in detail, along with a brief history of its use. Listeners asked Ms. Smith questions pertaining to how the systems works, suggesting this or that alternative or hypothetical situation. For example, questions around commercial crew and the planned Europa project were discussed throughout our program.
One subject that got lots of our attention was the plan to eliminate the NASA Office of Education in the proposed budget. This is a popular office with popular programs so it is not a certainty that it will be eliminated. It also is not a big ticket item. We talked about several of the popular programs within the NASA Education Office including the EPSCoR program (www.nasa.gov/epscor).
One listener asked Marcia about the existence of a real Mars program with policy and funding rather than just "rhetoric." Marcia replied by pointing out that NASA considers the ISS, SLS, Orion, and other projects to be part of the stepping stones program for a humans to Mars mission. Thus, they have a real Mars program in play with policy and funding going on right now.
Much was said about the continued resolution process and Congress. Don't miss this discussion because we need to understand how our government works, including the budget process. As you will hear, it is not always simple to understand how these organizations and systems work. Another example that came up which helps to understand how things work was the question about congress setting a priority to fund and focus on NASA cyber issues over other NASA projects. As you will hear, congress can spend what it wants but it needs to find the money to pay for it, even if it means taking the needed funding from another project or part of the budget. Again, don't miss how this process works as Marcia did a superb job in explaining it for us.
John from Ft. Worth called to talk about making your voice heard to members of congress. He also talked about the possible elimination of the NASA Education Office. After John's call, a Denver listener asked if congress considered the quarterly and regular interval economic reports on the condition of our economy in planning the NASA and other budgets. Don't miss what Marcia said in response to this question, including the existence of spending caps which come back into play by law for FY 2018.
Marcia and I talked about contacting members of congress and I relayed my experiences doing it on healthcare issues. As you will hear, Marcia strongly suggested we contact the elected officials in our district, not other districts. Don't miss her reasoning for this. When I asked about contacting the Speaker of the House or the head of the Senate, she explained that they were heads of their party plus they represented their district. Their position does not make them a national representative. This was instructive for me as I had been contacting them thinking their position made them national in scope. Not so as I found out by talking with our guest. Another listener then asked if NASA and DOD space were actually separate in the budget process or somehow merged together here and there. Separate was the response.
Another significant discussion topic was the Wolf Amendment which prevents NASA from talking to China about space. Actually as we learned, it prevents money from being spend by NASA talking with China about space. This is in the appropriations bill and continues to be in the bill year to year so it does not seem likely it will be repealed. The Wolf Amendment does not apply to the State Department or the White House but it does apply to NASA. Don't miss what our guest said about this important policy.
As we were nearing the end of the program, Marcia mentioned the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite with the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC). This project is supposed to be cancelled in the budget proposal but the EPIC camera shows very cool live Earth pictures from the satellite on a round the clock basis. You can see these photos here: https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov. Other last minute topics included a brief discussion on Congressional District Work Periods (I used the term vacation and got corrected), then I asked Marcia if there was a turning point when Congress became more partisan and less effective than in earlier times. This was an interesting discussion. It even included a discussion on earmarks which have been discontinued but were a tool used to make deals. Marcia concluded our show with the Pearl of Wisdom to maintain a good sense of humor!
Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog for this show. You can reach Ms. Smith through me or her website, www.spacepolicyonline.com.