Good Quote from Rep. Hall

From NASAWatch/Spaceref:

“While it is true that prudent investments in science and technology will almost certainly yield future economic gains and will allow our knowledge economy to grow, it is also true that these gains can be thwarted by poor decision-making,” Chairman Hall said. “Americans expect and deserve better. With our unemployment hovering at over 9 percent, they expect us to reduce or eliminate those programs that are duplicative and wasteful and examine ways to advance real job creation and economic growth, not just spend their hard-earned money on what the government assumes is best for them.”

Hmmm…I can think of a few examples of massive projects that fit those descriptions. Like say SLS?

  • Duplicative: In the near term, without any plan for BEO exploration hardware, SLS will be duplicating the function of commercial crew launchers–sending astronauts to the station (on MPCV), but at far higher costs.  If at some point an upper stage and actual exploration hardware do get funded (10-15 years from now), SLS will mostly be launching propellant–something private rockets are also capable of doing.  So, duplicative? Check.
  • Wasteful: The development cost to the government of both the EELV programs and the two COTS programs are less than half one year’s worth of SLS funding, even at the lower projected rate that Obama proposed in his FY’12 budget, and even including the $300M increase in COTS funding. Those programs are giving NASA and the DoD four launchers, with at least some capabilities on both coasts, as well as two ISS cargo vehicles.  Even if you include the total government and private investment in developing those rockets, the total cost is far less than SLS alone will spend over the next 3 years, let alone to completion. Even if you insist on building an HLV, and even if NASA is the only customer (likely), these programs demonstrate that the expected $10B+ development cost for SLS is disturbingly high compared to the cost of developing vehicles for launching critical national security assets.  Wasteful? Check.
  • Job Creation? Economic Growth? SLS is a NASA-specific products with no real outside commercial benefit, that will reuse obsolete technology in an effort to maintain as many existing jobs as possible. It is really just a zero-sum wealth transfer from the productive part of economy to politically-connected contractors. Actual economic growth and job creation come from creating new goods and services that provide for peoples wants and needs at increasingly affordable prices.  Innovation, both technical and entrepreneurial are what drive job creation and economic growth–not running government-directed design bureaus to produce products that are irrelevant outside of NASA’s needs.  Contrast this with EELVs, the COTS vehicles, Commercial Crew, and many of the technology programs NASA wants to fund, that serve multiple public and private needs, create wealth, and provide jobs that are backed by eventually self-perpetuating wealth-creating enterprises. So, Job Creation, Economic Growth? Not so much.
  • Spending Tax Money on What Government Thinks is Best for Them? The big push for SLS development from the Senate (which has won it the nickname “the Senator Launch System”) and the even bigger push from the House, were led primarily by Congressmen from states that directly benefit from continued spending in this area. The ironic thing is that it’s pretty clear that even NASA doesn’t entirely want SLS, but you have Congressmen trying to legislate the design of a launch vehicle. To the point of Utah reps bragging about how language they put into the bill supposedly can only be met by using hardware procured in a non-competitive manner from bloated contractors in their districts (which I’m sure didn’t make any campaign contributions to help grease the palms of their Congressional enablers). There are few clearer examples of Congress forcing the government to build something that is more in the personal interests of certain Congressmembers than is actually beneficial for tax-paying public. Check.

Not trying to pick on Representative Hall.  I actually have a bit of a soft-spot for the guy, since he came out and spoke at the NGLLC awards ceremony.  Just pointing out that he has good advice, and it would be great if he consistently followed it.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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4 Responses to Good Quote from Rep. Hall

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Selenian Boondocks » Blog Archive » Good Quote from Rep. Hall -- Topsy.com

  2. Karl Hallowell says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t picked up more comments yet. A lot of this simply seems to be the problems of any large organization. Individuals can articulate good ideas about what the organization can do, but getting the herd pointed in that direction is a different story. Second, is that as an independent, uninvolved observer, we often give far better advice than if we are deeply involved in the endeavor with a personal interest to protect.

  3. beb says:

    The sound of OV-106’s head exploding in five – four – three ….

  4. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    If OV takes offense, that’s his problem. I’ve always made a clear distinction between my opinions about the Shuttle *operating* team’s talent and value and the Shuttle-replacement design/development teams. OV’s side of the team has done a clearly impressive job over my lifetime keeping a complex bird flying safely. The Marshall side of the equation has blown through somewhere between $50-100B in my lifetime without ever actually bringing a single design to market.

    Also, policy decisions and value judgments about peoples’ worth are entirely different. One can respect some of General Motor’s engineering accomplishments, and admire the skill of some of their engineers while still thinking that a bailout for them was bad policy. I know that’s harsh, but NASA’s STS group and MSFC are no more deserving of a bailout than GM. Either their system produces sufficient net value on its merits or it’s not. It’s quite possible to do stuff that takes talent and hard work, and yet isn’t producing net value.

    ~Jon

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