Obamas Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions

The issue of the effects upon our nation’s aerospace industrial base of canceling NASA’s Project Constellation is the subject of the Space News article, Obamas Move To End Constellation Prompts Industrial Base Questions.

According to the article, people from Rep. Bob Bishop, whose Utah Congressional district includes ATK, the maker of the Constellation first stage, to Marion Blakey of the Aerospace Industries Association, have expressed concerns that canceling Constellation could have a long-term, negative impact on the nation’s ability in solid motors, launch and range infrastructure, and aerospace workers.

Once [lost aerospace workers are] out the door and in the unemployment lines, they’re not coming back.

Representative Bishop stated in the interview with Space News that, It’s not a spigot you can turn on and off, Bishop said in a Feb. 9 interview. Once they’re out the door and in the unemployment lines, they’re not coming back.

Aerospace Industries Association president Blakey, in a February 3rd statement, Although investment in commercial space will create new opportunities, we are concerned that the cancellation of the Constellation program may have a lasting impact on our workforce and the unique skills they bring to our industrial base.

According to Gary Payton, a retired military astronaut and currently DoD’s Undersecretary for Space Programs, We share an industrial base with NASA — on solids, liquids, range infrastructure and a work force, he said during a media roundtable here organized by the Space Foundation. So, with the cancellation of the Constellation program … we have got a lot of work to do with NASA to figure out how to maintain a minimum industrial base on liquid-rocket engines and solid-rocket motors.

Of some interest is the statement on February 12 by NASA senior management that Administrator Charles Bolden consulted senior Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter, about the industrial base ramifications of canceling Constellation. According to NASA’s Deputy Administrator Garver, Very senior discussions were held over the last six months between NASA and [the Defense Department] on this topic, so it is not something that was not discussed.

I feel industrial base issues are completely legitimate because having the best defense industrial and technology base in the world is not a birthright.

Last year, Undersecretary Carter stated that industrial base issues need to have a higher priority in future decisions by those in government when making decisions about whether or not to cancel advanced technology programs. Carter said on September 9, 2009, I feel industrial base issues are completely legitimate because having the best defense industrial and technology base in the world is not a birthright.

In light of Carter’s statement, it sure would be interesting to learn what Carter and Lynn told NASA Administrator Bolden.

On February 3, 2010 at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Bob Bishop asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates if anyone within the Obama administration, at NASA, or OMB, consulted with him or the Department of Defense on the potential impacts of NASA’s termination of the Constellation program and Ares rocket programs. Secretary Gates responded by stating that he “had indeed not been consulted” by anyone at NASA or anyone in the Administration regarding the implications this would have on national security and preserving a vital segment of the defense industrial base.

Of interest is why NASA’s version of events does not match what Secretary Gates said.

Perhaps the disagreement between NASA’s and Secretary of Defense Gates’ versions of reality has to do with how NASA Administrator posed the question of industrial base ramifications due to Constellation’s termination. Whehter those questions were posed by NASA Administrator Bolded as what-if’s rather than done-deal might be the reason that Gates was not notified by DoD staff.

None-the-less, it is something that bears examination. Constellation’s loss is going to have some effect on our nation’s aerospace industrial base; nobody knows how much.

(Via Space News.)

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