Nelson 'Compromise' Could Hurt Florida in Space
Around the State
A space appropriation bill promoted by Sen. Bill Nelson may have Floridians thinking President Barack Obama's plan wasn't so bad after all.
The Nelson-backed compromise legislation would accelerate development of a heavy-lift rocket -- a move that Space Coast officials applauded Thursday -- but it pulls $13.8 billion from projects that would have benefited Florida.
"We do not have an objection to a heavy-lift vehicle, because that's good in the long run for Florida," said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello.
"In the short run, however, the heavy lift will benefit Alabama, Texas and Utah far more than Florida," he said.
Nelson argues that a heavy-lift launch by 2016 -- five years sooner than planned by NASA and the Obama administration -- would help to ease expected job losses on the Space Coast.
But DiBello said, "We are concerned that heavy-lift development will be paid for by line items in the budget that were good for Florida -- specifically technology development and the commercial crew venture, for which the Kennedy Space Center was to be the manager."
"A delay in the commercial crew component places onerous restrictions" on future NASA launch initiatives, DiBello added.
From a political standpoint, other states appear better positioned than Florida to maneuver the spending process in their favor. While Rep. Bill Young is Florida's lone lawmaker on an appropriations committee, Maryland, Texas and Alabama have multiple representatives and senators in place.
Nelson, a Democrat, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a Republican from Texas, called the so-called compromise legislation "a major breakthrough," indicating that Senate passage is likely.
"I do have some concerns over that," DiBello responded. "As this legislation continues through the sausage-making process on Capitol Hill, it's important that the Florida delegaton step up to defend the elements that are good to Florida."
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said, “The proposal is a step in the right direction in that it does not embrace the president’s most recent proposal, but it still falls far short of the president’s August 2008 promise to the Space Coast and the nation that he would close the gap between shuttle and Constellation.
“Legislation I introduced over a year ago would have continued to fly the space shuttle until either the Constellation is ready to come online, or another commercial vehicle is ready to take its place," Posey said. "In my view, that’s the best way to maintain America’s national security, leadership in space, and meet our future mission commitments.”
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said, "The process is still ongoing, and the goal of Sen. Nelson has been to put the state of Florida, the Space Coast economy and the overall space program in as good a shape as possible."
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.