Saturday, March 10, 2007
The following editorial appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on Friday, March 2:
Congress is under new leadership, but its spending priorities are still out of whack.
With President Bush seeking an additional $100 billion for Iraq, the Democrats now in charge want to pile on $10 billion for unrelated programs and projects. Meanwhile, space-program supporters on Capitol Hill are struggling to make up a $545 million cut in NASA's budget — a cut that could widen the four-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle and launch of its successor, Orion.
Some of the extra spending in the Iraq bill sounds worthy, such as $745 million for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Other spending, such as billions for farmers to cover losses caused by the vicissitudes of nature, is much harder to justify.
Regardless, these kinds of items have no place in an emergency military-spending bill. And if the new leaders in Congress are serious about restraining federal spending, a dollar spent on avocado farmers in California is a dollar unavailable for higher national priorities, including the space program.
A strong space program is critical for U.S. leadership in science and technology. It's also a key component in national security.
The gap between the shuttle and Orion will keep U.S. astronauts on the ground as other countries, including Russia and China, play catch up. If the gap grows, NASA is more likely to suffer the loss of its top scientists and engineers.
Congress needs to pass a clean bill for Iraq. That would leave more money for other measures that address urgent national needs, including the space program.
(c) 2007, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com. On America Online, use keyword: OSO.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.