NASA´s crimes against capitalism in space...
[These easily verifiable statistics suggesting that NASA has jealously thwarted potentially competing private space ventures are all in the public domain. Please use them however you wish in our democracy. There is absolutely NO need to credit this article's author.]
Do you remember NASA's horrendous treatment of Dennis Tito when he became the world's first person ever to finance his or her own voyage into space back in April of 2001? His $20 million paid not only for his own round trip into space but also for that of the two accompanying cosmonauts. Russia made money on the deal. In comparison, though, a single mission with NASA's space shuttle monopoly here in the U.S. costs taxpayers around $600 million. That's over 30 times more than what it cost the Russians to serve the world's first self-financed citizen explorer, even though the Russians haven't lost a life in or near space in twice as long as NASA has. Is it surprising that NASA allegedly thwarts commercial space tourism which could otherwise compete against its overpriced, tax-supported Shuttle monopoly here in the USA? Are we not supposed to be teaching the Russians about capitalism, and not vice versa?
Meanwhile, the U.S.A. slipped to having just 29% of the worlds launch marketshare in the year 2000, even though it had 48% of it in 1996, and approximately 100% of it just 2 decades ago. [Source: page 18 of the following Commerce Department report: http://www.ta.doc.gov/space/library/reports/2001-06-trends.pdf ]. How did this happen if NASA is legally obligated to "seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space"? [Source: Title I, Section 102 c) of NASA's Congressionally mandated charter]. NASA has a larger space budget than practically all of the rest of the world's civilian space agencies COMBINED. [Source: EuroConsult-ec.com]. So how is it, then, that U.S. private industry has rapidly lost so much of its global competitiveness? Other countries evolved from being essentially nonplayers in space 2 decades ago, to possessing dominant commercial players today. This transpired even as the USA shedded merely a little of its space-related statist baggage from the Cold War, while astonishingly missing the chance to avoid fading into commercial obscurity.
"Coincidentally", perhaps, NASA´s annual budget is a little over 3 times larger than the National Science Foundation´s, but NASA participates or collaborates in nearly 9 times as much pork barrel spending. For further details, please click here. It would be inaccurate for NASA to claim that such earmark$ are all involuntarily imposed upon it by Congressional representatives, too. NASA willingly funnels money into politically significant districts in order to persuade Congressional oversight officials and appropriators to forgive NASA's flagrant wastefulness. All this pork barrel spending has its consequences for genuinely entrepreneurial companies, as well as taxpayers and fans of space. Is a true merit-based award system not worth restoring to the U.S. space program, considering how technological revolutions, the inspiring of students, and resource acquisition stemming from space could hopefully empower the U.S.A. to finally repay its growing $6.2 trillion national debt? Or are you satisfied with how Uncle Sugar is performing for us?
As the Congressional Small Business Committees can confirm, the U.S. Congress requires federal agencies to spend 23% of their prime contracting dollars on SMALL businesses. Within the aerospace sector, the Small Business Administration says that companies can employ "up to 1,000 [one thousand] people" and still remain classified as small businesses, as the following SBA u.r.l. can confirm [see "Subsector 541"]. Nevertheless, in both FY1999 and FY2000, NASA's prime contracting to "small" businesses was only at around 13.5%. By the end of 2002, that had only improved to 14.69%. This puts NASA well behind many federal agencies, as well as the 23% statutory goal. Indeed, the Democratic staff of the House Small Business Committee (in an endeavor led by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez) gave NASA a "D-" in its 2003 "Score Card" for such federal agency programs. More specifically, in 1999 NASA's total agency prime contracting awards amounted to $9,836 million, and yet its prime contracting awards to small businesses were merely $1,306 million (thats 13.27%). During FY2000, NASAs total was $1,485 million and that was only at about 13.54% of its prime contract dollar awards. During 2001, NASA's procurement budget devoted to prime contracts was $11.2 billion and merely 14.52% went to small businesses. And in 2002, NASA spent merely 14.69% of its $11.63 billion dollar procurement budget for prime contracts on small businesses (as page 47 of Score Card IV documents). Pages 176 & 177 of http://fpds.gsa.gov/Fpds/FPR2000c.pdf give a little more data, but the folks at www.sba.gov or the House Small Business Committee, minority side are the most helpful sources for confirming all of this.
Additionally, NASA HQ's self-proclaimed "chief Hell-raiser for small businesses" Ralph Thomas has already publicly confirmed at least most of the previous paragraph's statistics. Has it REALLY been all that hard for NASA to give less-than-enormous aerospace companies a chance to help bring life to space, and space to life? NASA hopes that Congressional appropriator$ who want to appear like they are fighting for small business interests would believe so, despite evidence to the contrary from the Department of Defense such as the DC-X rocket which had a ground crew of just 16 people nearly a decade ago. Contrast that figure with 16,000 people which the still nonprivatized U.S. space shuttle program currently employs. There's also American-financed MirCorp (not to mention SpaceHab and Bigelow Aerospace). Both the DC-X and Mir were far more economical than anything with which monopolistic & pork-laden NASA sticks it to taxpayers. Meanwhile, Kistler Aerospace reportedly employs just 50 people and will be launching in the near future...but out of Australia, at least in part due to the hostile legal climate in the USA. NASA is finally starting to come to Kistler's support now that Beal Aerospace and Rotary Rocket have vanished and the aerospace community is on the verge of an uproar, but plenty of other truly entrepreneurial space-related companies would (probably persuasively) tell you that they could outperform NASA too if only the federal government would clear the way. Admittedly though, it may take a while for an inquisitive newcomer to successfully convince such small businesses that you are not merely a self-serving spy for the NASA clique, seeking to find out if any smaller companies are breaking ranks and thereby potentially jeopardizing possible government contracts for their teams.
Is it unreasonable to assert that NASA officials
selfishly benefit from picking a few gigantic corporate winners at the expense
of more efficient smaller companies? The large government contractors
can afford to have revolving doors offering NASA bureaucrats potential
employment in exchange for favor$, and they can also afford to have political
influence for use in keeping friendly bureaucrats in influential posts.
But is it not noteworthy how NASA consequently subjugates women-owned &
minority-owned businesses into mere subcontractor roles?
These are "coincidentally" relatively easily discontinued, too,
if their potentially highly visible political impact and ability to publicly
overshadow NASA's abuses and often questionable projects diminish.
Understandably, small businesses usually want to be prime contractors,
and in control of their own destinies. Sadly enough, a mere
subcontractor is not even considered a "contractor" within the meaning of
the Contract Disputes Act of 1978. This makes a mere subcontractor's
suing the U.S. federal government for contract-related NASA misconduct very
difficult, if not essentially impossible. Thus, is it not convenient
for NASA to grossly under-perform in terms of awarding prime contracts
to small businesses while NASA hypocritically "performs above and beyond
what's required" in terms of awarding mere subcontracts"?
Appropriately, Congress justifiably gave NASA's small business program a
too long ago. The best that NASA could offer in its defense were
statistics about how it (self-preservingly) focuses on awarding mere
sub-contracts to smaller companies that could shake up the over-priced
status quo regarding space..
If the way NASA treats minority-owned small businesses, let alone small businesses, is supposedly so appealing to them then why hasn't space succeeded at attracting the investment of capital and talent by the aeronautically-inclined U.S. Airways board member and former owner of Black Entertainment Television, Robert Johnson? Is that pioneer not a billionaire, and also an aeronautics enthusiast who made a bid for the potential D.C. Airways venture? Nevertheless, has anybody noticed his deafening silence in terms of expressing any tangible entrepreneurial interest in space? Why would this be, if NASA is genuinely good for small and minority-owned businesses? The same can be said regarding Donald Watkins, a billionaire Alabama-based attorney who owns two planes, part of a third, is buying a Boeing 737, and says "I actually care more about my airplanes than my cars." Can anyone blame Donald for choosing to try and become the first black baseball club owner (Minnesota Twins) instead of a pioneer in space who would have to try and co-exist with a potentially very jealous NASA? Indeed, Mr. Watkins views with disdain "government handouts" such as those which NASA uses to purchase potential critics' silence. Isn't it remarkable how NASA pretends to offer certain ethnic minorities a racial spoils system in exchange for their political support, while actually keeping them down & dependent on the "NASA plantation"?
Meanwhile, is there really nothing wrong with how NASA divisively pits different ethnic groups against one another in the race for government contracts in an industry that could arguably be far more accessible to them all if only NASA would stop tilting the playing field to selfishly exclude companies that could otherwise outperform it? Is it acceptable how NASA prompts some ethnic groups to embarrassingly claim in writing that they are ethnically "disadvantaged" just to improve their chances at winning a contract bid? How can people compete to the best of their abilities in our competitive global marketplace if they're given an inferiority complex (if not a socially abrasive, racially polarizing chip on their shoulders) coming right out of the starting gate? Does anybody at NASA sincerely care if its self-perpetuating contracting policies and other demographic games callously help generate a soft bigotry of low expectations among larger companies against people on the basis of pigmentation? Has NASA's contracting system not become a racial spoils system that perpetuates race-consciousness and stigmatizes beneficiaries? Does it matter to the bureaucrats (who profit from keeping others dependent upon them) that NASA's practices generate feelings of resentment by completely (or potentially) excluded ethnic minority groups, and also by certain essentially neglected socioeconomic ones?
Even some members of those presently more favored ethnic groups despise such government-sanctioned social engineering policies in part because they erode the potential perception that such people are self-made individuals who accomplished what they have without racially discriminatory handouts from bloated government bureaucracies. Managers of wasteful bureaucratic programs apparently adore such contracting practices, though. Such practices enable tax-subsidized bureaucrats to manipulatively insinuate that anyone who is against their wasteful bureaucratic programs must somehow also be against those few ethnic minority groups that such contracting practices claim to benefit sufficiently. Consequently, certain ethnic groups are involuntarily associated with such flagrantly wasteful (if not corrupt) government practices. Meanwhile, mentioning to the bureaucrats how several other ethnic groups are intentionally and "lawfully" excluded by their contracting quotas may be responded to by them as abrasively as any monopoly can afford to treat detractors.
Interestingly enough though, the U.S. Supreme Court recently renewed its public expressions of interest in decisively ruling against such discriminatory and self-serving government contracting practices. The latest version of the case of Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Mineta was found to have some technical problems in part because in that particular matter the governmental defendant increasingly eliminated its use of social engineering practices which were increasingly found to be unconstitutional. It is only a matter of time, though, before a more adequate case goes before the Supreme Court which will fundamentally resolve this reverse discrimination issue on a national level.
In the mean time, the status quo continues to punish small businesses and minorities alike. One such way involves how the prospect of companies' somehow potentially winning a few government contract dollars continues to enable NASA to co-opt businesses of all sizes. Using the potential contract as an enticement, NASA can coercively silence (or even corrupt) people who otherwise might follow the invigorating and revolutionary example of the justifiably indignant bus-rider Ms. Rosa Parks. Such silenced people could otherwise become much more politically active in support of long overdue reforms. Those reforms would make tax-supported NASA increasingly less necessary though, at least in its currently very underachieving and relatively nonexploration-oriented form. Is it merely coincidental that the social consequences resulting from NASA's self-preserving contracting policies help create and maintain a dependence upon the federal government which "coincidentally" keeps NASA's "benevolent" bureaucrats comfortably employed?
Some concerned voters and taxpayers would assert that despite claims to the contrary, many NASA bureaucrats are very comfortably employed in fact, given their high salaries and busy, exciting, nest-feathering & taxpayer-financed travel agendas. Such travel agendas include purportedly "useful" official small business outreach events held literally in lavish places such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico or Asia, believe it or not. NASA bureaucrats are consequently the envy of many other agencies' bureaucrats and NASA defends itself by proudly pointing to letters of commendation that it receives from self-serving mutual admiration societies (while manipulatively exaggerating the strength of ties certain NASA bureaucrats pretend to have with the White House). Is it not relevant that many critics quietly consider such sycophants who praise NASA to be at least one of the following: travel reimbursement-wanting, legitimacy-seeking, collaboration-desiring, conference ticket-selling or conference display table space-peddling? Is it irrelevant that a growing number of critics also assert that some of NASA's bureaucrats are photo-op craving, or victim-impersonating types who will pretend to believe whatever is presently politically fashionable just to stay in power? Regardless, can you imagine how much less effective the U.S. federal government could become if other agencies' bureaucrats managed to persuade their own directors to finance their emulating NASA's "model practices" (and at taxpayer expense)?
Wouldn't a truly open space frontier ultimately encourage people of diverse ethnicities in space (and on Earth) to increasingly view one another more as fellow Earthlings instead of enemies, as they work more closely together to try and thrive despite the many challenges of the great unknown? Do NASA's bureaucrats not seem to peculiarly prefer to "help" such people with government contracts conveniently requiring their intervention, rather than through funding prizes, or calling adequate attention to the need for the formal recognition of private property rights in space, or ways to get tax incentives approved which would eliminate the need for such bureaucratic & comfortable jobs? Do NASA's most favored prime contractors (which reward helpful NASA bureaucrats with private sector favors) seem to mind that NASA is so reluctant to reform the status quo which benefits them so disproportionately?
You've just read
well-informed interpretation of NASA's seemingly highly questionable government
contracting statistics and programs. Here's
rebuttal, supported with its own supposed statistical "facts" that NASA
expects us to trustingly take at face value (like it previously asked us
to do regarding its ever-increasing
space station funding proposals,
its X-33 shuttle replacement
fiasco, its latest Mars mission
failures, and its disguised
hostility to competition from
the private sector). Needless to say, even if NASA's outsourcing
statistics really are authentic [Does any private accounting firm audit
them, or just the government itself?], the House Small Business Committee
and the GAO nevertheless remain unpersuaded by tax-supported NASA's
predictable self-justification. How about you?
Space should be a frontier for private industry,
Washington Times, page B2
Nov. 5th, 2000
Most recent press coverage
of the historic occupancy of the International Space Station fails to address
a relevant elections issue: how the government's operation of the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration has hurt capitalism. The federally funded
space station is costing tens
of billions of dollars more than NASA initially promised, and its annual
operating costs will be at least 30 times higher than those of the essentially
privatized international space station
Mir. The latter is actually
superior in several respects, even though it cost so much less and does not
directly drain away American tax dollars and thereby add to our
Ironically, however, MirCorp must now struggle to attract capital while competing against a bloated and self-perpetuating but wealthy and powerful NASA bureaucracy that hypocritically pretends to be a benign friend of private industry. NASA would have us believe that there is a huge demand for microgravity-related research and yet universities are reluctant to conduct experiments far more affordably on Mir. Perhaps they fear losing NASA sponsor$hip from Mir's jealous bureaucratic competitor? The space stations issue may be somewhat debatable, but there are many other examples that are much less so. Indeed, space entrepreneurs (such as Andrew Beal) would likely jump at the chance to at least secretively help confirm that NASA regularly and sometimes most opportunistically competes against the more economical private sector, from which it could instead outsource far more aggressively. Fortunately, some entrepreneurs´ pockets are deep enough so that they do not need to keep quiet while struggling to survive on potentially renewable NASA contract$ to conduct mere "paper studies", etcetera. Other small business owners depend far more on the NASA monopoly for survival, and cannot always speak as candidly.
Hardliners in the apparently shamelessly underachieving NASA clique might defensively (if not lazily) call such entrepreneurial critics "sore losers". However, a thorough analysis strongly suggests that these criticisms of NASA are legitimate. We all lose because of NASA´s crimes against capitalism. As someone who served NASA Headquarters' Small Business office before disapprovingly withdrawing his support months ago, after finally realizing that outsiders can make a far bigger difference than insiders can, I increasingly look forward to voting for changes this November 7th.
To read more about NASA´s hostility towards the American-funded MIRCorp, please click here.
Is it wi$e to maintain NASA´s official monopoly?
selected brief excerpts from President Eisenhower´s Farewell Address.
Legal and governmental reforms
needed to jumpstart the space industry...