From: Space Access Society
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Contact your Representative by Friday morning at the latest, and ask that they tell the Appropriations Committee that they support full funding for the NASA Commercial Crew and Space Technology programs. (Scroll down to the "Background" sections for more on why these and why now, and "Action Details" for specifics on how to proceed.)
Background: The Process
The Fiscal Year 2012 Congressional budget process is getting underway. (The budget process will be ongoing for the next few months, since FY'12 begins this coming October 1st.) All budget "appropriations" bills (where they write the actual checks) start this process in the House Appropriations Committee, generally in whatever Subcommittee covers the specific budget area.
NASA is funded by the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. At some point in the coming weeks, this CJS Subcommittee will do a "markup" (a rewrite) of the White House FY'12 NASA budget proposal. This will be the next critical step in the FY'12 NASA budget process.
This is a budget-cutting year. The CJS Subcommittee's overall money allocation for FY'12 is down 6% from their FY'11 final total. The total of FY'12 White House requests for CJS funding items adds up to a 7% increase over FY'11. (The WH FY'12 request for NASA within the CJS total is $18.7 billion, up 1% from FY'11's $18.5 billion.)
In other words, when the CJS Subcommittee does its markup, it will have to cut the various White House CJS requests by an average of over 14%. It's going to get messy. Any item not strongly defended could be vulnerable.
Background: Why These Programs?
Here are descriptions from draft appropriations request language of what we're asking you to help defend - the NASA Commercial Crew and Space Technology programs:
"NASA Commercial Crew Program - When the Space Shuttle retires this summer, America will be wholly dependent on Russia to launch our astronauts to the Space Station, sending nearly $400 million overseas each year. Commercial Crew will competitively fund the fastest-possible development of safe and affordable made-in-America vehicles, creating thousands of American jobs and enabling full use of the Space Station. We strongly support full funding of the requested level of $850,000,000 in FY2012."
"NASA Space Technology Program (STP) - America must invest in new technology to stay ahead of foreign space powers like Russia and China. NASA's Space Technology Program, which now includes Exploration Technology Development and Demonstration (ETDD), is NASA's primary cutting edge R&D initiative. STP/ETDD funding enables NASA's research centers and America's small businesses and innovators to assure America's leadership in space. We support funding at the requested level of $1,024,200,000."
Background: Why Now?
The Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee leadership has decided to poll their Congressional colleagues this week to get a preliminary idea of what items under CJS jurisdiction the rest of the House of Representatives thinks should be cut or increased. The response should have a considerable impact on the eventual CJS Subcommittee markup (currently scheduled for early July.) That means that if you can persuade your Representative this week to actively support NASA Commercial Crew and NASA Space Technology, it will significantly improve the chances of proper funding for these (in our view) extremely useful programs.
We already made clear a few weeks back what we think should be cut. (Our understanding is that you all made an impression, by the way. The CJS Subcommittee is now definitely aware there's opposition to the SLS earmark. Thanks!) This week, the nature of the process is such that suggestions for cuts will diffuse our effectiveness. Our greatest leverage lies in pushing positively for the items we do NOT want cut.
Two final points:
- The House is not in session this week; many Representatives are back in the home district. If you look up your Representative's local office, call, and find out what their schedule is, you may be able to ask their support for this in person, at a "Town Meeting" event, or possibly even at a personal appointment to meet them.
- We'd really like feedback on what results you get. When you make contact, ask the staffer involved to take your contact info and get back to you with what your Representative decides to tell the CSJ Subcommittee this week. Then drop us a brief email with the name of your Representative and what they did (or did not) get back to you with. If you can do this, it will be hugely useful in the coming months. Thanks!
- Call your Representative via the House Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. (If you don't already know their name, grab an old utility bill and look them up via your 9-digit zipcode at http://www.house.gov/zip/ZIP2Rep.html.)
- Tell whoever answers the phone that you'd like to speak to the person who handles NASA appropriations issues for the Congressman/woman. Ask for that staffer's voicemail if they're not available. (If you're given a choice between a NASA person and an Appropriations person, go with Appropriations.)
- Politely tell that staffer your name, that you live in the Congressman/woman's district, and that you support full funding for NASA's Commercial Crew and Space Technology programs. Then ask them to send requests for full funding for these two programs to the House Appropriations Committee's website before the Friday 6 pm deadline.
If they have any questions about how to do this, tell them they can get help with the language and procedures to use by contacting (if they're a Republican) Tony DeTora in Congressman Rohrabacher's office at x5-2415, or (if they're a Democrat) Eleen Trang in Congresswoman Lofgren's office at x5-3072.
(We are, by the way, impressed with the high average intelligence of the people who support our cause. Please don't damage the cause by either attempting to mess with the abovementioned website, or by contacting directly the two already-overworked abovementioned staffers. Seriously.)
- Politely ask your staffer if they would get back to you and let you know once your Representative decides what to tell the Committee. Leave them your contact info, phone or email as you prefer. Answer any other questions they may have as best you can, then thank them for their time and ring off.
- If you don't get any feedback from the staffer by Friday afternoon eastern time, call them again and ask what the status of your request is. If you do get any feedback at all, please pass it on to us in a brief note to email@example.com. Anything you can come up with now will be a huge help over the coming months.
This is an important early step in the months-long Congressional funding process. Your calls could make a big difference in how much money there is in FY'12 for the things we strongly support at NASA: Commercial Crew & Cargo, Commercial Reusable Suborbital, Exploration Technology, Space Technology, Propellant Depots, etc - all things that bear on lower cost space transportation for the future.
We've lived through decades when the fraction of NASA's space budget we saw as usefully spent was around 1% - and that was in a good year. The current FY'11 Exploration total ended up 21% potentially good stuff, give or take. 21% beats 1% handily... If we can improve on that 21% for next year, we'll have done well. But if we don't fight, if we sit back and take things for granted, that useful percentage could easily drop to single digits, or nothing at all. One phone call from you could make the difference.
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