Sullivan’s new job, another CR, and editorials

NASA administrator Charles Bolden soon won’t be the only former astronaut with a key administration post. The White House announced this week it has nominated Kathryn Sullivan to the post of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Observation and Prediction. That position oversees the National Weather Service and other NOAA programs dealing with weather and water studies; on the NOAA org chart it’s also identified as NOAA deputy administrator, reporting to NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. Sullivan, who flew on three shuttle missions between 1984 and 1992, also served as NOAA’s chief scientist in the 1990s after leaving NASA.

Congress has passed a second continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded at FY2010 levels through December 18. The first CR expired Friday night. That continued delay in enacting a final FY11 appropriations bill doesn’t still well with the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel, which wants Congress to fund NASA at the authorized level of $19 billion, despite calls by House GOP leadership to cut overall federal spending back to 2008 levels. “We applaud the Republicans’ determination to cut federal spending. But surely there are riper targets than the space program,” the editorial argues, citing farm subsidies as one example. “NASA has been in a fog too long. Congress needs to clear away the cloud of doubt enveloping the space program and give the agency the money it needs.”

In the latest issue of Scientific American magazine, meanwhile, the editors back the administration’s original plans for NASA and call on President Obama to “keep pushing for more reforms” of the space agency, in particular technology development and commercial crew development. “The first goal should be to fix the flaws in the plan that Congress has enacted, beginning with the lack of sufficient funds for technology development,” the editorial suggests, followed by giving the agency “some stability of funding and purpose”, including some kind of “dedicated funding stream”, which the piece does not elaborate upon.


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