Commercial Crew Funding Update
Last Week’s Results
The short version of what happened last week is, the part of the House Commerce Justice Science (CJS) 2016 Appropriations bill that we’re concerned about, NASA Commercial Crew funding set by the House CJS subcommittee at 20% below NASA’s request, went through unchanged in the version passed by the whole House. There was some discussion of the need for full funding during the House amendments and debate process, but no serious attempt to restore it. (Longer version at Space News, additional detail at SpacePolicyOnline.com.)
We’re not shocked at this result; it was the way to bet at this stage of the process. We thank those of you who did contact their House member; there were some signs of increased awareness of the issue. This is a multi-step process, and the more support we’ve built by the late stages, the better our chances.
This Week’s Process
The Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up the House-passed CJS Appropriations bill this Wednesday (10:30 am eastern, CJS Subcommittee) and Thursday (full Committee).
Again, positive results at this stage of the process would be against the odds, but we certainly won’t get them if we don’t ask. More to the point perhaps, any pressure we can generate here helps prevent possible changes for the worse, E.G. further cuts, mandated premature program downselects, or new “poison pill” clauses of one sort or another.
This Week’s Action
Contact both of your Senators and ask them to support full funding and continued competition for NASA Commercial Crew. Contact them urgently by Tuesday overnight if they happen to be on the Senate Appropriations Committee and if you see this in time, and anytime this week or next otherwise. (Before the markups begin Wednesday morning is better, of course – even if they’re not on the Appropriations Committee, Senators do talk to each other. But the next step in the process will be consideration by the full Senate, so make those contacts when you can.)
Getting Contact Info
DC office phone numbers for Representatives and Senators are still relatively easy to get, but public email addresses now tend to be unavailable. You have to email them via “contact page” forms on their individual websites. You may need to dodge “sign up for our mailing list” offers to get to the form, and you will need to enter an address in their state to send your message.
(This is likely due to their inboxes being flooded by mass automated email campaigns. The good news is, if you do manually navigate the gauntlet, your message is now far more likely to be seen and noted.)
Look up who your Senators are by entering your home zip code at http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page.
This should give you their names, DC office phone numbers, links to their websites, and direct links to their Contact Pages.
Give their office a call (preferred) or write them a message. Calling or writing, don’t try to go into depth or detail. Keep it simple and top-level. Most incoming email won’t get read beyond the first few lines anyway. Calling or writing, get the basic request into your first sentence, then follow up briefly – calling, give one additional sentence of explanation, writing you can go for a (short) paragraph or two.
The heart of the message: “I’m [your name] from [your town in that Senator’s state.] I’m calling/writing to ask Senator [their last name] to support full funding and continued competition for NASA’s Commercial Crew program.”
Add a few words about the bad effects of the cuts: They’ll cause program delay and disruption, they’ll prolong dependence on (increasingly unreliable) Russian launches, they’ll force NASA to spend more on additional Russian launches than the cuts save – pick an aspect of the problem and describe it briefly. Put in a word for continuing competition: It will keep prices down, it will provide assured Station access even if one system has problems.
If you’re emailing, you’re pretty much done. You can provide more supporting material if you like, but it’s not essential and there’s a good chance it won’t be more than glanced at.
If you call and get a live answer, ask for whoever handles NASA issues. If you then get that staffer live, tell them who you are and where you’re from, give them your message briefly and politely, answer any questions they have as best you can, thank them for their time, and ring off. If you get shunted to voicemail (as often happens, especially evenings) state the message, briefly and politely, then ring off.
If you get any specific feedback from your contact – have they gotten other contacts, what they may be thinking on the matter, etc – please email that info on back to us. Thanks!
Once more unto the breach, friends…
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