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NASA IG Paints Bleak Picture For Agency Projects

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the outlook-not-so-good dept.

NASA 73

coondoggie writes "The bottom line for NASA as well as any number of government agencies in this new era of sequestration is money — and NASA in this case has too many programs chasing too few dollars. That is just one of a number of bleak conclusions NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin laid out to a Congressional hearing adding that 'declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties present the most significant external challenges to NASA's ability to successfully move forward on its many projects and programs. For the first 6 months of this year, NASA has operated under a continuing resolution that funds the Agency at last year's level of $17.8 billion. Moreover, NASA's share of the Government-wide sequestration cuts reduce that spending authority by $894 million.'"

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WTF? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168171)

You get one small point in time where your budget isn't automatically increased and it's an "era" of sequestration?

Self-entitled sons of bitches. Get out there and EARN a living. RUN a business that isn't propped up by the backs of hard-working people.

You'll just develop drones to spy on us anyway,

Douche.

The host is dying. Get used to it and produce something worthwhile, parasite.

Re:WTF? (5, Insightful)

The Master Control P (655590) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168353)

In fact, the march of inflation means that if you don't automatically get a raise/budget increase, then yes your budget is shrinking in real terms. So the only part of your post that refrains from whining like a Randroid version of Chris Crocker for long enough to make a vaguely factual claim is... factually wrong.

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Re:WTF? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168423)

...and yet the government has been insisting for years that inflation is negligible. Hell, a few years back they were freaking out that there was risk of deflation.

Which is it, then? That inflation rates truly justify their automatic 5-10% annual budget increases and the government's stated CPI increase of 1.5% is an abject lie? Or rather is it that the bureaucrats have a conflict of interest (ie. they lie) about giving honest budgetary assessments when they whine about "cuts" if they only receive a budget increase of 4% for the year?

Re:WTF? (5, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168913)

Inflation is not negligible, it's been held to a few percent a year. In the aftermath of the CDO scam's collapse, the abrupt destruction of vast amounts of imaginary "wealth" did threaten deflation by reducing the available money supply (which is exactly what happened in 1929) - this is as good as the mark of death for an economy, hence the Fed's extraordinary moves to prevent it from happening.

If NASA were receiving this mythical "automatic 5-10% annual budget increase" you speak of since 1990, their present budget would be somewhere between 25 and 80 billion dollars a year. In reality, NASA's inflation indexed budget has been essentially flat since then and they have declined to representing one percent to less than half a percent of the federal budget over the same timespan.

Meanwhile, America's one-of-a-kind privatized healthcare system that already costs more per capita than any other on earth by a factor of several continues to inflate costs at double-digit rates. The concentration of wealth in the 1% of the 1% has reached levels not seen since the start of the Great Depression. The GOP has clearly indicated that they will sooner burn our government to the ground than entertain the suggestion that top-tier tax rates be raised from the lowest levels in living memory, or that investment income be taxed at more than half the rate of personal income, at the same time they scream at the top of their lungs that the deficit can only be fixed by doing things that overwhelmingly hurt the poor and middle class.

Of all the problems we're facing, the fact that our government spends a whopping few percent of its budget on actual science (nasa, nsf, doe combined) is not one of them. In fact, given the almost inconcievably huge returns on investment that investments in science historically bring, it's quite insane that we're not spending more on it. I think of a trillion dollars of wealth poured into a black hole in Iraq, never to return, and imagine what if, instead of the wealth-destruction described to the letter in 1984, that trillion dollars had been spent on research into fusion reactors, fuel cells, batteries, solar technologies, computing...

Re:WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169187)

That's nice, but personally I'm sick of hearing bureaucrats insist they can't cut anything or that the end is nigh if they don't receive as much of a budget increase as they really wanted.

Not to mention the tantrums they throw if they experience any "cuts"... yes, I'm sure there was *no way* the Secret Service could afford to allow White House tours to continue. Or that the DOJ had to release illegal immigrants from jail onto the streets in advance of "cuts" (I guess deportation isn't an option anymore).

It's not particularly useful to protest cuts when the CBO budget projections are like this: The Effects of Sequestration on Federal Spending [mercatus.org]

...and, for the record, I think that capital gains should be taxed as regular income, that we should stop our foreign adventures, we should cut entitlements (starting with an immediate increase in SS retirement age), and we should reduce defense spending. Oh, and since we already have a piecemeal socialized healthcare system anyway (Medicare, Medicaid, Tri-Care, VA, etc, etc) that isn't going away, let's just socialize the whole damn thing and maybe save some money.

Don't forget, even if you zeroed out the DoD budget, we would still be facing a ~$300 billion deficit this year (projected $900 billion deficit with a ~$600 billion defense budget).

So, perhaps NASA has traditionally been last in line at the trough, but the necessity for cuts is real. No bureaucracy will ever suggest that even one cent could be cut from their budget, so cost-reductions tend to end up looking like hatchet jobs. Blame the obstinacy of the agencies involved.

Re:WTF? (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170203)

If you can cut X% of your budget easily, it means you were running inefficiently in the first place. Any idiot who proclaims they experience no losses from cutting say, 20% of their budget, as has been out there since the sequestration hit, should be fired because it means they were straight up wasting 20% of their budget since it was apparently unnecessary.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43171559)

"Sorry, I couldn't possibly think of anything to cut!"

NASA's Pathways Internship (Salary $31,177.00 to $83,126.00 / Per Year) [usajobs.gov]

"...nope, everything is absolutely necessary."

Look: bureaucrats aren't simpletons. When facing cost reductions, they can either cooperate by presenting a rank ordered list of programs and negotiate which should be pared back/eliminated... *or* they can stonewall (bonus points for threatening to end publicly popular, yet inexpensive programs).

Guess which actually happens in practice?

If you are laid off and face a reduction in standard of living, you can survey your expenses, decide everything you are spending is "necessary" and refuse to make any cuts. Generally people are smarter than that, though. They prioritize necessities based on some sort of assessment and base cuts on that.

Don't listen to Sir Humphrey's sophistry. They can make cuts.

Re:WTF? (1)

mk1004 (2488060) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170657)

On the subject of deportation, the last time I looked, a significant number of illegal immigrants are coming from the countries South of Mexico. Mexico obviously is not going to take in any illegal immigrants that we want to deport, which means that we'd have to send the back, typically using commercial aircraft. That gets expensive. So, yes, it's cheaper to turn them out on the streets. Go figure.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169373)

I don't mind stupidity. This is Slashdot after all. What I do mind is blaming the current disastrous state of affairs on the other half of the country that disagrees with you. The people you support have been in power for five years now, and things have only gotten worse. Before any of you are so quick to dismiss the Libertarian position, why don't you take a few minutes and explain how the current state of affairs is anything other than the result of going along with a two-party system whose plan for the past thirty years has been: (1) build a bigger government, (2) sell access to that government to the wealthy, and (3) line your pockets with the proceeds.

To be more specific:
                      -- The CDO scam wouldn't have happened if not for: (1) Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, Democratic strongholds, buying all kinds of shit paper to support the Democratic ideal of broadened home ownership, working hand in hand with (2) Big Finance, Republican strongholds, eager to write that shit paper, and (3) the Borrowers, who were more than happy to pursue easy money instead of hard work.

                      -- The privatized healthcare system you're talking about isn't privatized at all. Who paid for your last doctor's appointment? How much did it cost? If you want to see what a privatized healthcare system looks like, look at Singapore. The problem started with price controls under a Republican president and has gotten ever worse, regardless of who is in power, or do you really think Obamacare is going to make things better? What has Romneycare done to Massachusetts' health expenditures?

                      -- The President you voted for supports quantitative easing, which has made it easier for people to borrow money and put it into the stock market. The "concentration of wealth" that you complain about? Has quantitative easing made that better or worse? Here's a hint -- don't give people your money and then complain that you were dumb enough to do it, and dumb enough to continue doing it. Here's another hint -- when the President is done giving his speeches villifying the 1%, does he fly out to hang out with you or those 1%ers that keep him in power? Do you like the 1% as long as they toe your ideological line while they screw you over?

                      -- The wealthiest already pay the overwhelming amount of the country's tax burden. Why should they pay more? Right now you have voters that don't pay for the cost of the government they vote for, which predictably leads to an increased military presence, increased entitlements, etc.

                      -- Taxes have been raised...twice in the past two years? Once for Obamacare, and once again this past spring? Probably more than that if you count, e.g., regulation as indirect taxes.

                      -- Investment income is already taxed at higher rates than personal income. You're willfully ignoring the taxes that the corporations already pay on that money, which again, is a bigger share of the nation's tax burden than that carried by most voters.

                      -- The things that the current administration have been doing for the past five years already hurt the poor and middle class. How many Wall Streeters went to jail under this administration's watch? And how many poor and middle class?

                      -- The problem, generally speaking, is that government is inefficient. A dollar spent on government goods and services is, more likely than not, better left in your pocket to spend on the private sector's goods and services. That's as true of NASA as it is of the DOD. We've already spent hundreds of billions of dollars, both directly and indirectly, on things like solar technologies, fusion, etc., that have gone nowhere. It would have been better if that money had been left in our pockets to buy the goods and services that we want; at least then we'd have something for it. Yes, government occasionally invents something from time to time that proves useful; the same is true for the private sector, but the private sector does it for less.

Re:WTF? (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170455)

-- The problem, generally speaking, is that government is inefficient. A dollar spent on government goods and services is, more likely than not, better left in your pocket to spend on the private sector's goods and services. That's as true of NASA as it is of the DOD. We've already spent hundreds of billions of dollars, both directly and indirectly, on things like solar technologies, fusion, etc., that have gone nowhere. It would have been better if that money had been left in our pockets to buy the goods and services that we want; at least then we'd have something for it. Yes, government occasionally invents something from time to time that proves useful; the same is true for the private sector, but the private sector does it for less.

To throw out a NASA example, the International Space Station (ISS) cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion (including contributions from many other countries), a third of which was the cost of Space Shuttle flights (36 flights at $1.4 billion each, according to Wikipedia. This includes the fixed costs of keeping the Shuttle program running past the year 2000 since the Shuttle was used almost exclusively for the ISS.).

What did we get as a result? I think the three main benefits were a demonstration of orbital assembly, a platform for testing space technologies, and a modest amount of space R&D. Apparently, on the last point, the ISS is remarkably weak.

It has a crew of six for about 10-11 months of the year (with a skeleton crew of three in between) and when it does, only one person can be spared to do such research. I don't know what the rest of the crew is doing, but it's apparently not research. There is some talk of expanding the crew on the ISS, but that apparently is limited by the need to have a "lifeboat" for everyone on board.

The US could have saved almost all of the Shuttle money, if they had simply decommissioned the Shuttle in 2000 and launched the ISS components on a Delta IV Heavy or Proton. They could have saved a lot more than that including many years of time, if they had decommissioned the Shuttle in 1990 and launched and assembled a Mir sized station (130 tons instead of 450 tons, and 3 crew members instead of 6) station in 1990 using the Titan IV rocket (that rocket was enormously expensive per launch, but only because it was used less frequently than once a year) with some attention paid to lowering the maintenance load of the station.

A low maintenance Mir-class station launched on a cheaper rocket (and operating at least a decade earlier) would have demonstrated just about everything the ISS does for a small fraction of the cost (I'd say one to two orders of magnitude). But that wouldn't have been a big enough pyramid for the politicians writing the checks.

Re:WTF? (1)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171545)

It's not quite that simple. With the Mir approach, each module needs to be a self contained spacecraft with engines, batteries, docking and guidence systems (as they have to fly them selves to the space station). All of this stuff is no longer needed once docking is completed, meaning half your module is wasted. Just compare the cramped Russian modules to the wide open US, Japanese and European modules on ISS. The biggest problem with ISS (just like the Shuttle before it) is that Congress and the OMB are penny wise and pound foolish. To save a few hundred million in the late 90's, they cut funding to the ISS utilization office. This office was supposed to work with Universities to develop the pipeline of scientific experiments for the station. So now we have an under utilized $150 billion asset, rather than a fully utilized $151 billion asset. Same thing happened with the Shuttle. NASA engineers said it would cost $10 billion to develop a fully reusable shuttle that could fly 50 times a year. OMB gave them $5billion and said to build it twice as big to support one misstion that the USAF might have flown at some point (The KH-11 polar once arround mission). So to save $5 billion in the 70's we instead spent hundreds of billions over 30 years on the expensive hanger queen that was the Space Shuttle

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169727)

Here's the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. This family [wikipedia.org] controls about $1 trillion in assets. It's time to tax the shit out of them. When you can donate a castle [wikipedia.org] to charity, you have too much money. That smells of a tax dodge.

Re:WTF? (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170317)

Here's the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. This family [wikipedia.org] controls about $1 trillion in assets. It's time to tax the shit out of them. When you can donate a castle [wikipedia.org] to charity, you have too much money. That smells of a tax dodge.

For the sake of argument, let's say we did what you suggest--hell, that we went even further than that and we took every red cent that they "control." We would pay for this year's budget deficit, and that's about it. Now what?

Re:WTF? (1)

SillyHamster (538384) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172893)

"Eat the Rich". A "greedy algorithm" that is destined for poverty.

Re:WTF? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170401)

You mentioned the Republicans but forgot to mention the Democrats would rather burn the republic to the ground than make mile reductions in their massive increases (which started under Bush btw).

Your one-sided rhetoric shows you are part of the problem, not the solution. It is the Democrats you praise who are playing the same game schoolboards play, but at a national level, where they cut school bus service first, to irritate parents. Here, they do asinine things like not deploy an ostensibly needed aircraft carrier, or force factories to shut down...for lack of inspectors, both of which should have been among the very last, not first things. I can't say Romney would be much better, but Obama is about as foolish a president I've seen, deliberately abrogating leadership and choosing to play rhetorical games of chicken -- "Our car is crashing," he says, "and it's the Republicans in the back seat, not me behind the wheel."

In the bigger picture, you are just the substrate for your political meme spread mechanism, where you aid in power seizure to force the meme onto others.

Re:WTF? (1)

letherial (1302031) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168461)

you would be more grateful if we pulled all your cell phone, satellite tv and a bunch of other shit brought to you by NASA technology.

Why dont you educate yourself a little on what the NASA does for the country instead of sitting there in your poopoo chair whining and complaining about things you know nothing about.

Re:WTF? (1)

killkillkill (884238) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169591)

Yes, we poor sheep would be living in caves if it weren't for NASA, there would have been no motivation to produce these technologies that create billions of dollars in revenue.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168535)

WTF? If it's so easy to live off a few percent less, why can't you?

Re:WTF? (1)

killkillkill (884238) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169605)

Have you seen the employment statistics lately. Quite a few people would love to be living on only a few percent less.

Re:WTF? (2)

hsmith (818216) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169829)

Unless you are a complete idiot, every American already took a 3% cut in income Jan 1 due to FICA going back up. So, when we all took an income hit we were told "suck it up" - when the government takes a hit in additional spending (remember they are only cutting the rate of growth, not actual spending cuts) - Obama and Congress run around like the world is ending.

1962: MAN IN ORBIT - 1969: MAN ON THE MOON !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168221)

Since ?? Wall Street and Too Big To Fail banks have sucked all the BIG capital into the pockets of a few !! And you let them !!

Re:1962: MAN IN ORBIT - 1969: MAN ON THE MOON !! (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168359)

Since ?? Wall Street and Too Big To Fail banks have sucked all the BIG capital into the pockets of a few !! And you let them !!

ISTM that since about 1980 we've been running the USA as a cream-skimming operation for the rich. Once they have everything they'll move on to another country full of stupid voters and leave what's left of the USA to fend for itself. Probably burdened with huge IMF debts, which, unlike the current debt that everyone is fainting over, actually have to be paid back.

Re:1962: MAN IN ORBIT - 1969: MAN ON THE MOON !! (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171537)

ISTM that since about 1780 we've been running the USA as a cream-skimming operation for the rich

FTFY.

Re:1962: MAN IN ORBIT - 1969: MAN ON THE MOON !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168579)

Contrast that with

2000: Stock market crash - 2008: Stock market crash.

Banks move the world forward.

Is there any hope left? (4, Insightful)

Lotana (842533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168223)

Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades, by this point all the talented engineers and researchers would of left. Also with the current political environment of focusing spending on the War on Terror related projects and social support, I would be surprised if there will be any increase in budget allocation to the space-related sciences.

At this rate, is there any meaningful hope left for NASA, JPL or indeed any government-funded space-related agencies?

Re:Is there any hope left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168335)

would HAVE left

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

Lotana (842533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168733)

Thank you for your correction. Still learning English, so the corrections are welcome.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168351)

at the moment, nobody really gives a fuck about nasa or space since they're trying to focus on figuring out how to pay their bills, and rightly so... i know nasa bureaucrats are thinking of themselves too, but if you like begging for handouts there are other ways/places to do it

Re:Is there any hope left? (3, Interesting)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169081)

at the moment, nobody really gives a fuck about nasa or space since they're trying to focus on figuring out how to pay their bills, and rightly so...

Exactly. A few decades ago, the old "we can't just keep throwing money at the poor" reaction made some sense, as things like homeless shelters, support for the elderly & disabled, public schools & universities (like the ones that created much of the original Internet) were relatively well-funded; unemployment wasn't out of hand, minimum wage wasn't being eclipsed by the cost of necessities but there was plenty of help for those that needed it. The situation wasn't remotely near perfect, but it was close enough to divert some funds into scientific endeavors that aren't devoted to saving & drastically improving lives.

That's not true anymore. Most adults over 30 are under a hell of a lot of pressure between knowing job security is shit, their pay not mirroring how hard/long they work, the cost of necessities is eating most of their paycheck, plus have kids plus elderly/disabled relatives they will (or are) need to help out substantially because the programs that would've done so 30 years ago were cut to the bone. Some of the geeks on Slashdot are (or should be) worrying even if they do earn a good living, as the age bias could easily cause long-term havoc unless they can excel enough at a new career to be hired in middle age with zero work experience in the field. It's usually the inexperienced younger folk that haven't had to help others out yet that shrug the issue off and focus on their dreams & ideals...

Personally, my thought is that we should return to the overall taxes & spending setup that helped spur the creation of the Internet and the space program, because it's all ultimately interconnected. Those of you whose reaction to the above is to resentfully think that a lack of dependents & current success means you shouldn't have to pitch in, that's what it will take if you want an America like the one that achieved great things several decades ago; if you want one like the stagnating, slowly failing one of the last 12 years where people focus on individually scrabbling for what they can grab for themselves rather than working together to achieve great things, keep pushing for the path we're on.

Re:Is there any hope left? (2)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170665)

Personally, my thought is that we should return to the overall taxes & spending setup that helped spur the creation of the Internet and the space program,

What are you talking about? Are you under the impression that what we have now is not tax and spend?

Re:Is there any hope left? (3, Interesting)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168547)

Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades

During the last few decades (1990-) NASA has enjoyed consistent funding [wordpress.com] just north of 15 billion inflation adjusted dollars every year. That pattern has survived four presidents and almost six administrations.

The "funding problem" you imagine is received bullshit. Given that NASA is just one of many 'discretionary' costs that must compete with the ever bloating welfare state and chronic $1E12+ annual deficits since 2008, a NASA spending authority loss of only 5% is a testament to our values and our wisdom.

Our wisdom... sounds weird doesn't it? Taking the occasional break from self-flagellation is useful behavior.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169523)

Given that NASA is just one of many 'discretionary' costs that must compete with the ever bloating welfare state and chronic $1E12+ annual deficits since 2008, a NASA spending authority loss of only 5% is a testament to our values and our wisdom.

That's a lot of shit. NASA's budget amounts to a rounding error on our military budget. If you think that makes us wise, it's clear you are not even distantly acquainted with wisdom.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170593)

I think the US is spending too much on the military, but the military does national defense, which is one of the few things that most people agree is important.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170659)

I think the US is spending too much on the military, but the military does national defense, which is one of the few things that most people agree is important.

I agree, but I think it should be tempered by the needs of planetary defense. Also, pork.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43174857)

I agree, but I think it should be tempered by the needs of planetary defense.

The US military happens to be a better fit than NASA for planetary defense as well. Among other things, the US military has a bigger space budget than NASA does and they built and operated the existing systems for detecting threats on Earth and in space.

Also, pork.

The problem here is that NASA is just as pork-ridden and inefficient as the US military. If we redirect the waste from the US military without doing a similar cleanup at NASA, then we'll still squander that money.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43181199)

The problem here is that NASA is just as pork-ridden and inefficient as the US military.

I'd rather have space pork than exploding pork.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

infolation (840436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168979)

During the cold war, NASA made sense as an ICBM/anti-russki R&D department that had the beneficial side-effect of space exploration. Now, despite $1.5 Tn being available to invade a single country, there's no military fiscal connection.

Is there any hope left? Are you kidding me? (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169961)

Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades, by this point all the talented engineers and researchers would of left.

Yet, we have two rovers on Mars and two orbiters at Mars, an orbiter at Saturn, an orbiter at Mercury, a fly-by probe on the way to Pluto, multiple astronomical observatories, lunar orbiters, and more earth sciences orbiters than you can shake a stick at... In fact, NASA has more going on currently [nasa.gov] than at almost any other time in it's history. I'd suggest you calibrate your biases against reality, because the former is way out of touch with the latter.
 

At this rate, is there any meaningful hope left for NASA, JPL or indeed any government-funded space-related agencies?

I've been hearing that question since the mid-70's - NASA watchers seem to be mostly nothing but a bunch of Chicken Little's for whom the sky is perpetually falling.
 
From years of watching NASA, their problems aren't so much budgetary and managerial... and not just at HQ, but all the way out to the line troops at the Centers. NASA has a long standing problem with properly estimating and managing their budgets. To be fair, some of that isn't their fault - Congress is rarely inclined to fund the engineering development missions that would give them the experience to do so... as a result, practically every program and mission is a one-off that absolutely must succeed because failure isn't an option. And because Congress and the general public treat every failure as an earth shattering disaster, something of a positive feedback loop has been established which just makes the problem worse.

Re:Is there any hope left? (2)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170343)

Let me correct your statement: "Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades," In fact you meant to write, "Given NASA's constant spending problems for the last few decades..."

They have an $18B budget yet can't find a way to get by. Really? Maybe it is time to re-examine what NASA should and should not be about and fit that into the $18B instead of crying about not getting more to fund extravagant missisions of dubious value. ISS? $100B for what great scientific achievments that only could be made there? What other things could NASA have done with that money which would have been more productive?

NASA is just one small microcosm of government largess and waste. The era of throwing money at shit just because you have it is over.

Re:Is there any hope left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43171585)

If you want to travel in space, you need to understand DNA damage and repair in space.

We can do all the terrestrial studies we want on TC lines with pure ions, but space is different.

There are two ways off this planet, extinction and space travel.

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172063)

Part of the problem is that NASA is so hamstrung by political interference, it's hard for them to change anything. NASA HQ has been trying to divest itself of unneeded real-estate assets for years or close marginal centers, but each time it tries, the congress person representing the district in question raises holy hell. Never mind the Senate Launch System, the $40 billion dollar rocket NASA doesn't want

Re:Is there any hope left? (1)

dainbug (678555) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171473)

Absolutely! There are in fact many talented engineers, men and women who put up with below market pay and benefits, insecure working environment and a country full of fools who villainize (demonize) public employees. If you are lucky enough to know one, ask them why.

Lots of Hope and Change (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43172091)

Lots of Hope and Change coming now that NASA has been directed to "reach out to Muslims" plus also getting ready to start making plutonium again [slashdot.org] .

Do the math. Not that big of deal (1)

rob_osx (851996) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168247)

$894 million is a lot of money, but out of a budget of $17.8 billion, NASA has to figure out how to do with 5% less.

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (4, Insightful)

Pretzalzz (577309) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168317)

Try again. Sequestration hit 5 months into the year. Assuming a relatively constant spending of money, $894 million is 8.6% of $10.4 billion[which is 7/12 of 17.8 billion]. This makes senses as it is the commonly quoted percentage for every agency facing cuts. But all of that budget isn't really cuttable. Say half of the budget is uncuttable. That leaves you needing to suddenly cut 20% out of the budget that is cuttable. This is where you get 1 day a week furloughs and whole programs/services eliminated like we've been hearing about in other agencies.

Total bullshit assumption (-1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168349)

Say half of the budget is uncuttable.

That is absolute and utter bullshit of the stinkiest kind.

There is NO PART of a company that cannot take a 5% hit. The same is even MORE true of a government agency, which has waste everywhere from never EVER having to make choices based on output - you just automatically get as much more more every year, because you exist.

Well now NASA has to do once what companies in the real world have to do every year. There is no way I will believe that after decades of never having to make real choices that every single aspect cannot take some reduction without any loss of functionality. Even if one approach meant cutting salaries... why should that be forbidden when it's used in real life?

Calling your bullshit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168493)

Sequestration, BY LAW, only applies to discretionary funds. There are, built into the law, programs that are "uncuttable", and yes, they are generally about half of total expenditures.

And you fundamentally don't understand how government research agencies work. Employees at those agencies have to write proposals, just like every other researcher in the world, proving the usefulness and relevance of their work.

Cutting salaries would entail even more paperwork and bureaucratic overhead than furloughs, and furloughs have the added benefit of ensuring that the government doesn't artificially devalue employees' work by expecting them to produce the same for less.

Congress has burdened government employees with far more mandatory rules and regulations than businesses are subject to. In addition to mantory training, full documentation of all purchases with several levels of authorization for every penny so they can audit it later, and periodic investigations to make sure they interpret the rules properly, government employees must adhere to OSHA rules to the letter. They have to request approval for overtime and comp time, and working it without reporting it is a federal crime. They are required by law to take lunch (their timecards won't let them submit over seven hours without a lunch break), and if they work through lunch they are once again lying on their time cards and committing a federal crime.

You want to make it possible for government employees to save the government and the country money? Start with Congress.

Re:Calling your bullshit (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170017)

Congress has burdened government employees with far more mandatory rules and regulations than businesses are subject to. In addition to mantory training, full documentation of all purchases with several levels of authorization for every penny so they can audit it later, and periodic investigations to make sure they interpret the rules properly, government employees must adhere to OSHA rules to the letter.

And there is good reason for all that: when private businesses become wasteful or corrupt, they go out of business (unless dumb governments "rescue" them). When governmental organizations become wasteful or corrupt, there is no automatic mechanism to counteract that. That's why governmental organizations need such strict supervision.

You want to make it possible for government employees to save the government and the country money? Start with Congress.

There's a simple solutiion: privatize them.

Re:Calling your bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43170187)

And there is good reason for all that: when private businesses become wasteful or corrupt, they go out of business

Oh you are just adorable.

Re:Calling your bullshit (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170221)

I'm not sure how you managed to write the first thought down and not see the obvious problem conflict with your second.

Re:Calling your bullshit (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43179903)

And what would that conflict be, according to you?

Re:Total bullshit assumption (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168527)

Contracts, basically. You've probably never had a job before, but when/if you do, you'll find out that people always have some kind of contract. Once you have a permanent position or a fixed term position, the employer can't simply say "you don't have a job anymore, I'm not paying you past Monday". Any termination clause in the contract is going to specify some period of salary that still needs to be paid. For programs that are currently part-way though, even shutting them down requires money. Eg, putting equipment into storage or transfering it elsewhere, paying off orders that have already been put in. So sure yes there are always ways to cut money, but a very large fraction of costs simply cannot be cut, at least not overnight. NASA has had a tight budget for many years now - they do an awful lot with it, but they've been stretching it very thin and wide for a long time.

Re:Total bullshit assumption (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43178119)

Once you have a permanent position or a fixed term position, the employer can't simply say "you don't have a job anymore, I'm not paying you past Monday".

I can tell you've never worked for a company before, because there's this little thing called "at will" employment.

Let me direct you to something more at your particular mental level. [yahoo.com]

I'll let you have the last word because I really don't care what a gradeschooler thinks about employment.

Re:Total bullshit assumption (3, Insightful)

Stripe7 (571267) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168789)

The reason NASA's budget is cannot be cut is Congress. Any time NASA wants to shut down obsolete projects or consolidate projects Congress steps in to stop them. NASA early on spread itself into as many Congressional districts as possible to gain the most political pull, now it has come back to bite them in a major way.

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168371)

i'm surprised they didn't threaten another challenger disaster or an apollo 1 fire or some other fearmongering nonsense, especially since the white house is leading the way with that tactic

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (1)

JWW (79176) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172201)

i'm surprised they didn't threaten another challenger disaster or an apollo 1 fire or some other fearmongering nonsense, especially since the white house is leading the way with that tactic

That would require NASA participating in Human Spaceflight, a business they currently are not participating in anymore.

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175735)

they send bodies... erm i mean astronauts... over to russia for testing... erm i mean launches... in ukraine

but in any case, i wonder if most americans know this? i mean if they believe the tripe that comes out of the white house...

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (2)

The Master Control P (655590) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168397)

Meanwhile at the DOD [guardian.co.uk] : Pallets of shrinkwrapped Benjamins equal to 13 years of savings from NASA budget cuts simply vanished and no one can explain where they went.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS.

Re:Do the math. Not that big of deal (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170801)

You must have missed the follow up
http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/26/once-thought-lost-and-now-found-6-billion/ [cnn.com]

But the inspector general's new report says almost all the $6.6 billion was properly handed over to Iraq and its Central Bank. "[Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction] was able to account for the unexpended [Development Fund for Iraq] funds remaining in DFI accounts when the CPA (Coalitional Provisional Authority) dissolved in June 2004," the new report says. "Sufficient evidence exists showing that almost all of the remaining $6.6 billion remaining was transferred to actual and legal CBI (Central Bank of Iraq) control."

There was also a great story about how a random guy ended up being solely responsible for handling every pallet of cash destined for the Central Bank of Iraq. [cnbc.com]
It's actually a bit disturbing that the US didn't set up any procedures and this one guy was more or less on his own, handling billions of dollars with zero oversight.

Sponsorship & advertising (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168311)

It works for everyone else!

Nobody ever ruined their eyesight (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168347)

"Nobody ever ruined their eyesight by looking at the bright side of something." - current footer citation

Do not look into the bright side of the Sun with remaining eye.

Era of big government is waning (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168367)

If you want to talk about "eras", we should talk about the "era" of relying on the government for access to space being just about over now.

NASA is doing some good work still but properly they should be scaled back, as private companies move now to take us into space far cheaper than NASA ever could. The sequestration cuts are tiny compared to the reductions that make sense for them now.

Re:Era of big government is waning (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168451)

NASA never built the rockets only maintained and launched them. It was companies like Boeing (McDonnell), Lockheed, and NAA that made programs like Apollo and the Shuttle possible. The same companies still build similar launch hardware but they charge an arm and leg for private and government launches it is still access to space from private companies.

NASA (with FAA help most likely) is probably move to a regulatory role with launch providers and, sequestration is going to hinder private manned space flights by delaying the approval process. At least that is how I see it right now, since sequestration cuts funding across the board not in select areas.

Re:Era of big government is waning (1)

trout007 (975317) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168891)

The contractor USA (United Space Allience) maintained and launched te Shuttles. Technically NASA owned the vehicles and facilities but Civil Servants only ever made up 10% or so of the workforce. You need at least a few technical people around to help write clear contracts.

Austerity. (1)

MnemonicMan (2596371) | about a year and a half ago | (#43168407)

Welcome to the new USA "Austerity [wikipedia.org] ." It wasn't officially passed, it came in the back door.

This is what a country afraid of its own shadow (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43168763)

Looks like.
Transfer homeland defense budget to NASA problem solved.

Just put these projects on Kickstarter (2)

flowerp (512865) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169147)

some of them might actually get the funding ;)

Why not block grant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169261)

Why not block grant NASA's budget to Elon and get it over with? Then the US Government can sell our portion of the ISS to the Chinese for $25B for Xprizes like low cost mobile fuel cells. Chinese are going to steal the tech anyways, they might as well foot the bill and pay for ISS upkeep and supplies.

Politically motivated IG statements (3, Interesting)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169803)

It's sad to see an Inspector General get on a politicized soap box and yell "the sky is falling!" The Obama administration has gone out of its way to have every cabinet member and in fact everybody down the food chain or should I say "feeding trough" also echo a bunch of FUD over the sequestration. Just like our retarded Homeland Security Chief Napolitano, a bigger political idiot I'd be challenged to find on this planet! [thegatewaypundit.com] Wasn't it her program of "If you see something, say something?" Hey Janet, "you're a retard and a hypocrite because on one hand you tell us that because of sequestration the TSA will have to cut back and we'll have longer waits at the airport and yet you spend another $50M you didn't need toright after announcing that!" Sorry for ranting.

In the private sector, every manager usually has a few goals established that are boilerplate but still applicable.. One of them is "Reduce Costs by x%" usually x is 10. All of us in this economy has had to cut back and it's time for the US Government to stop spending every dollar they take in and a third more. $900B deficits are killing us now and will only get worse, it has to stop.

If you look at the data for NASA the current budget while it is less than they've spent under Continuing Resolutions but in FY2009 [wikipedia.org] (The last year a budget was passed by Congress) Their budget was $17,782B. in 2010 and 2011 they were allowed to spend $18,724B and $18,448B respectively. That's pretty hefty in terms of spending increases and let's not forget they were still flying the Space Shuttles during those fiscal years! It was hella expensive to launch a shuttle and it has been a drain on NASA's budget for decades. By some estimates $192B over the life of the Shuttles.
Now the IG is whining that the budget is going to cause problems? I'd submit that after the Shuttle program ended that the budget should have gone down. But no, it's now down by their latest projection for FY2012 (the current budget year) $17,770B roughly the same as in FY2009!?!? Assuming 4 launches launches per year (FY2010) [wikipedia.org] @ $1.5B/launch [forbes.com] that's $6B just for not flying the Shuttle, but yet the budget didn't go down. Granted only two shuttles flew in FY2011, I'd still submit that's $3B that went to something "else."
What ever "else" is they need to just stop doing that because it came into fruition over the last year.

This is a very very poor set of arguments from an official who is supposed to be independent and the watchdog for the American People and he's not doing his job by echoing the same BS and FUD that the administration has pushed out since February. They have eliminated the Shuttle, reducing expenses of $6B/year and they want more money? What every they're smoking they need to share it with the rest of us!

This kind of attitude clearly points out why there's such a huge vacuum of leadership in DC. From Congress to the White House, it's time to vote them all out of office, but first fire this IG!

The manned spaceflight rathole (2)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169917)

Well if NASA did not stop throwing billions down the manned spaceflight rathole, it would not be in such a mess. Nobody cares about ISS or SLS and few, if any, scientific discoveries has come from the manned missions. All the science (and excitement) is coming from robotic probes such as Curiousity. The SLS is the rocket to nowhere; its only purpose is to create jobs. Unfortunately NASA is run by ex-pilots, not scientists...

get used to it (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169953)

If we spend more and more money on entitlements, crony capitalism, global warming remediation, and bailing out home owners who can't afford their McMansions, there will be just less and less money left for interesting stuff like space exploration.

Having said that, NASA's budget in constant dollars is actually historically fairly high:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA [wikipedia.org]

Of course, given rampant fiscal irresponsbility, its percentage share of the total federal budget is declining, but that's hardly a decline in funding.

How much could they possibly need (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171623)

Obama killed the moon trip the mars trip and most of manned spaceflight altogether. NASA is a self admitted Muslim outreach program now. I mean for all his blather about education how much of that do you need to be part of Obama's infinite cadres of teacherscopsfirefighters?

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