As you know from my previous postings, NASA's fiscal year 2008 budget is of great concern. So, of interest is that the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the appropriations bill in which NASA is contained on June 26, 2007 and the full Appropriations Committee marked up the CJS bill on June 28, 2007. NASA was funded at $17.459 billion; $150 million above the requested level.
Colorado and Arizona Trip
On Sunday afternoon, June 17, I flew to Denver, Colorado. Early on Monday, June 18, I went to the local NBC affiliate studio, KUSA, and gave a live interview. I discussed the importance of a dynamic and vibrant space program to United States national and economic security. Then I went to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and met with Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien briefly before joining her in a meeting of the Colorado Space Coalition. This Coalition includes representatives from the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Space Foundation, the Colorado Space Business Roundtable, several aerospace companies, and representation from local businesses. Cities throughout the state of Colorado were represented, including Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver. The meeting also included staff from the Denver Mayor's office. The Coalition also had arranged to have U.S. Representative Mark Udall and U.S. Senator Ken Salazar speak at different parts of the meeting. Representative Udall is Chair of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. Representative Udall, along with Representatives Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Senator Salazar, sent a letter to the House Appropriations Chair and Ranking Member which stated that, "[i]n 2006, U.S. aerospace-generated revenues topped $184B, producing a trade surplus of $52B, and a level of exports three times the level of imports. NASA's unique capabilities in scientific research and engineering make it a critical source of technology, which provide high paying jobs..."
Colorado ranks third in the United States for largest space economy, as measured by employment and second for private aerospace employment concentration. This meeting provided an opportunity for me to provide a brief update on NASA's various efforts and how NASA would allocate its financial resources across our many missions. I gave a formal speech at the beginning and then we broke into a more informal discussion. In similar gatherings and discussions around the country, I have spoken about the impact local communities can have on young people and their educational goals in support of America's space program. The Colorado Space Coalition includes a diverse group, representing all major economic and specific aerospace interests, and there are participants from across the state. They are well-organized. I accepted, on behalf of NASA, a proclamation presented by Lt. Governor O'Brien on behalf of the State of Colorado. The proclamation noted the importance of exploration and discovery to America's history, and NASA's continuing mission to pioneer the future in aeronautics research, space exploration, and scientific discovery. On behalf of NASA, I presented the Lt. Governor, who accepted on behalf of the State of Colorado, a montage, flown on STS-116, of the American flag and the Colorado state flag.
Later that day I met with the editorial board of the Denver Post, "NASA exec preaches to Colo choir" ; then local mayors from Aurora, Boulder, and Colorado Springs. I participated in an academic roundtable discussion with senior officials from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University, and The Colorado School of Mines. An article about my visit also ran in the Denver Business Journal and my editorial ran in the Rocky Mountain News.
On Tuesday morning, June 19, I flew to Phoenix (110 degrees!) for a meeting with Arizona senior officials from the state governor's office, the state government, business groups, as well as representatives from U.S. Representative John Shadegg's office, and from U.S. Representative Rick Renzi's office. Governor Napolitano, as chair of the National Governors Association, chose Innovation America for this year's initiative. The initiative is focused on the need to drive innovation primarily through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. By elevating the priority of STEM education, the ultimate goal is to meet workforce needs, commercialize scientific discovery, and regain America's status as the global leader of innovation.
Consistent with NASA's existing programs, we discussed three priorities in STEM education that are the focus for the Governor: 1) creating a STEM Center; 2) increasing interest in math and science in preschool through college; and 3) generating innovative solutions to raise interest in math and science.
With this group, I discussed NASA's effort to map our education programs to the Agency's three strategic education goals and to assign metrics and objectives to each program. The three NASA strategic education goals are:
1. Strengthen NASA and the Nation's future workforce - NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to ensure achievement of exploration, science, and aeronautics.
2. Attract and retain students in STEM disciplines through a progression of educational opportunities for students, teachers, and faculty - To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations, and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA will focus on engaging and retaining students in STEM education programs to encourage their pursuit of educational disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific, and technical missions.
3. Engage Americans in NASA's mission - NASA will build strategic partnerships and linkages between STEM formal and informal education providers. Through hands-on, interactive, educational activities, NASA will engage students, educators, families, the general public, and all agency stakeholders to increase America's science and technology literacy.
NASA invests approximately $240 million per year (Education office + educational efforts in the Mission Directorates) in education. NASA is very interested in maximizing this educational investment, and ensuring it makes a positive difference. It's a sizeable investment and I could say much more but now I'm thinking this would be a good topic for an upcoming blog entry.
This discussion was followed by a meeting with the editorial board of the Arizona Republic and then an industry roundtable with senior officials from Arizona business organizations and businesses including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and several aerospace companies. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon attended the latter portion of this meeting and spoke briefly. Late in the afternoon there was an academic roundtable discussion with many representatives from various educational institutions and organizations from throughout the state.
All in all, these meetings were an opportunity to discuss NASA's activities and their results in states that have a significant aerospace presence but no NASA Centers.
Space Enterprise Council of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In last week's posting I said I would write more this week about the efforts of the Space Enterprise Council (SEC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is based on my understanding of their activities. Since the beginning of 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's SEC has been partnering with chambers across the country in support of our Nation's space program. A large majority of these chambers are within a close proximity of a NASA Field Center, usually within a 100 mile radius.
As part of partnering effort with the chambers, in mid-May, the U.S. Chamber's SEC teamed with the Citizens for Space Exploration for a Capitol Hill Blitz. Over 300 congressional offices were visited over a two-day period. Based on the work of the SEC, all ten NASA Field Centers were represented by their respective local chambers [which was a first for the annual event]. Though the participating chambers represented a diverse portfolio of NASA programs, all agreed on the importance of the Vision for Space Exploration to their local economies and to the nation's high-tech competitiveness.On June 29th, the U.S. Chamber interviewed Mike Griffin for their monthly publication that reaches roughly 200,000 chamber members. The interview covered a wide range of topics ranging from the relevance of NASA to the local business communities to NASA's efforts ensuring America keeps its competitive edge in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.