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Government NASA Republicans The Almighty Buck Politics

Senator Makes NASA Complete $350 Million Testing Tower That It Will Never Use 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the pork:-the-final-frontier dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Phillip Swarts reports in the Washington Times that NASA is completing a $350 million rocket-engine testing tower at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi that it doesn't want and will never use. 'Because the Constellation Program was canceled in 2010, the A-3's unique testing capabilities will not be needed and the stand will be mothballed upon completion (PDF),, said NASA's inspector general. The A-3 testing tower will stand 300 feet and be able to withstand 1 million pounds of thrust (PDF). The massive steel structure is designed to test how rocket engines operate at altitudes of up to 100,000 feet by creating a vacuum within the testing chamber to simulate the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Although NASA does not expect to use the tower after construction, it's compelled by legislation from Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), who says the testing tower will help maintain the research center's place at the forefront of U.S. space exploration. 'Stennis Space Center is the nation's premier rocket engine testing facility,' says Wicker. 'It is a magnet for public and private research investment because of infrastructure projects like the A-3 test stand. In 2010, I authored an amendment to require the completion of that particular project, ensuring the Stennis facility is prepared for ever-changing technologies and demands.' Others disagree, calling the project the 'Tower of Pork' and noting that the unused structure will cost taxpayers $840,000 a year to maintain. 'Current federal spending trends are not sustainable, and if NASA can make a relatively painless contribution to deficit reduction by shutting down an unwanted program, why not let it happen?' says Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union. 'It's not rocket science, at least fiscally.'"
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Senator Makes NASA Complete $350 Million Testing Tower That It Will Never Use

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  • Typical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:17PM (#46131039)

    I have several friends that work at General Dynamics here in Metro Detroit and the government spending has them in a quandary: they are forced by politicians to create a bill as high as possible - mandatory junkets and overtime, even when there's nothing to do. "Research" projects are the only thing that they do and they just post youtube videos, cancel the project and start something new. None of them can quit, even though the economy has recovered, because they are being paid so well as a result of the requirement to bill taxpayers so much.

    Does anyone know why the Republicans came right to the table on the sequester this time around? Because offense spending (thinly veiled as "defense" spending) was to be rolled back to 2003 levels. That is absolutely evil if you are a member of the Republicans.

  • Re:Poor planning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:31PM (#46131103)
    I work for Lockheed-Martin (I work for a completely different program that is within budget) and I can say that we have to keep the Gov. from changing the rules to the game every few seconds. It is like playing "calvin-ball" with calvin (of calvin and hobbs). They come up with an idea, and all of the sudden another part must be added to keep another senator/representative happy (jobs in his/her state). If we could stick to ONE design for any true length of time we could be ahead of the game, but not when the rules get changed ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
  • Re:BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buswolley (591500) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:50PM (#46131241) Journal
    As a matter of rule, the U.S. can always pay back its debts by printing enough money to cover that debt. What that action would do to inflation is another thing altogether.

    I got distracted when I posted the previous post. I meant to say that taxes don't actually fund expenditures since the government can print money to pay for any expenditures it authorizes.

    So what are taxes for? 1) If you have to pay taxes in dollars, then you better have some dollars. Taxes help ensure that a government's currency is used by its citizens. 2) Taxes can control inflation by destroying money (i.e. taking it out of the economy) 3) to implement policies (e.g. redistribution)

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @07:57PM (#46131281) Journal

    and Florida (a whopping 50% of Florida's economy consists of net transfers).

    Just curious does that number include SS payments to individuals? For the sake of argument if it does SS is national program after all, and Florida tends to have lots of retirees relocating to it.

    Sure they have adopted some policies that make it more favorable for that demographic but that is because the retirees were already there to vote for them; so it might be less fair to tar Florida with the same "hand in the federal cookie jar" brush as MS, and SC.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @08:57PM (#46131529)

    You tella car company that you're going to pay them a half million dollars for a special custom car. You sign the contract, which requires that you pay them $500000 and that they give you a car when it's completed. Halfway through the process you suddenly decide that you don't want the car after all.

    Well, tough. You already signed the contract and they're already building the car. You have no choice but to pay for a car that you aren't going to use.

    That's what goes on in vases like this. The government signed the contract saying that they'll pay. They can't renege on the deal just because they decided they didn't want what they were paying for any more, so instead they have to pay for it and let it gather dust once they have it. I can guarantee that if you or I signed a contract that said we'd pay for something we wouldn't be able to get out of it just because we no longer wanted what we were paying for.

    This isn't so much about grandstanding politicians that want money for useless programs, but about grandstanding politicians who like to decide the government doesn't want something for which the contract has already been signed.

  • SpaceX anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @09:29PM (#46131617) Journal
    SpaceX just cut a deal with stennis for testing of their new raptor family. The first engine of this family will be 1/3 of an F1. And yes, it is using these towers. So, this is wrong.
  • Re:BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @02:05AM (#46132461)

    As a matter of rule, the U.S. can always pay back its debts by printing enough money to cover that debt.

    True. And while US politicians might not give a damn whether the Chinese hate us, that would devalue huge amounts of debt held by US retirees, banks, and small investors, and they do vote.

    I meant to say that taxes don't actually fund expenditures since the government can print money to pay for any expenditures it authorizes.

    Printing money is, effectively, a tax on everybody who happens to hold money.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @08:36AM (#46133455)

    The Ghosts of Jamie Whitten and John Stennis live on in Mississippi. Bringing federal dollars to pork barrel projects.

    Jamie Whitten was the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and any appropriations bill that passed by had to have something for Mississippi. Stennis was the same way in the Senate and together they always got something for Mississippi it seems in every appropriations bill.
    That was true when the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor [google.com] was mandated by Congress after the Challenger incident. NASA didn't want it but if they wanted to fund the shuttle and other programs, they had to take the ASRM too. Things like having to deliver the ASRM rockets on barges were put into bid contracts to prevent Thiokol (the supplier of RSRM engines for the shuttle) from bidding on the contract. Oh, they just happened to have the site at Iuka MS, which among being the site of a defunct Nuclear Reactor project by the TVA [wikipedia.org] and was also a former weapons depot.

    You see that's the problem with the seniority system in Congress, you can get politicians re-elected by people and they just move up the ladder on all these committees and it's the committees where all the power is in Congress. You can't just put legislation on the floor of either the House or Senate, it has to go through Committee first and if you have ranking congressmen and senators blocking projects until they get what they want, then important legislation can be held up indefinitely. It's been that way since our Federal Government was formed and handcuffs well meaning legislation with bad things that garner support from fringe members of Congress to get the votes necessary to pass the whole package.

    Even though everybody thinks that Earmarks are supposedly a thing of the past [nymag.com], they're still around. The testing facility in MS shows again that port barrel spending is alive and well and a lot of things still get through, for example with the recent budget deal. [washingtontimes.com] Did you also know we have a STARBASE [dodstarbase.org] program as well? Well in 2012 it received $5m [cagw.org] in funding and while most won't consider it a lot, it's really a glorified recruiting program.

  • by plover (150551) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:46AM (#46134449) Homepage Journal

    So why can't we get programs like the CCC and WPA back? They were a great investment. They put hundreds of thousands of people to work during the Great Depression, and the works projects they built back then are still being enjoyed by people today. Hard work is not welfare, but the money is equally wasted if it's poured into useless rocket motor testing towers.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:47AM (#46134451) Homepage

    If he gave money to the poor, who would it trickle down to?

    My view of trickle-down economics is that it's better described as tinkle-down economics: It's just dandy for those who are on top and don't care about anyone else, but the rest of us just get pissed on.

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