Obama Launches Space Task Force
Around the State
Blaming "past decisions to end the Space Shuttle program," President Barack Obama followed through with his pledge to create a task force to bolster Florida's sagging Space Coast.
The White House's announcement was alternately welcomed and derided by the region's congressional delegation.
Obama directed the "Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development" to "facilitate economic development strategies and plans along the Space Coast and to provide training and other opportunities for affected aerospace workers so they are equipped to contribute to new developments in America's space program and related industries."
The phase-out of the Space Shuttle and the scrapping of the Constellation program are projected to mean a loss of more than 7,000 direct jobs and up to 15,000 indirect jobs in Florida. Since 2007, the state's overall unemployment rate has soared from 3.3 percent to a record 12.3 percent.
The presidential panel, which Obama first mentioned in his visit to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, was given an Aug. 15 deadline to recommend how to invest $40 million in transition assistance in the hard-hit region, including:
- "Workforce and economic development activities that could be undertaken for affected aerospace communities in other states."
- "Areas of collaboration with other public or nongovernmental actors."
The Space Coast's two congressional representatives had divergent views on the president's initiative.
"Maintaining the Space Coast's highly skilled workforce is one of my highest priorities and I am encouraged that the administration has heeded our call for urgency by establishing this task force," said Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach.
"I look forward to working with the task force and facilitating their collaboration with local stakeholders to ensure that the efforts meet the goals of our community," she said.
But U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, called the task force yet another delay rationalized by "disingenuous" claims.
“Last year we had to wait for the Augustine Committee, now we have to wait for a task force while our space workforce tries to focus on the remaining launches and an uncertain future?" Posey asked.
“The president blames the previous administration for eliminating thousands of high skilled jobs and outsourcing them to Russia, but makes no mention of his decision to cancel Constellation after $9 billion in investments and a successful test launch.
"At some point the president needs to take responsibility for his own administration’s decision to widen the space gap and cede America’s leadership in space, which is the modern day military high ground," Posey said.
“I am disappointed to see the (president's) memo repeat the disingenuous claim we keep hearing that NASA will get a $6 billion increase, when in reality the administration’s own budget numbers would gut the Exploration account by $5.7 billion, which is where the money needs to be spent for human space flight."
The congressman, a former Apollo project worker, concluded:
"While I welcome the president’s attentiveness to workforce concerns, the activities of this task force do not change the fact that the future of America’s leadership in space is not yet settled. Far from it."