Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NASA & Space Florida Doling Out Cash

In 2008 Candidate Obama ran on pulling government work back from contractors.  In 2009 President Obama issued a five part strategy on contracting reform.  Point five dealt with what should be contracted, citing inherently governmental activities.  A Sutherland legal alert stated:

Clarify Permissible Outsourcing. The memorandum notes that “the line between inherently governmental activities that should not be outsourced and commercial activities that may be subject to private sector competition has been blurred and inadequately defined.” It therefore directs OMB to give guidance to agencies in this area to establish “clear rules” and avoid situations, which it notes may now exist, where “contractors may be performing inherently governmental functions.” The clear import of the memorandum is to limit outsourcing to private contractors. Thus, this new guidance will have significant consequences for the range of service contractors that have emerged in recent years.

In sum, this important Obama memorandum is probably just the first, opening effort of a full-fledged drive by the Administration to fulfill its campaign commitment to reform government contracting.
Obama shuttered NASA, preferring private contractors develop the next generation of space flight.  MSNBC had an odd report on space privatization machinations at Kennedy Space Center.

It said Boeing would lease a former Space Shuttle hangar for 15 years.  The story noted Boeing wouldn't pay NASA rent, but is negotiating a deal with Space Florida.  NASA turned over the facility to Space Florida for how much?   NASA's press release didn't say.

Boeing indicated it would lease the hangar should it win the bid for its CST-100 capsules, a replacement for the Space Shuttle.  If Boeing doesn't win, there's no lease.  Boeing added that it would locate its Commercial Crew headquarters in Florida, adding political pressure for Boeing to get the NASA contract.

Uncle Sam will fund R & D via a new national space lab.  NASA will pay a nonprofit $15 million in annual management fees to run the lab. 

That's in addition to providing cheap rent via Space Florida.  The state of Florida will pony up direct cash for companies using NASA's old facilities.  SpaceX got $7 million.  How much will Boeing get to replace the Shuttle?  How much is any direct subsidy for the CST-100 and how much is indirect?  The rocket booster system, known as the Space Launch System has a potential lifetime cost of $38 billion, according to NASA's internal documents.

That kind of money launches people, sometimes in unethical directions.