Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunshine, Shuttles, and Stupidity

The smoke trail from Endeavour's final launch
I took a lovely trip this morning to Titusville to watch the final launch of Endeavour. It was a picture-perfect, beautiful sunny morning and the launch, by all reports, was flawless. While I wait for my video and photos to process, I just wanted to share a few thoughts I have with you all...

It breaks my heart, boggles my mind, and boils my blood that the White House cannot see the value of the space program. Beyond just the job losses here in Central Florida, we are needlessly sacrificing a national security advantage to China and Russia, and any other country that decides to step into the void we're creating. We've cancelled a successful shuttle program with nothing to take its place, voluntarily surrendering control of space to foreign countries and corporate interests that cannot be counted on to have our same interests at heart. Any company seeking to profit from space tourism is not going to make an investment in American national security the same way that NASA and our military do.

I have two major national security-related fears. First, any student of military theory knows that there is a strategic advantage in controlling the high ground, and what higher ground is there than space? Military technology continues to advance; we've had intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles for decades, allowing us to attack any point on the globe with weapons located on our own soil. But how much of a deterrent will that nuclear arsenal be if we have yielded all ability to control our presence in the space above the flight path of those missiles? Any video-game playing child can see the problem.

Second, we are heavily dependent on satellite technology for communication. What happens if someone took out even 5 or 10% of our communication satellites? Beyond the inconvenience of losing ESPN, what happens if the New York Stock Exchange computers cannot communicate with the European markets, if telecommunications are cut off with part of Asia, if a major metropolitan area loses its internet connection? And of course it's easy to see the national security risks if we lost any part of our network of spy satellites that help us keep an eye on the many dangerous parts of the world.

The White House administration that so casually and callously allowed our shuttle program to die is the same one that senselessly placed a moratorium on drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, while President Obama travelled to Brazil in March and told a group of business leaders there, "“We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers."

President Obama's obsession with sacrificing America's ability to control her own destiny to foreign interests doesn't end there. The Air Force is currently considering bids to build a new type of "light attack and armed reconnaissance" ("LAAR") aircraft from two companies, Hawker Beechcraft and Embraer.

The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6
Hawker Beechcraft is based in Kansas. Embraer is based in Brazil.  If Hawker Beechcraft is awarded the contract, estimates are that over 1,400 U.S. jobs in 14 states will be created, whereas awarding the contract to Embraer creates only 50 American jobs. The two companies' designs are similarly priced, so there isn't any chance for significant defense budget savings in the manufacture, but the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 design works with a far wider population of pilots, allowing  roughly 95% of both the male and female potential pilot population with weights as low as 103 pounds and as high as 245 pounds to safely fly the aircraft. Embraer is still complying with old Brazilian standards, which would prohibit 18% of military males and 81% of military females from safely ejecting from the aircraft in an emergency.

More importantly, we cannot risk granting a foreign country the ability to ground a large part of our Air Force. Brazil was publicly and vehemently criticizing our military action in Libya only hours after President Obama finished his March visit. What happens if protecting the interests of the United States necessitates action in one of the many socialist governments in Latin America, such as Cuba or Venezuela? Hugo Chavez is extremely hostile to American interests, and we cannot predict the chaos that may occur in Cuba when the Castro brothers finally pass away.

It is clear that our economic, military strategic, and national security interests are all best served by awarding this contract to Hawker Beechcraft. Hopefully the powers-that-be in our government can break their frightening habit and put America first this time.

For more information on this vital national security issue, please check out the following links:

American Legislative Exchange Council | When American Companies Face Foreign Government-Sized Competitors
The Hill's Congress Blog | Do not hand American job opportunities to Brazil
Center for Individual Freedom | Freedom Line Blog | CFIF to Defense Secretary Gates: American Security Interests Come First, Not Brazil's
Lexington Institute | AT-6 Meets The Need For An Affordable Light Attack Aircraft

[Cross-posted at The Minority Report and Red County]


  1. not very conservative of you. one hand you want to turn down fed rail money bc its adds to the debt. doesnt running a space program to no where add to the debt too? if the space program were so great a private company would come in and find a way to do it and make money. that argument works for rail but somehow not for space? if you truly believe in free markets then you wouldnt have a problem with the embraer bid. you cant be a protectionist with our own countries products or companies.

  2. Hey Anonymous,

    I am proud to be a supporter of our space program and do not see a conflict with my conservative politics. All government programs cost money, and only the most naive or ignorant would argue that we should eliminate military and technology funding altogether.

    The added American jobs are a positive bonus to awarding the contract to Hawker Beechcraft, but not the deciding factor for me. It's about so much more than mere protectionism. Look what I wrote above: "More importantly, we cannot risk granting a foreign country the ability to ground a large part of our Air Force."

    It's a national security issue. Brazil is not guaranteed to be an ally and we cannot afford to essentially grant a trump card to a foreign government with such a high potential for opposing interests.

  3. What national security interests are we protecting by flying an obsolete jalopy in low-earth orbit?

  4. You've clearly got your mind made up about the space program. If you can't see that giving up all access to outer space for years while NASA develops a new platform or private industry fills the void, then I just don't know what to say to you.

    As far as "obsolete jalopy" goes, I personally know a number of people, including some of my family members, who have been employed in the space industry. Again, I don't have any hope of educating you into appreciating the amazing technology that is incorporated into the shuttles. There have been a lot of upgrades and advancements every year, but hey, why would you want to spend your time learning anything about that?

  5. whoever that anonymous commenter is above, they're an idiot to complain about creating jobs in America. Really, their comment makes it sound like creating jobs here is a bad thing. Huh, must be someone who works for the White House!

  6. Here's another blog article from last month supporting awarding the contract to Hawker Beechcraft over Embraer:


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