NASA Funding: Houston, We Have a Problem

Local officials hope a barrage of visits to Washington DC will convince Congress to save NASA's human spaceflight program. Last week Houston mayor Annise Parker lobbied Congress. This week — Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and members of the Bay Area Economic Partnership followed up with more Congressional meetings. Laurie Johnson reports.

President Barack Obama's budget for NASA calls for an end to the Constellation program, based here in Houston.
It would mean the loss of as many as 7,000 jobs at Johnson Space Center and thousands more across the country.

Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia is in Washington D.C. this week. She called from her cell phone, standing just yards from the U.S. Capitol, where she has been talking to members of Congress about the impact NASA
has on the national economy.

"Whether it's protecting our ports with sensors and radar technology and all those things that are also spin-offs from space, or the little valve that's in the heart instruments — there's so much that NASA has done. We just have to remind people it's not just for Johnson Space Center, it's not just for the Kennedy Center in Florida, I mean NASA brings things to the table for all of us. I mean the cell phone I'm using right now, the internet, GPS tracking systems, weather sattelites...the list goes on!"

Garcia is in DC with members of the Bay Area Economic Partnership. Bob Mitchell is president of that group. He says they've visited 73 offices in two days, asking Congress to reject the president's budget cuts.

"It is resonating with this delegation, the entire delegation, very well. And let me make it very clear that we're not up here just talking to Texas. Again, we're talking to the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee and those members are from all over the United States, because we need other states to get behind us."

Last week, Houston Mayor Annise Parker made a similar trip to Washington. She says there's a direct link between what's happening at NASA and the future of jobs in the city of Houston.

"The loss of 3,000-7,000 direct jobs at NASA, the loss of thousands of indirect jobs that would fall if that many jobs were lost at NASA would go right to the city's bottom line. And that would be absolutely painful, not just for the city, but for the merchants out there, for the ability of people to remarket their homes in the Clear Lake area. It has a devastating effect on our entire economy."

This week Parker sent a formal invitation to President Obama, asking him to visit Johnson Space Center as part of the effort to convince him to reconsider his proposed cuts. Parker's office says the cuts represent an estimated $560 million impact to the region.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...