Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Drama Continues

Why do I stay in this business? I do wonder sometimes. Obviously out of love for the topic. Gosh knows I've had more than my share of ups and downs in the last two years. Sort of reminds me of all the uncertainties my family dealt with while working at Eastern Airlines in the '80s, when I first started paying attention to the world of work. My dad, stepmom, aunt, and uncles held in there pretty much until the end of the airline--out of hope, out of desperation, out of love of the airline and the people they worked with.

The latest ratcheting of tension comes in the deceptive form of a reprieve: the Congress passed another two-week budget while cutting that ~$300 million from the "Cross-Agency Support" line of the NASA budget. What's Cross-Agency Support? Other industries call it G&A (General and Administrative) or overhead. In short, they cut the non-technical bureaucracy, of which I am a part. Has my particular job been directly threatened? No...not yet. But jeez, I'm starting to wonder if I should reach behind by back to see if someone's attached a "Stress Me" sign back there.

Is any other industry really much more secure? I don't know. I DO know, however, the following things:
  • Any job--civil service or contractor--dependent upon government funding is subject to politics, votes, and annual budget fights. It's not for the faint of heart or tense of stomach.
  • NASA/space exploration is not a national priority, and has not been since two weeks before I was born, when we won the race to the Moon against the Soviet Union. NASA is now 0.4% of the U.S. federal budget and dropping.
  • Space activities will not be a priority until one of two things happen: 1) an asteroid is heading directly for the Beltway, or 2) we discover alien life in the solar system or--more likely--beyond this solar system. And then, if it's option 1), it becomes the province of the Department of Defense, and if it's option 2), it's the State Department's problem (if the aliens are sufficiently advanced)...or DoD if State doesn't do its job right.
I was explaining to a friend today that a couple things trained me well for being a space advocate: I grew up in a family that cared little to nothing about space, and I'm a Cubs fan.

Just wait 'til next year!

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