The Kindest Cut

If we’re going to cut NASA funding, let’s make it meaningful.

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Naturally the current aerospace establishment will loathe those options. Bureaucracies always want to keep the status quo. The agencies will argue that they are too important to cut, and they will lobby to protect existing programs. That's why Congress must act.

Ironically, despite the cries over budget cuts in aerospace, most reductions so far are just promises for future years. For example, this year the space station flew through Congress, supported by newly minted Republican legislators who were elected because they had pledged to take the knife to federal spending. Some observers credited the good feelings produced by the movie Apollo 13--ironic, considering that the improvisational, rough-and-ready approach depicted in the film is exactly the opposite of the current operating mode typical in NASA and most of the aerospace community today. (Will we ever see a Ron Howard film in which Tom Hanks plays a GS-15 employee in a two-day source selection meeting for a $500,000 contract?)

The current budget crisis gives us a chance to shake the trees and trim the undergrowth in the aerospace community. We need to make the most of the opportunity. So go for the gusto. Take a big bite.

A former staff member of the U.,S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and an adjunct professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, Bruce D. Berkowitz writes frequently about issues in technology development.

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