Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week in review (12/14 to 12/20)

It's amusing to watch everyone fall over themselves to criticize NASA and Congress over the A-3 test stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss. When it comes to government spending, this isn't much money. And besides, a valid argument can be made that the true waste would have been if it hadn't been finished.

Let me recap. It was in January of 2014 that Bloomberg News first reported that the $350 million A-3 test stand would be completed then mothballed for lack of a mission. The stand was designed to test the J-2X engine's performance at high altitudes, but that need ended when the Bush Administration's Constellation program was killed by the Obama Administration in 2010.

At the time of the Bloomberg story, $292 million had already been spent to build the stand at NASA's primary rocket engine test facility, and it would take another $57 million to finish it up. At that time, the Bloomberg story said it would cost some $850,000 per year to keep it mothballed. The thinking was it made sense to finish it since a new administration or a private company planning missions beyond supplying the International Space Station might eventually use it.

Nearly a year later, as part of a series, the Washington Post wrote about the stand as an example of NASA's "drift," or what happens when a government entity has no clear mission. ABC News also had a story about it in its nightly newscast (Post). Not surprisingly, some newspapers wrote editorials criticizing the wasted tax dollars.

But in the bigger picture of government spending, the $350 million price tag for the stand and $700,000 maintenance cost (yes, it's lower than the original figure cited by Bloomberg) is not much for something that could be used in the future. The federal government spends something like $400 million an hour or $10 billion a day on a wide range of programs. Need a specific? In September the government spent $10 million a day in the air war against ISIS. And that's small compared to the $212 million per day spent in fiscal 2013 in Operation Enduring Freedom. I'm not at all saying that money was wasted, just pointing out how much money this government burns through on a regular basis.

I'm sure some of you still think that this is a clear waste, and that waste should be stopped whereever we see it. But you could also look at this as an investment in the future. With so many private companies getting into space exploration, this is a one-of-a-kind asset that could eventually be used by one of them. And there's also a chance a new administration might launch a program that would require testing an engine in the vacuum of space.

I'd rather see my tax dollars used that way than to see money go down the drain.

The Netherlands will sign a contract in April 2015 for an initial eight F-35 fighters of the total of 37 it’s planning to buy. The first aircraft is expected to enter service in 2019, with full operational capability expected in 2024. The Dutch Ministry of Defence said the intended contract will stay within the stated total budget of $5.6 billion. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $34.9 million contract modification for management of deployable spares packages for F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot VI aircraft. The modification combines purchases for the Air Force, Marines, Navy and the international partners. Four percent of the work will be done in Valparaiso, Fla., just outside Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Other work sites are Texas, Utah, South Carolina, Arizona, North Carolina, California and Nevada and is expected to be completed in March 2016. (Post)

-- Pratt and Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $47.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract. The modification is for sustainment efforts and operations and maintenance services in support of Low Rate Initial Production Lot VIII F135 propulsion systems, including repair of repairables and replenishment spares. Work will be done in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma and is expected to be completed in November 2015. The contract combines purchase for the Air Force, Navvy and international partners. (Post)

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $657.4 million contract for four RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aircraft for the Republic of Korea. The contract includes two spare engines, and the applicable Ground Control Environment elements. Work will be performed at San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be complete by June 28, 2019. Center fuselage work on Global Hawks is done in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)

Rolls-Royce was selected by AirAsia X to power 10 Airbus A330ceo and 55 Airbus
A330neo aircraft with engines. The A330ceos will be powered by the Trent 700 and the A330neos will be powered by the Trent 7000 engine. It's the largest order for the Trent 7000 engine since it was launched earlier this year. Trent engines are tested at the Rolls-Royce outdoor test facility at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (Post)

-- Three Frenchmen have created a titanium seat that could save airlines millions and cram
more seats into jetliners. The seat, which consists of 30 parts and is "pre-reclined" by 18
degrees, is designed for use in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family of aircraft. The new seat is three times lighter than the light-weight Recaro seat. Airbus is building an A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., that will open in 2015. (Post)

Col. William West, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing and the installation commander at Hurlburt, will hand over command of the wing to Col. Sean Farrell, current commander of the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The change of command is Jan. 6. (Post)

Utilis USA, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a maximum $200 million contract for commercial shelters. This is a one-year base contract with three one-year option periods. Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Type of appropriation is fiscal year 2015 defense working capital funds.

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