Recently #Science Magazine sat down with Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas to discuss science and #Space policy in the upcoming Trump administration. The reason Culberson will be a key player in these areas is that he is the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds agencies such as NASA, NOAA, and the National Science Foundation.
Some interesting takeaways can be had from the interview.
Culberson is very skeptical of layers of bureaucracy in the federal government. The skepticism not only includes the current Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has been given great responsibility under the Obama administration, but the National Space Council proposed for the incoming Trump administration.
The congressman thinks that having a White House Science Advisor is important, but does not like the current one, John Holdren. Culberson has no reason to like Holdren. The current WHSA is an acolyte of Paul Elrich, who once predicted that the world would be destroyed by now by overpopulation and who proposed draconian policies to stop that from happening. Also, Holdren, along with Obama’s space consigliere Lori Garver, was responsible for the destruction of Project Constellation, the wildly popular Bush-era space exploration program.
Culberson is in touch with the Trump transition team and considered Vice President Elect Mike Pence a close, personal friend. The Obama team had nearly zero contact with #Congress, which explained why the legislative branch felt blindsided when the current president destroyed NASA’s space exploration efforts. Whatever Trump proposes will have to pass the muster of people like Culberson. So it is a good thing that Congress is being consulted beforehand.
Culberson does not think that Earth science research is going to be eviscerated or even necessarily moved from NASA. Whether this stance will be of comfort for the climate change community remains to be seen.
The congressman’s prescription for NASA consists of ten-year terms for the administrator, less bureaucracy, and stable and adequate funding. He supports his personal project of a probe to Europa but was silent on the question as to whether NASA should continue on the Journey to Mars or make a course correction for a return to the moon.