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Looming Shuttle Layoffs Could Have Been Prevented

For 30 years, Florida’s space coast has been at the center of NASA’s shuttle program. The men and women of Florida’s 24th District have put their blood, sweat and tears into making our country the leader in space exploration. Now that the program is coming to an end, tens of thousands of people in central Florida are facing devastating layoffs; layoffs that could have been avoided if the current administration had adequately prepared the space coast for this painstaking transition.

Through proper planning and responsible action, these layoffs could have been avoided. If only NASA and President Obama had planned for this transition instead of simply canceling the Constellation Program without a viable alternative, jobs along the space coast could have been preserved. Consequentially, families in Florida’s 24th District have been left to fend for themselves and NASA will be left paying as much as $62.7 million per seat to the Russians for trips to the International Space Station and back. That money could be used to employ Americans to build American rockets to safely fly American and international crews.

Since taking office seven months ago, I have repeatedly asked this administration for a vision for NASA; I have asked them to hold administrators accountable for their failure to plan for the future. Their failure to provide a plan will not only cost the nation greatly, but will unnecessarily impact so many lives along Florida’s space coast. I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to hold hearings, ask the tough questions, and to provide oversight on an agency that is reluctant to provide information.

The uncooperative nature of NASA has most recently been highlighted by a cantankerous back and forth between the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the NASA administration. So cantankerous, in fact, that the committee had to threaten subpoenas to force the production of documents from NASA to demonstrate their compliance with federal laws. This is simply unacceptable. NASA seems to have forgotten that it is subject to the will of the people, and that when Congress asks for documents, it is not simply a suggestion — it is a directive.

Recently, two state-run news sources in China revealed that the first piece of their new space station will be launched by the end of September. China has made space a national priority, yet we blindly ignore this reality at the peril of our national prestige in science and technology, and to the detriment of our country’s national security. I wonder if the President has considered what it would mean for our country if Chinese astronauts plant a flag on the moon while our astronauts can’t even get off the ground in our own rockets.

The Pew Research Center recently published a study showing that nearly 6 in 10 Americans, 58 percent, believe it is imperative for the United States to be a leader in space exploration. This study is proof positive that, despite what the current administration is willing to admit, Americans have a strong desire to continue a program that has so greatly defined the country that we love. NASA’s human spaceflight program has been an American flagship and a symbol of strength for our nation, inspiring children across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The workforce gets it, Congress gets it, the American people get it, and China gets it. Which begs the question: why doesn’t the President?

Rep. Sandy Adams is a member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

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