Trump Nominates Fierce Critic of Ex-Im Bank to Lead Agency

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Continuing a tradition of nominating people who hate the organizations they have been selected to run (Rick Perry at Energy, Scott Pruitt at EPA), President Donald Trump has nominated a vocal critic of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to head the lending agency.

Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who voted twice against reauthorizing the bank while in Congress, will be nominated as president of the bank. Separately, former Rep. Spencer T. Bachus III (R-Ala.) will be nominated to join the bank’s board. Both nominees require congressional confirmation.

Garrett, a deeply conservative Congressman who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, has in the past heavily criticized the agency he may now be tasked with leading. In a speech on the floor of the House in 2015, Garrett called the Ex-Im Bank a “fund for corporate welfare” and “a bank that embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.”

The bank, which offers financial support to U.S. exporters, is despised by some conservative Republicans, who have forced it to remain effectively dormant for nearly two years. Yet the appointments themselves could allow the bank to resume lending in earnest, after being effectively barred from acting by a lack of leadership.

Trump opposed the bank during the campaign, but indicated he planned to reopen the bank for business in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday — one of several recent decisions by the president that suggest a shift in his views on economic policy.

Read the full story.

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Mr. Witt Goes to Washington?

Stu Witt (Credit: MASP)

There’s a report out today about former Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt being considered for a high-level position at NASA headquarters in Washington.

A veteran Mojave observer tells Parabolic Arc that Witt has been “swimming in those waters.”

The possible positions for Witt include deputy administrator, the second-ranked job at the agency. This is a politically appointed position that requires Senate approval.

President Donald Trump has not yet nominated candidates for NASA administrator and deputy administrator. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is widely viewed as a leading contender for the top position.

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Trump Wants Cuts in Current NASA, NOAA Budgets

This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

The budgets of NASA and NOAA would see cuts for the FY 2017 fiscal year as part of $18 billion in reductions proposed by the Trump Administration.

NASA would see a reduction of $50 million in its science budget. The cuts would be
“distributed….across the science program, including cuts to unused reserves and missions that are cancelled in the 2018 Budget. It is possible missions would be delayed and/or grants reduced,” according to a budget document sent to Congress.

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NASA as a Prop & Governance by Photo Op

Ivanka Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

On Tuesday, first daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos paid a visit to that shrine to American flight, the National Air & Space Museum, to urge girls to pursue careers in STEM.

The White House was probably hoping the event would distract attention away from the funding cuts that Ivanka’s father, Donald, has proposed in federal science and education funding. And, perhaps it did for some who are uniformed about the budget.

For others, the sight of Ivanka introducing a screening of Hidden Figures, a film about African American women who helped launch the first Americans into space, as her father is trying to zero out NASA’s education office was a bit too much to take.

In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father’s administration “has expanded NASA’s space exploration mission” though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office.

The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement:

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted.”

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.

Science and education are integral to our future as a nation. Trump can’t make America great by slashing his way to prosperity. A great and prosperous nation need to invest heavily in these areas if it wants to remain so.

Governing by photo op eventually catches up to you. Especially when you’re projecting images at odds with reality.

Trump Memorandum on Office of American Innovation

Credit: Matt Wade

Presidential Memorandum on The White House Office of American Innovation

SUBJECT:   The White House Office of American Innovation

America has long led the world in innovation and technological advancement.  American ingenuity has launched industries, created jobs, and improved quality of life at home and abroad.  To ensure that America remains the global innovation leader, I hereby direct the Senior Advisor to the President to head an office in the White House dedicated to American innovation.  This office will bring together the best ideas from Government, the private sector, and other thought leaders to ensure that America is ready to solve today’s most intractable problems, and is positioned to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.  The office will focus on implementing policies and scaling proven private-sector models to spur job creation and innovation.

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Trump Sets Up Innovation Office Headed by….Wait for It….

Jared Kushner (Credit: Lori Berkowitz)

The Washington Post reports President Donald Trump has set up a new office at the White House focused on innovation, and you’ll never believe who he selected to run it.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements….

In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East….

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Trump Proposes Broad Range of Environmental, Energy and Health Cuts

Credit: NASA

If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.

“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

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NASA Acting Administrator Statement on Proposed Budget

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the Fiscal Year 2018 agency budget proposal:

“The President mentioned in his speech to both houses of Congress that, ‘American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.’ NASA is already working toward that goal, and we look forward to exciting achievements that this budget will help us reach.

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Proposed Budget Maintains Funding for Current Gen Weather Satellites

The Trump Administration’s proposed Commerce Department budget maintains funding for the development of NOAA’s current generation geostationary and polar orbiting weather satellites.  However, the follow-on polar orbiting program appears to be delayed.

“Achieves annual savings from NOAA’s Polar Follow On satellite program from the current program of record by better reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provides additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models,” the blueprint states.

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House Passes NASA Authorization Act


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the first time in more than six years, Congress has passed an authorization act for NASA that calls for spending $19.5 billion on NASA for fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure was approved by the House this week after getting Senate approval. The vote came five months into fiscal year 2017.

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Trump Proposes Deep Cuts at NOAA

This composite color full-disk visible image of the Western Hemisphere was captured from NOAA GOES-16 satellite at 1:07 pm EST on Jan. 15, 2017 and created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the satellite’s sophisticated Advanced Baseline Imager. The image, taken from 22,300 miles above the surface, shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. (Credits: NOAA)

The Trump Administration and key Republican members of Congress have argued for a “re-balance” of NASA’s portfolio toward exploration. Let other agencies like NOAA conduct research into Earth science and global change.

However, it doesn’t appear Trump is remotely interested in giving NOAA the tools to even do that. In fact, he is proposing deep cuts in the agency.

The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas….

The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.

The story explains that not only would NOAA be hobbled in conducting research, but that cutbacks would jeopardize public safety by limiting the agency’s ability to protect the country against severe weather.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Bezos Proposes Lunar Plan

Jeff Bezos

Amazon Lunar Prime?

Jeff Bezos has submitted a plan for developing a moon base to NASA and the Trump Administration.

The latest to offer a proposal is Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin has been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about the company’s interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

[….]

Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.

The prospect of a lunar mission has several companies lining up to provide not just transportation, but also habitats, science experiments and even the ability to mine the moon for resources.

Read the full story.

PBS News Hour Video on Returning to the Moon

Video Caption: Is there renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector to revive travel to the moon? There are signs, like a single reference in President Trump’s address to Congress, that seem to suggest that a space journey may be sooner than we might think. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we could learn and why it’s back on the table.

Elon Musk’s Bold Lunar Gambit: Dueling Moon Missions & a Shrinking Pie

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

I’ve been puzzling for the last few days over the timing of Musk’s moon mission announcement, which was curious for several reasons.

First, it came soon after NASA announced its own study about whether to put astronauts on the first SLS/Orion test in 2019. Why would Musk risk undercuting his biggest customer, a space agency that has provided so much of SpaceX’s development and contract funding?

Second, Musk’s unveiling of the plan seemed to be a rushed, improvised affair. He tweeted about it the day before — a Sunday — and then held a press briefing for a small group of media that lasted all of about five minutes. The contrast with the carefully choreographed unveiling of his Mars transportation architecture last year in Mexico couldn’t be greater.

Third, Musk has never really shown much interest in the moon. Yes, SpaceX might have been doing some planning for a human mission there in private. But, that still doesn’t explain the timing.

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