More on the Adams/Olson letter

Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) issued a press release Monday about the letter that she and Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) sent last week to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee. As reported last week, Adams and Olson asked Ryan to spare human spaceflight programs from any budget cuts, suggesting that Earth sciences programs could instead be cut. "I strongly encourage Chairman Paul Ryan and the rest of my colleagues to make human space exploration a top priority as we continue our discussion on our Republican budget for the 2012 fiscal year," Adams said in the release. "While I believe there are ways we can trim NASA's budget – specifically within the Earth Science account – we mustn't do so at the expense of human spaceflight, which is a proven economic driver and job creator." The release includes a copy of the letter to Rep. Ryan. In it, Adams and Olson extol the virtues of spaceflight and space exploration, from the development of new technologies to inspiring youth to pursue education in science and engineering fields. However, the Obama Administration, they claim, "willingly cedes that leadership" in human spaceflight to China, Russia, and even India: "We cannot continue to accept this administration's assault on American exceptionalism and world leadership." Because of that, they ask Ryan, as he crafts budget guidelines for FY2012, that he ensure that "any substantial reductions in programs or budget lines within the NASA budget would spare human spaceflight." They offer to "extend our hands to work with you and your staff to identify other areas within the NASA budget that will reduce unnecessary spending and get our nation's debt under control." As noted last week, this letter is a different approach than earlier this year, when members like Reps. Adams and Olson suggested that funding from Earth sciences programs be redirected to human spaceflight. This letter makes no such explicit request, instead arguing that while NASA's budget may need to be reduced as part of broader efforts to reduce federal spending, those cuts should come from Earth sciences and not human spaceflight. That exposes a potential logical flaw in their argument: by suggesting that some NASA programs be cut without also calling for increases in spending for human spaceflight, it does nothing to address their concern about the "assault on American exceptionalism" posed by the administration's budget request for human spaceflight.

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