Institutional change and the post-Apollo civilian space program


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Institutional change and the post-Apollo civilian space program
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vii, 133 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Vedda, James A
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Political Science thesis, Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Political Science -- UF
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 119-132).
Statement of Responsibility:
by James A. Vedda.
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University of Florida
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LIST O F TA BLES............................................................................................................iv

LIST O F FIGU RES....................................................................................................v

A BSTR A C T ............................................................................................................... vi


AN EVOLVING SECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY.............................1

Implications of the Study for Public Policy ......................................1
Focus of the Study................................................................ ..................3
Theme 1: A Shift in Leadership and Initiative .................4
Theme 2: Legislative Ascendancy and Its Motivations......5
Theme 3: Updating the Policy-Making Model ....................6
An Institutional Perspective on Space Policy....................8
Background....................................................... ........................... 8
Variations in Issue Salience ................................................ 8
The Policy Perspective ........................................................11
Extent of the Community Affected....................................... ...13
Government Agencies.........................................................13
Science and Engineering Community ................................13
Foreign Interests........................................... ...............14
Commercial and Economic Interests...................................14
General Public ........................................................................15

THEORY AND PRACTICE ............................................................17

Presidential Leadership: Theory vs. Reality...................................18
Power vs. Persuasion ..........................................................20
Another Perspective: The Post-Moder President...........25
Presidential Motivations....................................................26
Toward a New Model............................................................27
Decision-Making in a Dynamic Environment........................ 30
Space Policy and the Institutional Presidency ...................30
Space Policy and Presidential Interest .................................31
Formal Advisory Mechanisms for Space .............................33
Ad Hoc Advice From "Blue-Ribbon" Panels.................................37
Rhetoric vs. Reality ..............................................................40
The NCOS Report ................................................................42

The Ride Report ...................................................................43
The Synthesis Group Report.................................................44
The Augustine Report ........................................................ 45
The Importance of Timing ....................................................46
Assessment of the "Blue-Ribbon" Panels.............................47
Critical Post-Apollo Decisions Facing the Presidency....................48
Space Shuttle Development....................... .............. 51
Space Station Development ..................................................55
The Space Exploration Initiative..........................................61
Fundamental Changes.........................................................63

PARTISANSHIP AND PAROCHIALISM......................................65

Background ........................................................................................65
Parties and Ideologies. ........................................................65
The Evolving Institution.......................................................66
The Space Shuttle and Post-Apollo Incrementalism...................67
The Space Station and Its Fragile Coalition...................................69
Space Policy-Making in a Changing Environment......................73
Subcommittee Government .................................................73
Budget Reform ......................................................................74
Information and Staff Growth..............................................76
Entrepreneurship and Growth in Floor Activity ..............77
Influences on Legislative Choice..............................................78
Methodology .............................................................................80
Analysis of Results ..................................................................85
Examples of Behavior ..........................................................95
Explanations for Party Behavior............................................100


A New Model For Space Policy-Making.............................. .....103
Implications For Political Institutions ..........................................110
Implications For the Future of the Space Program....................114

BIBLIO G RA PH Y ...........................................................................................................119

A PPEN D IX .....................................................................................................................131

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......................................................................................133


Table pMag

1 NASA's post-Apollo wish list for manned spaceflight.............................10

2 Reagan's Senior Interagency Group for Space........................................33

3 Bush's National Space Council.................................................................35

4 Space station appropriations history .............................................................72

5 Congressional districts with NASA influence.......................................85

6 Probit estimates of pro-NASA voting-House.................................91

7 Probit estimates of pro-NASA voting-Senate ..........................................92

8 Probabilities of pro-NASA voting by party ...............................................95

9 Pro-NASA voting among Senators, 1970-94........................... ...............98

10 Pro-NASA voting among selected Representatives, 1979-94..................99


Figure p=ge

1 NASA budgets, 1970-95................................................................................24

2 Pro-NASA voting as a percentage of each party's vote ...........................86

3 Average party differences-House.........................................................87

4 Average party differences-Senate...........................................................89

5 Index of party cohesion-House ..............................................................89

6 Index of party cohesion-Senate...............................................................90

7 Five largest recipients of NASA prime contracts, 1985-94......................96

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy




May 1996

Chairman: Walter A. Rosenbaum
Major Department: Political Science

Science and technology policy is perceived as an important issue area
affecting national security, the economy, and quality of life. Despite this,
relatively little scholarly effort has been devoted to studying the ramifications
of institutional change on policy-making in this area. This study addresses
that need by assessing the impact that changes in federal government
institutions, specifically the presidency and the Congress, have had on the
civilian space program during the post-Apollo period. It also suggests the
application of a general policy-making model which until now has not been
applied to civil space policy-making. The study notes that fluctuations in
issue salience, power shifts between the branches, partisan differences,
procedural changes, and fiscal trends have been the most significant
determinants of space policy output and outcomes.
With regard to the presidency, this study hypothesizes that the White
House has lost influence over space issues relative to the Congress. The

primary factors causing this are a long-term shift to lower priority for these
issues, and an inevitable widening of the scope of influence over this sector of
activity. Key post-Apollo decisions are discussed for their substantive content
and for what they reveal about the extent to which the president chose to be
If Congress is in fact gaining influence over space policy decisions
relative to the president, it is important to better understand legislative
behavior in this area. This study finds that partisanship is the largest and
most consistent factor determining members' votes on space issues. This
contradicts conventional wisdom, which sees civil space programs as the
recipients of strong bipartisan support. Additionally, the study finds that the
next most important influence on floor votes in the Congress is the
geographic distribution of funds from the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, an assertion more in line with conventional wisdom.
However, the distributional influence is not strong until the mid-1980s.
These findings have implications across all science and technology
issue areas as the U.S. reexamines its post-World War II social contract with
science in the aftermath of the Cold War.


Implications of the Study for Public Policy
Decisions about U.S. space policy, and the implementation of those
decisions, require complex interactions throughout an extensive community
where resource competition, bureaucratic turf protection, institutional values
and rivalries, political horse-trading, and individual personalities tend to take
precedence over the vague vision of how the space program can best serve
the nation and humankind. This description indicates that civil space issues
have much in common with other policy areas, even those outside the
domain of science and technology (S&T) policy. Thus, a study of the
institutional evolution of space policy-making has much to tell us about the
behavior of many aspects of domestic and foreign policy decision-making,
and about which policy-process models seem most appropriate.
The Apollo era is well chronicled from a variety of social science
perspectives, including historical (for example, McDougall 1985; Chaikin
1994), political (Logsdon 1970), and managerial (Levine 1982). During the past
two decades there also has been a substantial amount of writing devoted to
post-Apollo space developments, but with only a few exceptions its quality,
depth, and breadth have not equaled that of the literature covering the
Apollo era. Two factors are primarily responsible for this. First, recent civilian
space activities have not equaled the salience that space issues experienced in
the late 1950s and early 1960s. Space remained an element of competition
throughout the Cold War, but never again reached a critical stage which


demanded a quick response from the chief executive to head off a perceived

threat to the national interest. Second, the post-Apollo program has lacked
focus. It has become commonplace for people in the space community to
bemoan the absence of clear goals and consistent support from policy-makers.
At the same time, the space issue network has grown larger and more
diverse, complicating the setting of goals and the building of lasting

coalitions. This study acknowledges these two post-Apollo factors as it strives
to fill some of the gaps in recent treatment of the evolution of civilian space
The relatively low salience of space issues in recent years does not
diminish the importance of examining this area. The annual budget of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-which includes
the majority, though not all, of public sector expenditures on civil space
activities-is currently around $14 billion, or nearly one percent of the
national budget. This is approximately the same as spending on foreign aid
(Beyer 1992; Ferster 1994). Like foreign aid, NASA activities can have visibility
and consequences that are far out of proportion to the human and fiscal
resources devoted to them. NASA's name has been a household word since
the Apollo days, and whether the news has been good or bad, it has regularly
been in the headlines throughout the past quarter century: the landmark
missions of the Viking probes to Mars and the Voyagers to the outer planets;
the impressive achievements of the space shuttle program juxtaposed against
the loss of the Challenger, the early tribulations and eventual triumph of the
Hubble Space Telescope; the new era of cooperation with the Russians and
other foreign space powers; and the continuing trials of the space station

But real outcomes are more important than the newsworthiness of
particular events. Public sector investment in space science and technology
has yielded advanced capabilities and whole new industries that were
unheard of as recently as the 1950s. Satellite communications have
revolutionized the way the world interacts to such an extent that it is
impossible to estimate their value to the world economy and global relations.
Earth imaging from space, initially for weather monitoring and more recently
for detailed scientific and resource assessment, has saved countless lives and
much money, as well as providing significant new perspectives on our
planet. NASA continues to develop new and more refined technologies not
only for designing better aircraft and spacecraft, but also for myriad ground-
based applications. Suffice it to say that national public officials with
jurisdiction over this enterprise should, one assumes, at least be aware of its
past contributions to the national interest and seek to maintain a similar
level of productivity, and at most strive to expand its output and extend the
resulting benefits to more sectors of society. How policy-makers approached
this task from 1970 through the mid-1990s, and the outcomes and
implications of that approach, are the subjects of this study.

Focus of the Study
This study assesses the impact that changes in federal government
institutions, specifically the presidency and the Congress, have had on
civilian space policy-making during the post-Apollo period, and speculates on
the implications for S&T policy in general. In the process, it challenges certain
beliefs held by many in the space community, including continued
presidential dominance in space policy-making; strong bipartisan support in
the Congress for civil space efforts; and the notion that space issues behave,

and should be treated, somehow different from other public policy issues. The
study does not seek to prove that the institutions have evolved over this
period, or that this evolution has affected the policy-making process, since
these developments are well documented and widely accepted. Its focus is on
institutional treatment of an issue area of Cold War vintage that is
undergoing a transition to the post-Cold War era.
A number of influences, largely external to the space program, have
affected the policy process in each branch of the government. As will become
evident in the case studies covered in the next two chapters, these influences
include fluctuations in issue salience, power shifts between branches, partisan
differences, procedural changes, and fiscal trends. Behavioral changes within
each branch interact when the two meet in the policy process, with
repercussions for agenda-setting and policy outcomes.
The study has three major themes, as outlined below.
Theme 1: A Shift in Leadership and Initiative
This study hypothesizes that White House influence over space issues
has diminished relative to the Congress. The primary factors causing this are
a long-term priority shift for these issues, leading to some presidential
abdication of space policy authority, and an inevitable broadening of the scope
of influence over this sector of activity, forcing the president to share
authority more widely. Key post-Apollo decisions are discussed for their
substantive content and also for what they reveal about the extent to which
the president chose to be involved. Analysis of these situations provides clues
as to how space issues relate to agenda-setting in the executive branch,
especially involving White House perceptions of whether these issues are
worthy of the president's time and able to contribute to his goals.


When civilian space policy was a high-priority issue, it enjoyed the
attention of the president and other high officials in government. The
presidency dominated space policy-making in the same way that it dominated
foreign policy-making (Wildavsky 1966). That quickly changed as the last of
the Apollo missions were completed, dramatically lowering the priority of
space on the presidential agenda. Congress tried to fill the policy gap as the
space shuttle program was initiated, but then lost interest until the space
station program appeared on the agenda more than a decade later. During this
period, the presidency abdicated much of its decision-making power over
space issues, though the Congress, distracted by internal reform and other
matters, failed to capitalize on this. The result was less presidential power
over space decision-making, both in absolute terms and relative to Congress,
and growth in legislative influence, mostly a result of the increasingly
constrained budget process, but inadequate to fill the void left by the executive
Theme 2: Legislative Ascendancy and Its Motivations
If Congress has in fact gained influence over space policy decisions
relative to the president, it is important to better understand relevant
legislative behavior in the evolving political environment of the post-Apollo
era. The study's hypotheses in this area are that partisanship is the most
important determinant of legislators' behavior toward space projects, and that
the next most important influence is the geographic distribution of NASA
funding. The first hypothesis contradicts conventional wisdom, which sees
civil space programs as the recipients of strong bipartisan support, while the
second hypothesis is more in line with conventional views.
In addition to considering partisanship and parochial interests, the
study looks at other closely related questions of importance: How have


congressional voting patterns changed over this period, if at all? Do changes
reflect fluctuating interest in space exploration, on the part of both the public
and policy elites, as competition with the Russian space program has
The study's findings highlight the powerful influence of organizational
and procedural factors over particular policy areas, especially in periods of
dramatic change such as the legislature has experienced in the past quarter-
century. Within the Congress, the determinants of members' positions for or
against major civilian space programs are clear. Throughout the period of
study, partisanship has been the most significant and most consistent
indicator of voting preferences, with Republicans far outstripping Democrats
in support for the largest NASA projects. Those who have believed for the
past two and a half decades that civil space was receiving overwhelming
bipartisan support have been looking at the wrong data, that is, vote tallies
from the final passage of authorization and appropriations bills, which do not
hold the cues to party positions. A more accurate portrait comes from the
floor action on amendments to those bills.
The second most significant determinant of members' space votes is
distributional politics. The influence of NASA dollars going to particular
states was minimal at the beginning of the period being studied, but increased
dramatically in the space station era (mid-1980s onward) as the dollar
amounts grew and the political value of space-related jobs became prominent
in times of economic recession and government downsizing.
Theme 3: Updating the Policy-Making Model
The study suggests that the current environment for space policy-
making, as well as other sectors of S&T policy, requires the application of a
general policy-making model which until now has not been specifically

applied to these issue areas. The evolution of space policy-making from 1970-
94 conforms to the agenda-setting model put forth by Baumgartner and Jones
(1993), in which institutions and their rules and procedures play a critical role
in determining policy outcomes.
The recent incrementalism and lack of direction in space policy are
usually attributed to the massive letdown that followed Apollo, but that is
only part of the explanation. Institutions change only slowly or in the wake of
a crisis. Viewed in terms of the Baumgartner and Jones model, space policy's
recent characteristics were inevitable developments even in the absence of
the sudden disappearance of the moon program.
The Baumgartner and Jones agenda-setting model is a good fit for the
entire political history of the space program, replacing the notion that an
Apollo-era paradigm somehow made the civil space effort politically and
institutionally different from all other programs in the public sector during
this period. With the exception of partisanship, which is dealt with separately
in Chapter 3, the model encompasses all of the factors singled out earlier as
determinants of policy outcomes (fluctuations in issue salience, power shifts
between the branches, procedural changes, and fiscal trends). The model, with
its ability to accommodate both policy stability and rapid change, is driven by
the dynamics and interaction of a policy's image (the way it is perceived and
discussed) and venue (the institutions and groups with authority over an
NASA is an example of a public-sector program that began with a surge
of activity and political support, only to drop in priority and be relegated to
decades of incrementalism. Once the agency had been created, a space
subgovernment quickly formed around the program and its small
community of experts. As Baumgartner and Jones (1993) point out, however,

policy monopolies are inherently unstable in the long run because those who
are excluded will eventually grow intolerant of the situation. As the next two
chapters will amply demonstrate, the image and venue of the space program
changed dramatically after the Apollo program ended and have continued to
fluctuate since that time. In general, the image has changed from that of a
strategic program addressing important national interests to one of a
discretionary program that is a competitor for limited funds. Meanwhile, the
venue has broadened considerably beyond the original subgovernment.
An Institutional Perspective on Space Policy
This study analyzes the institutional behavior of the presidency and
Congress toward the civil space program from 1970 to 1994. It does this by
assessing the key actions taken by each institution with regard to NASA's two
major programs of the period, the space shuttle and space station. For the
presidency, the study looks at the points at which the White House chose to
become directly involved in space decisions, the advisory mechanisms used
to support the decision process, and the success or failure of the president's
involvement. For the Congress, the study assesses the legislature's ongoing
treatment of the shuttle and station initiatives, with special attention to
members' motivations to support or oppose the programs. Nineteen key
space votes from the floor of the House and Senate during this 25-year period
are subjected to probit analyses to determine correlations between members'
votes and several motivational factors.

Variations in Issue Salience
For a brief period in the late 1950s and early 1960s, civilian space policy
was considered strategically important at the highest levels of government.


The Soviet Sputnik launches in October and November 1957 caused near-
panic among policy-makers and resulted in, among other things, the creation
of the civilian space agency, NASA. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's
pioneering space flight in April 1961 elevated the issue to a crisis in the mind
of President John F. Kennedy, prompting him to approve Project Apollo, the
manned lunar landing mission that had been taking shape in NASA and the
Department of Defense (DoD) during the previous three to four years. The
Congress, which had recently created space committees in each house, was
predisposed to support the president's bold initiative (Logsdon 1970).
Kennedy's moon challenge gave the space agency a well-defined mission with
a clear endpoint and an established timetable. Prior to 1969, policy-makers
gave little thought to what would replace that mission when its endpoint was
reached (Levine 1982).
Most of NASA's programs of the 1970s, including many deep-space
probes and Earth-orbiting science satellites, were envisioned and in some
cases approved during the Apollo era. What would happen to the agency after
these programs had played themselves out was not clear at the time. Would
NASA simply become the launch service operator for various payload
customers? Once America had cosed the book on the race to the Moon,
would NASA be absorbed by the Department of Defense, as some policy-
makers in Congress and the Pentagon had wanted from the beginning
(McDougall 1985)?
Questions like these moved onto the president's agenda when Richard
Nixon took over the White House just six months prior to the first moon
landing. Nixon appointed an advisory body called the Space Task Group to
look into these matters in the spring of 1969, chaired by Vice President Spiro
Agnew and including presidential science advisor Lee DuBridge, NASA

administrator Thomas Paine, and Air Force secretary (and former NASA
deputy administrator) Robert Seamans (Hechler 1982). The Space Task Group
received considerable input from the space agency, and its report, submitted
to the president in September 1969, was a wholehearted endorsement of the
NASA plan. The portion of that plan dealing with manned spaceflight
programs and space transportation infrastructure is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: NASA's post-Apollo wish list for manned spaceflight

Milestones Fast-track Option 1 Options
program 2 &3

Manned Systems

Space Station (Earth orbit) 1975 1976 1977
50-Man Space Base (Earth orbit) 1980 1980 1984
100-Man Space Base (Earth orbit) 1985 1985 1989
Lunar Orbiting Station 1976 1978 1981
Lunar Surface Base 1978 1980 1983
Initial Mars Expedition 1981 1983 1986
(Option 2)
(Option 3)
Space Transportation System

Earth-to-Orbit 1975 1976 1977
Nuclear Orbit Transfer Stage 1978 1978 1981
Space Tug 1976 1978 1981

Source: America's Next Decade in Space: A Report for the Space Task Group
(NASA 1969)

A space shuttle was just one of several manned space projects that
NASA suggested to the Space Task Group. The recommended program also
included an Earth-orbiting station (the shuttle's destination), a moon base and
lunar orbiting station, and a manned mission to Mars. In suggesting three
possible levels of commitment, NASA officials may have felt they were being

cautious and demonstrating sensitivity to political and resource limitations.
But all three levels included all of the projects on the agency's wish list; only
the proposed pace of those projects varied. The extent of NASA's (and the
Space Task Group's) political miscalculation can be appreciated by observing
that only one of the nine projects listed in Table 1 has actually been
completed-the Earth-to-orbit transportation system, i.e., the space shuttle-
and that program was four years behind its slowest projected schedule. The
only other project on the list that has been initiated to date is the Earth-
orbiting space station, which is due to be completed in 2002, twenty-five years
behind the least-ambitious proposed schedule.
Unfortunately for NASA, space spectaculars had moved off center stage
in the wake of the Vietnam war, civil unrest, and a tighter fiscal climate.
Though the space shuttle gained White House support, approval of the
program didn't come until January 1972. Congress showed reluctance to give
its blessing to the project, with many members lobbying hard to kill it. These
and other important aspects of the post-Apollo transition will be presented in
greater detail in later chapters.
The Policy Perspective
During the past quarter century, the presidency and the Congress have
undergone significant changes which have been studied for their effects on
the policy process and policy outcomes. The science and technology policy
arena has received less attention than other policy areas perceived to be more
salient, despite its growing importance to society throughout the post-World
War II era and its strong linkage to many general policy concerns (Barke 1986).
Throughout this period, space policy has been one particular S&T area
repeatedly criticized as misguided, or at best adrift.

A "crisis" in space policy, as some have called it, has resulted from the
end of the Cold War. This "crisis" has roots that go back to the termination of
Project Apollo (Lawler 1994b). There have been two major contributing
factors to the current situation. First, space projects are no longer needed to
demonstrate national prowess and boost prestige in a bipolar world of
superpower confrontation. For thirty years, this rationale brought
considerable support from presidents and Congresses, and was entirely
responsible for the existence of the Apollo program (Logsdon 1970). Second,
the nation's fiscal problems have put highly visible and expensive
discretionary programs, like space science and exploration, under the
budgetary microscope. The naive belief that a "peace dividend" would
redound to the benefit of civilian space projects gave way to the realization
that reductions in defense research spending would not automatically yield
increases in civilian programs (Cohen et al. 1995).
One indicator of the current "crisis" is the continuation of problems in
the flagship space program of the 1990s, the space station. An unfortunate
legacy of the Apollo era is that the space agency has staked its existence on the
execution of large-scale human spaceflight programs, although today there is
no political consensus on human spaceflight goals or priorities. From 1972
through the mid-80s, the agency's primary program was the space shuttle, but
since that time the focus has shifted to the space station, a troubled project
which has faced the threat of cancellation from congressional opponents
during nearly every budget cycle since its inception.


Extent of the Community Affected
Government Agencies
NASA is not the only agency affected by decisions in civil space policy.
The Departments of Energy, Commerce, and Transportation have space-
related components. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
for example, is a unit of the Commerce Department which operates the
nation's weather satellites. It depends not only on steady funding for its own
programs, but also on assistance from NASA in the design and procurement
of new spacecraft hardware.
Even agencies concerned with the military and commercial space
sectors feel ripple effects from NASA activities. Infrastructure programs,
many of them funded through NASA, are too expensive and difficult to
duplicate, so they serve all space users. Such programs include launch sites
and launch vehicles, communications and data processing networks,
laboratories and research teams, satellite ground stations, and a constellation
of scientific satellites continuously providing a wide range of data.
Science and Engineering Community
This diverse group is spread around the country at universities and
corporations that have significant research efforts. Space science research
depends almost entirely on government funding, so fluctuations in federal
spending in this area have serious ramifications for careers, academic
departments, and the upcoming generation of graduate students who are
assessing the career prospects of particular disciplines.
When it comes to political clout, scientists and engineers typically have
found themselves in the pork-barrel periphery rather than the budgetary
mainstream. They've had to rely on politicians and bureaucrats to establish
program priorities, because in the political arena researchers typically have

been disorganized, detached, and naive. This has been changing recently,
however, and with the help of their professional associations, scientists and
engineers may gain more consistent and significant influence with policy-
makers as their institutions are forced to become more politicized (Lawler
Foreign Interests
There have been hundreds of small cooperative projects throughout
the history of the space program, with researchers from Europe, Canada,
Japan, Russia, and elsewhere participating in design, integration, and data
analysis for NASA missions. At the same time, U.S. researchers have been
active in many foreign projects, usually with U.S. funding. The State
Department has been involved in overseeing negotiations for all of these
cooperative programs (NASA 1983). These ventures have generally been very
successful, but as programs get bigger and costlier-the space station being the
prime example-their high stakes put them in the political spotlight. Budget
problems and lack of commitment have already had detrimental effects on
some international programs (the International Solar Polar Mission and
Spacelab to name just two), causing the U.S. reputation as a good partner to
erode (Johnson-Freese 1989).
Commercial and Economic Interests
Commercial space activities in the U.S. amount to several billion
dollars a year, at least 80% of which is in the telecommunications sector (U.S.
DoC 1994). Growing markets include launch services, satellite remote sensing,
and position location services via satellite. All of these are outgrowths of
government-funded research, and many still depend on government
support. Satellite communications is an area in which the U.S. has a
substantial trade surplus, and newer space markets show potential for similar

performance, so government interest and corporate political influence are
likely to continue.
General Public
The public pays for the space program through its tax dollars-NASA's
budget is approximately one percent of federal spending (Beyer 1992)-and
reaps the benefits through direct applications (e.g., communications and
weather satellites), scientific knowledge (e.g., studies of the Earth, sun, and
planets), and spinoffs (e.g., advanced electronics, materials, and medical
devices). However, the public has been forced to rely on sparse and often
inaccurate information in this relatively new and highly technical area. As a
result, the public has so far provided little in the way of organized policy
input, and has depended on elites to set the agenda (Miller 1994).
Another way to view the public's stake in NASA activities is to look at
the distribution of the space agency's funding around the country. In the
1990s, about 90% of the agency's $14 billion annual budget has been spent on
contracts with corporations and nonprofit organizations for both research and
development (R&D) and operations (U.S. GAO 1994). To get an impression of
how extensively this is distributed, one need only consider the space station
program, which by 1992 had directed nearly $8 billion in contracts (of widely
varying amounts) to 37 states, with activity in 151 congressional districts
(Zuckman 1992).
The next chapter focuses on the presidency, its relevant institutional
developments since the end of Apollo, and its involvement in key space
policy decisions. In Chapter 3, the spotlight shifts to the Congress, analyzing
its substantial evolution and space-related voting patterns since the early
1970s. The final chapter consolidates the findings of the previous two,
assessing the implications for the political institutions and for the future of


the civil space program, as well as public-sector science and technology
programs in general.


Presidential influence over space policy can be viewed from different
theoretical perspectives. The first one treated in this chapter deals with the
president's general ability to apply his formal and informal powers. Neustadt
(1990) argues that for post-War presidents, power is derived from the ability to
persuade Congress, bureaucrats, interest groups, and constituents rather than
the ability to command any or all of these groups. He reminds us that the
Constitution created a government of separated institutions sharing powers
(p. 29). But Katz (1978) makes the case that at least in S&T issue areas, the
president has demonstrated the power to command, largely due to the
centralization of capabilities and expertise in the executive branch. This
chapter concludes that Katz's thesis may have been true for a period of time,
but not any longer. In recent years, Neustadt's view has taken hold in the
S&T arena, influenced more by changes the policy environment than by
changes within the institution of the presidency.
A second perspective on presidential influence has to do with the
categorization of policy areas. Wildavsky (1966) proposed that two distinct
presidencies may exist in a single office, one devoted to domestic issues and
the other concerned with foreign and military policy. The former is a
persuasive presidency with a somewhat disappointing success rate in dealing
with Congress, while the latter is a power presidency that typically dominates
the policy process. Space policy presents a dilemma in this scenario since it fits

into both categories. As a result, this model gives us no help in determining

whether presidential influence over space policy is characterized by
persuasion or power. In this case we must reject the two presidencies thesis
and replace it with the post-moder presidency model (Rose 1991). The newer
model was constructed with economics and foreign policy in mind, but S&T
issues of recent years share their essential characteristics: fusion of domestic
and international activities, and growing influence from a variety of interests
outside the presidency.
The third perspective discussed here concerns the personal interest and
political motivations of individual presidents. A president has three major
goals, according to Light (1983): reelection, good policy, and historical
achievement. Difficulty arises when a particular action by the president sets
these goals in conflict with one another. Additionally, presidential
identification with an issue can contribute toward these goals in one time
period but detract from them during another. Such is the case with civil space
policy, which changed from a high-profile strategic program in the 1960s to
little more than another discretionary spending program from the 1970s
All three of these perspectives are tied together here under the
Baumgartner and Jones (1993) model of agenda-setting and policy-making
(introduced in Chapter 1) which explains policy stability-or the lack of it-
based on variations in, and interactions between, policy image and policy

Presidential Leadership: Theory vs. Reality
Space policy, a product of the executive-dominated Cold War
environment, recently has been showing more pluralistic policy-making

characteristics. This is in keeping with Light's (1983) general assertion that the
price of policy is up, but not the president's ability to pay it. Similar changes
may be implied for other S&T policy areas. Elsewhere, the author has
presented evidence of this in energy research policy (Vedda & Rosenbaum
Conventional wisdom holds that the presidency has steadily gained
power since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. If this is true, why hasn't space
policy-making, a traditionally executive-dominated area, benefited more from
this during the past 25 years? Partially this is due to shifts in issue salience,
but part of the answer may lie in the fact that the conventional wisdom is
flawed. Light (1983) perceives a steady decline in presidential influence over
domestic policy in the wake of Vietnam, Watergate, and the congressional
reforms of the 1970s. He sees this as a result of increased surveillance and
competition from Congress and outside groups, combined with increasing
complexity of the issues themselves. Additionally, a study of key
congressional votes led Sigelman (1979) to conclude that a similar decline in
influence over foreign and defense policy occurred after 1973. Presidential
dominance of space policy has not been immune to these changes.
According to King and Ragsdale (1988), the institution of the
presidency, not the officeholder, is the policy actor to watch. Many analysts
who have observed the institution in the recent past have portrayed it as
deteriorating, displaying a history of failures and existing in a "no-win"
situation (see Light 1983; Lowi 1985; Moe 1985; Rose 1991). For example, Moe
(1985) sees the president as an actor who has limited constitutional powers
and is embedded in a much larger political network. The president is forced to
accept an inherited policy-making framework, and finds himself focusing his

efforts on a number of minor, but flexible changes rather than a few large,
difficult ones.
At the same time, many of these same analysts see the presidency as
the nation's primary policy initiator and most visible policy advocate. If the
initiator/advocate is operating from a position of weakness-or at least,
declining influence-this does not bode well for policy innovation and
successful implementation.
Power vs. Persuasion
In keeping with a widely held belief in presidential power, the space
program's lack of direction since the end of Project Apollo is frequently
blamed on the inadequacy of presidential involvement in every
administration since Richard Nixon. There has been a persistent belief in the
space community, especially among citizen advocacy groups, that the most
important factor in formulating and implementing a productive, forward-
looking space program is the enthusiastic support of the president. This belief
is based on a single example of a presidential leadership model, which
occurred during anomalous circumstances: President Kennedy's active
promotion of Project Apollo during what many believe to have been the
tensest period of the Cold War.1 The validity of this Apollo-era leadership
model is in doubt in today's environment.
Looking at presidential influence over science policy in general, Katz
(1978) supports the view of presidential dominance. He concurs with many
other scholars (e.g., McDougall 1985; Barke 1986) in his observation that Cold
War competition was the major impetus behind post-War growth in

1 Lyndon Johnson continued support for Kennedy's space agenda, and
indeed was responsible for creating much of that agenda in the first
place, but his most significant activity in civil space policy took place
before he became president. (Logsdon 1970; McDougall 1985)

federally funded R&D. In his analysis, he considers two opposing theories of
presidential power and applies them specifically to science policy-making.
The first is the "persuasive presidency" concept put forth by pluralistic
theorists such as Neustadt (1960), Neiburg (1966), and Wildavsky (1969). This
view places the president in an operating environment of shifting power
alignments where he faces major limitations on his influence due to the
actions of Congress, parties, the bureaucracy, and the popular will (often as
expressed through interest groups). In contrast, the "power presidency" which
Katz associates with power-elite theorists Mills (1956) and Horowitz (1966)
portrays the president and his top advisors and appointees as easily able to
neutralize opposing influences from the actors just mentioned. In the realm
of S&T policy, Katz supports the power presidency model. He concludes:

Presidential power in all its manifestations constitutes the prime
instrument of national science and technology policy
construction. As such the power-presidency theory accounts for
national science policy more successfully than the pluralist
theory. The evidence suggests that the power-presidency mode is
becoming increasingly the style with which the president
operates, and the persuasive-presidency mode is receding. (p.
Katz presents a debatable assessment of S&T policy under Presidents
Eisenhower through Carter. The litany of cases that he discusses includes
some noteworthy examples that actually weaken his argument for the power
presidency, cases in which the president fails to get what he wants, or gets
things that he doesn't want (e.g., Safeguard ABM system, the SST, and the
New Technological Opportunities Program under Nixon; a comprehensive
energy program and the fast breeder reactor under Carter). In his effort to
highlight the tendency toward centralization in the S&T arena characteristic
of post-War presidents, Katz interprets these failures in ways that make them

appear as victories, seemingly equating presidential intent with
programmatic success. From the perspective of the 1990s, the same evidence
would support the view that the accumulated presidential power of the post-
War years is not all it is purported to be (Rose 1991; Jones 1994).
Despite these caveats, Katz's study was vindicated by the first Reagan
term, which employed strategic use of appointments in S&T positions
(among others), the heavy hand of David Stockman's Office of Management
and Budget (OMB), and the almost Kennedy-style initiation of the Strategic
Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983 and the space station in 1984. But in contrast,
Reagan's second term yields evidence that fortunes began to shift in an era of
growing deficits and "dead on arrival" budgets. In the aerospace sector, the
space station endured periodic downsizing, SDI experienced much slower
growth than the administration wished, and the National Aerospace Plane,
which was featured prominently in Reagan's 1986 State of the Union address,
suffered damaging attacks from both Congress and the bureaucracy,
eventually succumbing during the Bush years.
Situations like these, and Bush's Space Exploration Initiative (described
later in this chapter), lend support to the persuasive presidency model as
described aptly by Burs (1978). When a president wishes to substitute new
goals for old ones, these goals must have equal legitimacy as well as political
validity. Lacking external political sources like an established support
coalition, the president must depend on personal (i.e., persuasive) resources,
according to Burns. The president's task is difficult enough in established
organizations with long-accepted goals, but it is even more difficult when the
new goals entail significant innovation. Clearly, this is the kind of
intervention that has been required of-but not successfully delivered by-
presidents since the Apollo program ended due to political and procedural

barriers to innovation. To use Burns's terms, the civil space program of the
past quarter century has been experiencing transactional leadership (satisfying
individual or group needs along the way, i.e., incrementalism) but not
transforming leadership (aiming at higher collective goals).
Contradicting Katz's now-outdated findings, evidence has been
accumulating since Reagan's second term that the pendulum is swinging
toward the persuasive presidency model for S&T policy, even for issues
traditionally associated with the president such as space. This will become
evident in the case studies of the space shuttle, space station, and Space
Exploration Initiative covered in Chapters 2 and 3. This is also apparent in
NASA's historical budget data presented in Figure 1. After adjusting for
inflation, three fiscal trends are obvious during this period: decline, stasis,
and growth. First, there was a sharp decline in the agency's total budget in the
early 1970s, continuing a trend that began in the late 1960s with the winding
down of Apollo R&D spending. Next, budgets remained flat at a relatively
low level for the rest of the decade. Finally, the Reagan years signaled an
improvement in NASA's fiscal fortunes. Note that throughout this period,
congressional appropriations for the space agency were virtually identical to
the presidents' requests-until FY88.2 From that point on, funding levels
from Congress came up short of what was asked for in every year except FY91.
NASA budgets began to decline in real dollars starting in FY92, a trend that is
expected to continue throughout the decade. In this most recent period, the

2 The difference between the president's request and the appropriation
for FY87 is the result of Congress's decision to supply full funding in a
single year for a new shuttle orbiter to replace Challenger. The
president agreed with this action.

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president's requests display a pattern of accommodation, not leadership (Bond
& Fleisher 1990), until they coincide once again in FY95.
Another Perspective: The Post-Modem President
The period covered in the current study coincides with the transition
to the post-moder presidency described by Rose (1991). The post-moder
model recognizes the intermingling of domestic and international activities
and the growing size and influence of outside interests in policy-making. This
concept of institutional evolution can be applied to the S&T sector just as
Rose applies it to economics and foreign policy. Scientific and technical
endeavors have become more international and less hegemonic, and the
communities involved have been in a continuous search for a balance
between competition and cooperation.
The post-moder model is a better description of current presidential
involvement in space policy than the "two presidencies" model (Wildavsky
1966), which Rose believes was on its way out even as scholars began
discussing it. Under the two presidencies, which sees a sharp contrast between
presidential influence and success rates in the distinctly separate realms of
domestic and foreign policy, current civil space issues would not fit cleanly
into either category. This undermines the model's explanatory power. Civil
space activity is often considered part of domestic policy (Edwards 1991), yet its
major driving forces throughout its existence have been foreign policy
concerns, an observation reinforced by presidential success rates characteristic
of the foreign-policy side of the two presidencies (Logsdon 1970; McDougall
1985; Johnson-Freese 1989; Lawler 1994b). By contrast, if space policy is viewed
in terms of the post-moder model, no such conflict exists.
The post-moder model depicts the president as having too much
expected of him at a time when the chief constraints on policy-making are out

of his control. The gap has widened between what the president would like
and what he can do. White House resources are insufficient to meet
responsibilities, so the president must bargain with Congress, the bureaucracy,
and interest groups (Rose 1991). This scenario conforms to the persuasive
presidency model described above. Lending further support to the post-
modem approach, the originator of the two presidencies concept
acknowledges that recently there has been a fusion of foreign and domestic
issues within ideologies, and that the increasingly distinct ideologies of the
parties have contributed to a breakdown of consensus (Oldfield & Wildavsky
Presidential Motivations
Light (1983) provides some guidelines as to the motivations of a
president. He sees the president's three major goals as reelection, good policy,
and historical achievement. All three goals have implications for civil space
issues, and must be kept in mind as we assess the decisions of post-Apollo
presidents. This is true because space policy-making is complicated by the fact
that it is what Light would call a "constituentless" issue (p. 215). Benefits from
this activity tend to be long-term and are not distributed and recognized in a
manner that encourages the formation of major support coalitions. Public
concern is minimal even though public fascination with spaceflight is
substantial. Even aerospace industries are weak advocates, reserving their
political resources for more lucrative programs such as defense procurement.
A constituentless issue is less likely to attract strong, sustained support from a
president because it promotes conflict among his electoral, policy, and
historical achievement goals. For example, Ronald Reagan and George Bush
intended to boost their historical achievement goals with the space station
program and the Space Exploration Initiative, respectively, but these efforts

were at odds with policy goals of smaller government and deficit control.
Electorally, benefits could be expected in regions where aerospace industry is
important, but elsewhere the proposed projects had the potential to draw a
negative response.
Toward a New Model
Logsdon (1970) wrote the first and still most widely acknowledged
study on the decision-making processes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy
administrations which led to Project Apollo. Similar scholarly work covering
decision-making after Apollo has been sparse, and has produced nothing as
definitive as Logsdon's work. Undoubtedly, this is partly due to the fact that
no program having both the scope and the clarity of purpose of Apollo has
emerged. One way to address the gap in scholarship is to adopt a portion of
Logsdon's methodology and use it for analyses of events that have occurred
since his study was completed. This is done later in this chapter, and helps to
explain the changes in executive influence that have taken place. Logsdon's
approach was to examine three factors which he saw as critical to making and
carrying out decisions of the scope of Apollo: knowledge of the technical
feasibility of an objective at the time a decision is made; a history of political
debate on the objective, allowing support coalitions to form and opponents to
be identified; and an open window of opportunity, possibly sparked by a crisis,
that temporarily increases the political feasibility of the objective (p. 181). He
found that the Apollo program was a success, politically as well as technically,
because it adhered to all three criteria.
In essence, Logsdon's thesis is a specific case of the power presidency
model that Katz (1978) later proposed for science policy in general. While
these models may have been applicable under certain circumstances at

specific times, they are no longer appropriate in the post-Cold War, deficit-
plagued 1990s.
The post-Apollo policy environment and the goal priorities of the
officeholders during the period under study suggest the need for a new model
of executive space policy-making that fits the current conceptual paradigm.
The Baumgartner and Jones (1993) agenda-setting model accomplishes this by
arguing that changes in policy image (e.g., from strategic program to domestic
funding competitor) and policy venue (e.g., from space subgovernment to
multiple national and international interests) explain government behavior.
The model's treatment of policy image and policy venue, and the
interactions between the two, accommodates both the rise and fall of
programmatic fortunes. Policy image is the way in which a policy is
understood and discussed by both political elites and the public. Its tone,
positive or negative, is a critical factor, and will vary depending on whether
one supports or opposes the policy. Policy venue includes the institutions and
groups with decision-making authority over an issue.
Images and venues change over time. The tone of the space program's
policy image changed from positive to negative after Apollo. The lunar
project was seen as a good thing, a technological race with the Soviet Union
having important implications for national security. But in the wake of anti-
technology sentiments associated with the Vietnam war, space became linked
with the military. This link strengthened in the 1980s as the space shuttle
began carrying military payloads and Ronald Reagan initiated his program for
space-based strategic defenses. Even those who did not fault the civil space
program for its connection to defense interests began to see it as less relevant
to national needs (Fries 1992).

The policy venue for the space program has changed as well. NASA is
just one of many examples of a public-sector program that began with a surge
of activity and political support, only to drop in priority and be relegated to
decades of incrementalism. The space agency was brought into existence
without organized opposition during a wave of enthusiasm that followed a
perceived crisis. Once the institution had been created, a space
subgovernment quickly formed around this high-profile program and the
enclave of experts that made up its core. This "iron triangle" remained intact
throughout the 1960s, but as Baumgartner and Jones point out, policy
monopolies are inherently unstable in the long run because those who are
excluded, and don't wish to remain so, will seek ways to alter the situation.
Thus, the policy venue inevitably expands, and not all of the new participants
favor the growth, or even the continuation, of the program in question.
One might surmise that dispersion of power throughout the rest of the
policy community would make the president stand taller, thereby increasing
his influence, but this does not seem to be the case (Neustadt 1990). Instead,
presidential persuasiveness becomes even more imperative and more
Conventional wisdom states that the space program's unfocused
incrementalism since the 1970s is the direct result of failed presidential
leadership during and after the termination of the moon program. But this is
an incomplete explanation. According to the agenda-setting model, a similar
outcome could have been expected even in the absence of the sudden demise
of Project Apollo, and even if Richard Nixon and his immediate successors
had been more interested in space issues. This is especially true given the
timing of the transition. This was an era of congressional reform coupled
with widespread voter disenchantment with government. The space


subgovernment was breaking down at this time, as were all policy
monopolies. Federal programs of all types were seen in less favorable light by
large numbers of constituents.
The Baumgartner and Jones agenda-setting model accommodates the
complete political history of the civilian space program, and links its behavior
to that of other policy sectors both in and out of the S&T arena. The case
histories presented later in this chapter highlight recent image and venue
characteristics, so different from those of the Apollo era, which have altered
the nature of space policy-making.

Decision-Making in a Dynamic Environment
Space Policy and the Institutional Presidency
The study of space policy-making in the post-Apollo White House
must consider the presidency from an institutional perspective. The
institutional mechanisms affecting space policy have changed frequently
since the Nixon years (King & Ragsdale 1988). Space policy is a broad area that
affects civil, commercial, and national security interests. As a result, no one
subset of White House staff or advisory groups has exclusive control of this
activity. The National Security Council has obvious concerns regarding
intelligence-gathering and military support functions; the Office of Science
and Technology Policy, led by the president's science advisor, seeks to
coordinate the space program with the president's overall view of research
and development priorities; even the National Economic Council
(established in the Reagan administration as the Economic Policy Council and
renamed by President Clinton) is concerned about space when commercial
issues such as launch services and satellite communications come to the

Certainly the White House group with the most power on an ongoing
basis (at least in non-military space activities) has been the Office of
Management and Budget. This is the first stop for NASA's budget each year
after the agency compiles its funding request for the president's approval. But
before the president sees it, the OMB must approve each line item. The 0MB
played a key role in both the shuttle and space station decisions, as well as in
less-visible space science programs of the post-Apollo era. As we will see in
the narrative below, OMB and other executive offices were much more
influential during this period than they were for the Apollo decision. The
primary (but not only) reason for this is the eagerness of both Nixon and
Reagan, the office-holders at the time of the shuttle and space station
decisions, to delegate policy formulation and participate only in the final
decisions (McCurdy 1990).
Space Policy and Presidential Interest
In addition to studying the institution, the chief executive's personal
style and interest in the space program cannot be ignored, nor can the political
environment of the time. As Jones (1994) has said, presidents are not created
equal, politically or otherwise. Nixon, for example, seemed intent on
dismantling the civil space program, but his fascination with astronauts, and
the fact that the bulk of the space shuttle's contract work would go to his
home state of California, prompted him to ignore his advisors in the OMB
and approve the shuttle, the only project that would keep human
spaceflight-and the space agency-alive for the foreseeable future (Barke
1986; Logsdon 1986). And as Light (1983) notes, the historical achievement
goal was extremely important to Nixon, a fact that almost certainly attenuated
his desire to completely terminate the space program.


Ford and Carter supported basic research and the completion of the
space shuttle, but were besieged by problems in energy policy and the
economy, thus limiting their attention (Katz 1978). Reagan was a self-
proclaimed space enthusiast, but most of his attention was lavished on the
military sector. His greatest contribution on the civilian side was his decision
to proceed with the space station program, announced with great fanfare in
his 1984 State of the Union address. In hindsight, however, this didn't turn
out the way Reagan planned, so his place in space history is by no means

George Bush was perceived as lacking vision and leadership in civil
space activities despite his support for the Space Exploration Initiative. He
delegated space leadership to Vice-President Dan Quayle, a move that many
interpreted as a token appointment where Quayle could bolster his reputation
in a visible policy area. Unfortunately, Quayle had no specialized knowledge
of space policy, never having dealt with it directly during his time in
Bill Clinton also chose to delegate most space policy leadership to his
vice president, but in sharp contrast to Quayle, Albert Gore was a long-time
practitioner of space policy in the Senate, including a stint as chair of NASA's
authorization subcommittee. Space issues have been low on the Clinton
administration's agenda; the most significant one was a major restructuring
of the space station program in 1993 (discussed below). Since then, most of the
White House attention directed toward the space agency has concerned its
participation in the administration's "reinventing government" movement.
This continues to be an arduous exercise, but Vice-President Gore nonetheless
holds up NASA as an example of how it can be done (Tucci 1993).

Formal Advisory Mechanisms for Space
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (NAS Act) mandated
that an advisory group on aeronautics and space be set up with direct access to
the president. The council, made up of representatives from government,
business, and academia, was very active in the Kennedy administration, but
its influence gradually diminished until President Nixon abolished the

group, along with the rest of the science advisor's office, deeming them no
longer necessary. The White House was without a space advisory group until
the Carter years, when the job was undertaken within the office of the science
advisor, which itself was reinstated late in the Ford administration (Katz
1978). The Reagan administration felt that the space advisory task would be
better served by a sub-group of the National Security Council, but what
emerged was considered unsatisfactory, even detrimental, by many observers.
Established in 1982, it was called the Senior Interagency Group for Space (SIG-

Table 2: Reagan's Senior Interagency Group for Space

Chair: Representative of National Security Council

Voting representatives from:

Department of Defense Central Intelligence Agency
Department of State Arms Control & Disarmament Agency
Department of Commerce Department of Transportation
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Non-voting representatives from:

Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of Management and Budget

Senior Interagency Groups were part of the White House advisory
establishment set up by the Reagan administration. Representatives from
relevant federal agencies were assembled to deal with a particular set of
concerns, in this case civil and military space issues. Unlike the original space
council, SIG-Space had no voting members from outside the federal
government. Coupled with the fact that the members did not have
bureaucratic decision-making authority (i.e., they weren't agency heads), the
result was unending turf battles with each agency seeking to maximize its
piece of the space pie (McCurdy 1993).
Another difference from the original space council was the level of
access to the president. Rather than reporting directly to the chief executive,
the chair of SIG-Space was required to filter everything through the National
Security Council, at which point it could be changed or even discarded before
reaching the president. Many policy directives that survived the process were
then classified, making the policies' details, and the process by which they
were decided, unavailable to the wider community (McCurdy 1993).
Concerned members of Congress never liked SIG-Space. They saw it as
unproductive, sometimes counter-productive, and often secretive, a poor
substitute for the space council originally created under the NAS Act. Year
after year, the NASA authorization committees tried to coax President
Reagan to replace SIG-Space with a new space council, but he resisted
vehemently. One year NASA didn't have an authorization bill because
Reagan vetoed it solely due to an amendment requiring the reinstatement of
the space council (Day 1995).
When George Bush entered office, he was more receptive to Congress's
demand than Reagan had been. Resurrection of the space council was one of
Bush's campaign promises, which he carried out in April 1989. The council

was set up to cover the full range of civil, military, and commercial space
issues (White House 1989a). By this time, space commerce had become
recognized as a separate and critical sector of U.S. space activities (White
House 1989b).
As can be seen from the list of members in Table 3, the NSpC (so
abbreviated to distinguish it from the National Security Council) consisted
mostly of Cabinet members and White House officials. The Vice President, as
chairman, provided a direct link to the President that had been lacking for
over 20 years. In addition to those shown on the list, the chairman could
request the participation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or any
other administration or agency official deemed necessary.

Table 3: Bush's National Space Council

Chair: Vice President

Secretary of Defense National Security Advisor
Secretary of State President's Chief of Staff
Secretary of Commerce President's Science Advisor
Secretary of Transportation Director of Central Intelligence
Secretary of the Treasury Director of OMB
Secretary of Energy Administrator of NASA

Also as appropriate:

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Other agency and White House officials

The NSpC deviated from the original space council (and was similar to
SIG-Space) in that it had no members from industry or academia. These
segments of the space community were represented in ad-hoc committees
that the council established from time to time, such as the Advisory

Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program (the Augustine
committee) and the Synthesis Group (the Stafford committee), and in a
permanent advisory committee of over 30 members that never initiated any
substantive activity.
Of course, there were questions in the minds of everyone in the space
community about the efficiency and effectiveness of the new NSpC. Would
the Cabinet-level membership and the direct line to the president yield
quicker, better decision-making? Or would the principal members habitually
send substitutes to meetings, causing the council to become little more than
SIG-Space with a face lift?
Events early in the space council's existence seemed to indicate that it
was ready and willing to take action. It was credited with "saving" two
programs in its first four months: the Landsat remote sensing satellite (which
was running out of funds for operations) and the National Aerospace Plane
(which some opponents thought was impossible and others saw as a threat to
their own programs) (Day 1995). During the same time period, in the wake of
celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11, the space
council latched onto what would become the focus--some would say
obsession-of its civil space policy: the Space Exploration Initiative. At a time
when NASA was enduring nightmarish budget battles to keep its space
station alive amidst increasing deficits, the White House began pushing for a
return to the Moon in the next fifteen years and human exploration of Mars
early in the next century (Bush 1989).
The space council eventually did fall into many of the same habits that
plagued SIG-Space, causing many in Congress who pushed for its creation to
express dismay with the advisory group and call for reforms in its personnel
and operating practices. But the council did not survive into the Clinton

administration. Instead, it became a casualty of the new president's promise to
streamline the White House bureaucracy. This surprised many in the
community, because a tradition going back to the Kennedy-Johnson years
would have put Vice President Al Gore in charge of the council. Gore's
committee work in the Senate and his personal interests have made him the
most space-savvy vice president since Lyndon Johnson, so he was expected to
be the energetic leader of an active council. Instead, the council was replaced
by a small staff contingent attached to the science advisor's office, which also
had absorbed the former Federal Coordinating Council for Science,
Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET). Gore, however, continued to move
aggressively on his own, as evinced by his work on Russian space cooperation
and other space-related projects (Lawler 1993c).
President Clinton has no formal advisory mechanism dedicated
exclusively to space policy, although the National Science and Technology
Council formed in November 1993 includes space in its purview. Clinton has
relied heavily on the advice and efforts of NASA Administrator Daniel
Goldin, a Bush appointee who initiated a lengthy process of agency
restructuring that is expected to continue throughout the 1990s. The only
visible, direct involvement in NASA's core programs by either Clinton or
Gore has been the redirection of the space station program to allow for full
partnership with the Russians, a development that is discussed in more detail

Ad Hoc Advice From "Blue-Ribbon" Panels
The previous discussion revealed that formal mechanisms for
providing space-related advice to the president have been in flux for the past
two decades, and that none of the various incarnations of advisory groups

have proven to be effective. But a number of specially appointed groups with
short-term mandates for space policy formulation have come and gone in
recent years.
Since the mid-1980s, the space community has produced a plethora of
reports which were intended to guide U.S. civil space efforts over the coming
decades. These studies, conducted both inside and outside of NASA, include
several general treatments of space policy and technological development as
well as dozens of more specific analyses of topics such as space science
priorities, space station missions and designs, and anticipated launch
requirements. Four reports are examined here, all released between 1986 and
1991 and intended to be highly visible efforts to set the course for future civil
space activities. Sponsorship of the reports varied, but in each case the intent
was to suggest initiatives that could be championed by the president.
Advisory groups proposing plans that span decades admittedly have a
difficult job. They must formulate a Grand Vision and then somehow present
it as a Practical Plan. Leaning too much toward the Vision will earn accolades
for boldness, but drawing praise is not the same as influencing policy. Vague
missions and ill-defined resource requirements ignore questions of political
feasibility and discourage definitive action. On the other hand, an approach
that is too much of a Practical Plan is seen as unimaginative, and its demands
for resources on a specific timetable are sure to be perceived as a threat by
opposing interest groups.
Attempts to balance these considerations are often complicated further
by the political motivations of a study group's sponsors. Advisory committees
are made up of experts who are often chosen for their unswerving support for
the sponsor's point of view or their tendency to follow the prevailing political
trend. This sometimes results in two or more equally authoritative reports on

the same topic that have contradictory conclusions and recommendations.3
Personal biases, vested interests, and perceived threats can stack the deck in
such a way that the community often can accurately predict the content of the
final report as soon as the committee members are appointed.
The policy environment at the time of a report's release is also a critical
factor in how it will be received and acted upon. Baumgartner and Jones
(1993) have noted that enthusiasm and criticism lead to opposite institutional
responses toward policies and programs. An atmosphere of enthusiasm
favors delegation of power to experts and possibly the creation of institutions
and subsystems. On the other hand, an atmosphere of criticism tends to favor
detailed policy-making within specialized policy communities, ultimately
resulting in the destruction or dilution of policy institutions or subsystems (p.
84). The reports discussed below were produced within the post-Challenger
atmosphere of criticism, at a time when the civil space program's policy
image was at a low point among elites and much of the public. Regardless of
the specific recommendations of the space experts on these panels, the policy
image's tone (as Baumgartner and Jones call it) in the community at the time
did not favor receptivity to new ideas. This hindered presidential motivation
to respond in substantive ways. Changes in the policy venue would be
inevitable if major recommendations were enacted, and the expansion of the

3 For an example in the space policy arena, see the recommendations in
Industrial Applications of the Microgravity Environment (NRC 1988,
pp. 4-10). Contrast these with the recommendations in Report of the
Committee on a Commercially Developed Space Facility (NRC 1989,
pp. 1-4). Despite the fact that the two studies were released by the same
agency just a year apart, the recommendations were contradictory. The
former study was requested by NASA's Office of Space Science and
Applications, the latter by NASA administrator James Fletcher, who
vehemently opposed a commercial space facility.

scope of debate would likely produce conflict among the president's goals of
reelection, policy-making, and historical achievement.
Rhetoric vs. Reality
Two of the studies considered here were inspired by President George
Bush's July 20, 1989 "Vision" speech commemorating the twentieth
anniversary of Apollo 11. Some analysts have attempted to draw a parallel
between this speech and President John F. Kennedy's address to a joint
session of Congress in May 1961, which set the stage for the Apollo program.
Too much is made of this comparison, however. The circumstances under
which the speeches were delivered were vastly different.
Kennedy's motivation was a Cold War threat. In Bush's case, however,
the U.S. was not trying to beat an adversary, but rather to explore its potential
as a scientific, technological, and economic leader. While this new
motivation may be morally and intellectually superior to the old one, it
presents some difficult political challenges.
Politically, the Apollo program was a success. It accomplished what it
set out to do: assert the technological superiority of Western culture in a
dramatic and highly visible way. In the process, it boosted space science,
technology, and the U.S. economy. But the Kennedy administration, the
Congress, and to a large extent the American people had no intention of
buying into an ongoing program of space stations, interplanetary journeys,
and the like (Logsdon 1986). The legacy that Apollo left behind did not
constitute a complete space infrastructure: a few launch pads and tracking
stations, and an understaffed, underfunded research and development
A generation ago, almost all space projects had a definite beginning and
ending. Politically, this was relatively easy to deal with. Developments since

that time have produced programs that involve ongoing operations, such as
the space shuttle and the space station. Unlike communications and weather
satellites, these programs don't have obvious homes outside of the R&D
agency that created them. Political complexity and the need for long-term
commitment have increased significantly, while the fiscal backdrop has
become one of federal budget deficits and slow economic growth. These are
the contemporary challenges that were faced in the following studies:

Pioneering the Space Frontier by the National Commission on Space
(NCOS 1986)

Leadership and America's Future in Space by Dr. Sally K. Ride (Ride

Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space
Program (Augustine 1990)

America at the Threshold: America's Space Exploration Initiative by
the White House National Space Council's Synthesis Group (1991)

Unlike most government studies, each of these reports was widely
anticipated throughout the community well before its release. Millions of
dollars and the efforts of many capable people were expended on these
reports, yet once the initial flurry of attention faded away, they became little
more than a source of authoritative quotes for politicians and space policy
Essentially, these studies share a common audience (the president and
the Congress) and seem to share a common goal, yet the only characteristics
they all demonstrate are a fixation on human missions to Mars and an
understandable inability to predict what this would cost. Each study was
conceived differently and was guided by its own set of simplifying

assumptions, either externally or internally imposed. These conditions
defined much of the outcome.
The NCOS Report
The National Commission on Space had a rather complicated
gestation: mandated by the U.S. Congress but appointed by President Reagan,
it reported to NASA, which provided its funding. As one would expect of an
agency that had much to gain or lose, NASA tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to
influence the content of the report.4 For its part, the White House didn't
appreciate being told what to do by the Congress. The only significant policy
directive to emerge from the Oval Office that was related to the report's
recommendations came nearly two years later (White House 1988) and was
deemed too little, too late by most analysts, since the Reagan administration
would be leaving office less than a year later.
The task assigned to the NCOS in 1985 was to construct a plan for the
next 50 years of U.S. civil space activity. It did so by outlining major steps in
infrastructure development and recommending concurrent efforts in the
civil and commercial sectors (NCOS 1986, 145-148). The plan could be paid for,
according to the Commission, by a percentage of the Gross National Product
equal to less than half the peak Apollo rate, assuming annual GNP growth of
2.4% for the 50-year period, and assuming the commitment would be
maintained for that long (pp. 189-191).
When the NCOS was established, it was instructed, to the chagrin of
many of its members, to assume that NASA's space station program would be
carried out as planned, thus prohibiting the Commission from debating the

4 Personal communication with David Webb, member of the National
Commission on Space, Sept. 18, 1991.

station's merits or configuration.5 This would seem to be a heroic
assumption, considering the fact that the already controversial station was
still in its preliminary design phase. One would think that the Commission
should have had some say in space station design concepts and mission
planning, since the station would be a vital piece of infrastructure throughout
most of the 50-year timeframe of the study. Since the NCOS study began, the
station has undergone five major and countless minor changes independent
of Commission's influence.
The Ride Report
The Ride report followed quickly on the heels of the NCOS report,
serving as NASA's internal response to that study. This effort had its own set
of ground rules, the first of which was the following:

The initiatives [described in the Ride report] should be
considered in addition to currently planned NASA programs.
They were not judged against, nor would they supplant, existing
programs. (Ride 1987, 22) [Emphasis in original]
This not only takes the space station as a given, but an assortment of
other programs as well. Increasing NASA budgets are obviously expected, the
magnitude of which would depend on the mix of programs chosen from the
study's four initiatives. The only analysis of funding requirements provided
in the report estimated the relative size, not the dollar amounts, of the
specific commitment to each scenario, with the remainder of NASA's budget
removed from the calculations (pp. 45-47).
The Humans to Mars scenario in the Ride report apparently was
predestined, since the following was also listed as one of the ground rules
established at the outset of the study:

5 Webb, loc. cit.

The Humans to Mars initiative should be assumed to be an
American venture. It was beyond the scope of this work to
consider joint U.S./Soviet human exploration. (p. 22)
Simplifying assumptions like this one are often necessary given the
limits on time and resources. But the "beyond the scope" disclaimer causes
one to wonder how and when the more difficult and detailed aspects of
proposed projects will be adequately evaluated before the projects are begun.
The Synthesis Group Report
The Synthesis Group was expected to provide a more detailed
assessment, at least with regard to lunar and Mars mission scenarios. As in
the Ride report, four scenarios were presented. But unlike Ride's approach, all
four described different ways of doing the same thing: human missions to the
Moon and Mars. The Synthesis Group's approach was driven by comments
made by President George Bush in his July 1989 speech in which he stated that
the U.S. would go back to the Moon and on to Mars (Bush 1989). The Group
didn't have the luxury of developing a scenario that excluded Mars mission
planning, such as the possibility of devoting human space exploration efforts
solely to the Moon for the next two decades. Had the Group been instructed to
study the questions of "what, why, and when," instead of just "how," its
findings may have been quite different.
Of the four groups considered here, the Synthesis Group was the only
one that did not report directly to the NASA leadership, primarily because it
was chartered by the National Space Council to seek out ideas other than
NASA's. The Group was formed in the aftermath of an internal 90-day study
at NASA, which offered the space agency's response to Bush's Apollo
anniversary speech and supplied the initial conceptualization of the Space
Exploration Initiative. NASA's 90-day study, delivered to the White House in
November 1989, clearly showed the space agency's mission-oriented

character. Robotic precursor missions to Mars, for example, were described in
some detail, while the Moon was treated as merely a way-station on the road
to Mars (NASA 1989). Vice-President Dan Quayle, head of the National Space
Council, was dissatisfied with NASA's recommendations and sought wider
participation in planning the ambitious programs. The Vice President was
interested in faster, more cost-effective methods of performing the missions
(Fisher & Lawler 1989). The Synthesis Group became the clearinghouse for
suggestions from around the community on technical approaches to various
aspects of the programs.
Evidently, the "what, why, and when" questions were thought to have
been answered before the Synthesis Group began writing its report, which
included a sales pitch to convince the reader of the validity of its assumptions
(Synthesis Group 1991, 12-15). The question of "how much" was not
addressed, since cost issues were, not surprisingly, beyond the scope of this
The Augustine Report
The Augustine panel, named for its chairman Norm Augustine of
Martin Marietta Corp., was given a broad mandate to answer the "what, why,
and when" questions, and to an extent the "how" questions, but was given
only 120 days to do so (Augustine 1990). The panel's approach appears to have
been driven by a desire to make a difference in U.S. space policy without
displeasing the panel's sponsor, NASA. Contrary to the expectations of some,
the Augustine report contained nothing significantly disruptive to the status
quo, such as splitting the agency into separate research and operations
entities, or radically changing the way field centers are managed. Instead, it
called for higher priority for space science missions, the development of a
new heavy-lift launch vehicle, and a funding increase of 10% per year over

the decade of the 1990s. The U.S. Congress either rejected or ignored these
recommendations just a few short months later, denying the level of support
that the Bush administration requested for fiscal year 1992 and raiding space
science programs to pay for the space station (Brunner 1994).
There was some confusion surrounding the origin of the Augustine
panel, which was envisioned by the National Space Council in mid-1990.
Instead of reporting to the Council as first expected, the panel was made
responsible to the NASA administrator (Lawler 1990a; 1990b). This shift in
oversight occurred suddenly, possibly because NASA reacted to a perceived
threat to its bureaucratic existence and sought to co-opt the perpetrator. The
strategy seems to have worked, because the only apparent response to the
Augustine panel's recommendations was some token reshuffling of
management duties at NASA headquarters.
The Importance of Timing
The circumstances under which an advisory report is delivered can
maximize or minimize its impact, whether through accident or design. The
NCOS report was released within a couple of weeks of the Rogers
Commission (1986) report on the Challenger accident, which took the
spotlight and set the tone for the community at that time. The Ride report
came out in 1987 in time for the congressional August recess, at which time
NASA's top agenda item was getting its budget, and especially the space
station, through the last critical phase of the annual budget cycle. The
Augustine report appeared just before Christmas 1990 as Congress was
ordering NASA to once again shrink the space station design. And the
Synthesis Group report, which made minimal mention of the space station,
arrived in spring 1991, just before the House Appropriations Committee

recommended cancelling the station, possibly interpreting the Group's
cursory treatment of that program to be supportive of this position.
All of these reports had little impact due to prevailing circumstances.
Some of these circumstances were beyond the control of the study panels and
their sponsors, but many were not. While they may have pleased their
sponsors when they were released, these reports were not the vehicles by
which a constituency for space goals could be built.
Assessment of the "Blue-Ribbon" Panels
The studies reviewed here had as their goal the reshaping of space
policy, but they failed because they behaved as though they were operating in
an atmosphere of enthusiasm when in fact it was one of criticism. By this
time, the policy community had been taking an incremental approach to civil
space issues for many years, and was not prepared to dramatically change
course and welcome the advice of these expert panels.
Compounding the problem of a poor political environment, the
experts had skipped important steps. "How to" reports should follow
definitive "what" and "why" directives. Only the National Commission on
Space seems to have taken this into consideration (NCOS 1986, 3-21), but the
group was disbanded before adequate support among policy-makers had taken
The "blue-ribbon" panels made assumptions, either expressed or
implied, that policy-makers, and many of their constituents, later refused to
accept. This resulted in attempts to answer some of the wrong questions. For
example, devising methods to put a crew on the surface of Mars for a 600-day
stay (Synthesis Group 1991) is an interesting exercise, but it has no political
value until someone figures out what that crew will do for those 600 days that
is important to national or global interests. Unsubstantiated claims of spinoff

benefits ("it will boost education and the economy") are met with great
skepticism when they are professed by panels made up largely of engineers,
astronauts, and aerospace company executives, who have a vested interest in
selling their plan. Policy-makers need to be convinced of these benefits, as do
constituents who seek a more substantial rationale than "It's our destiny."
Permanent committees, such as those associated with the NASA
Advisory Council, are more valuable to the space program in the long run
even though they are much less visible than the blue-ribbon panels and do
not report directly to the president. The membership is committed for more
than just a few months, and there are more opportunities and established
channels for following-up on recommendations. Proper utilization of this
existing advisory structure can be vastly more productive than ad hoc groups,
but the existing structure is not set up to provide optimum support to the

Critical Post-Apollo Decisions Facing the Presidency
Logsdon (1970) saw three factors as critical to making and carrying out
decisions of the scope of Apollo: knowledge of the technical feasibility of an
objective at the time a decision is made; a history of political debate on the
objective, allowing support coalitions to form and opponents to be identified;
and an open window of opportunity, possibly sparked by a crisis, that
temporarily increases the political feasibility of the objective (p. 181). These
factors, especially the opportunity factor, have also been discussed extensively
in the work of Kingdon (1989; 1994; 1995). They also have a kinship with
Neustadt's (1990) factors for promoting the ready execution of a presidential
order: it must be unambiguous and widely publicized; the president's

involvement must be apparent and his authority in the matter unchallenged;
and the people receiving the order must have the means to carry it out (p.18).
Logsdon's study of Apollo is mostly remembered for its emphasis on
the philosophies, personalities, and skills of the political leadership of the
time, but the three key decision-making criteria are more significant to the
current study. Logsdon found that the Apollo program was a success,
politically as well as technically, because it adhered to all three criteria. The
space shuttle, space station, and the ill-fated Space Exploration Initiative (SEI)
for human missions to the Moon and Mars, all experienced problems because
they violated one or more of the criteria, as described below. As a result, goals
have been poorly defined and support coalitions have been fragile despite the
need for stability over the long term.
The first criterion is knowledge of the technical feasibility of an
objective at the time a decision is made. All three projects more or less
fulfilled this requirement. Reusable space vehicles, orbiting space stations,
and human excursions to Mars were the subjects of numerous technical
studies for years, and in the latter two cases decades, before the decisions were
at hand. Despite its long history of technical study, SEI was the least prepared
of the three, because as the knowledge base expanded so did the recognition of
unforeseen hurdles and the desire to evolve toward more sophisticated
mission plans. The shuttle could be viewed as technically the best-prepared
project, but it faced a definition problem: technical feasibility of what
objective? If the objective was manned orbital flight with a reusable
spacecraft, then the technical path was clear, but if the objective included low
cost, economic payback, and a specific flight rate, then the technical approach
was not so well defined.


The second criterion is a history of political debate on the objective,
allowing support coalitions to form and opponents to be identified. Once
again the shuttle is the strongest adherent to this criterion, with about three
years of political debate in both the administration and Congress having
preceded the implementation decision. Space station discussions, during an
equivalent amount of time prior to receiving the president's blessing,
centered on NASA's lobbying for the support of other administration
officials. Winning over the Congress was put off until after the president's go-
ahead, and has proven difficult and unending, as evinced by the space
agency's annual budget battles. In the case of SEI, debate outside of the space
community was virtually nonexistent, guaranteeing a hard sell in the policy-
making community, especially the opposition Congress.
The last of Logsdon's criteria is an open window of opportunity,
possibly sparked by a crisis, that temporarily increases the political feasibility
of the objective. None of the three post-Apollo programs satisfy this criterion
on anything like the scale that was present for the Kennedy decision in 1961.
Unlike the Apollo era, no Soviet challenge or other national security threat
could be directly linked to any of these projects at the time of their initiation.
The shuttle was designed with some military uses in mind, but defense
planners saw it more as a convenience than an essential system. When space
station proponents sensed an opening with a favorably disposed president,
some policy-makers and bureaucrats tried to frame it as a response to the
Soviet space station program (Fletcher Group 1982), although this view did
not gain wide acceptance. Later, when the Russians joined the U.S. program
as full partners, the foreign relations aspects of the station became prominent
in political rhetoric, but still failed to provide an overarching rationalization
for an investment of such magnitude. As for SEI, a president who was

criticized for lack of vision used the proposed program to show that he was a
visionary, justifying the undertaking by its potential to inspire the nation's
youth, stimulate the education system, and create beneficial technological
In political terms, all three projects were examples of incrementalism
rather than bold steps forward. The shuttle, in particular, came at a time
when the window of opportunity for civil space projects was closing, not
opening, and needed something to keep it from slamming shut.
Space Shuttle Development
A reusable spacecraft was envisioned in the late 1960s as the next step
in manned spaceflight, a step that would reduce costs while increasing the
frequency of flights. Many outside the space community, and even some
inside it, were not convinced of this logic.
With Apollo winding down in the early 1970s, the space agency was in
bureaucratic survival mode and found itself forced to accept an unsatisfactory
situation. The shuttle, intended to be a space truck, would also have to
function as a laboratory, since none would be waiting for it when it arrived
on orbit. Worse yet, the shuttle-clearly an experimental vehicle that would
be orders of magnitude more complex than Apollo capsules-would be
required to pay its way by showing economic returns. This was the first time
the space agency had been subjected to cost-effectiveness criteria in one of its
programs (Logsdon 1986). The only way NASA saw to achieve this was by
promising the eventual elimination of the entire U.S. expendable launch
vehicle (ELV) fleet. Shuttles supposedly would carry all civil, military, and
commercial payloads, and for a fraction of the cost of ELVs.
The shuttle design that was finally approved in 1972 was far different
from what NASA had hoped to build. The original plan was to create a

vehicle made up entirely of reusable components, build a fleet as large as was
deemed necessary, and conduct an estimated 50 to 60 flights per year.
Econometric studies funded by NASA projected annual savings in launch
costs, compared to ELVs, of over $10 billion once the fleet had been
operational for about 12 years (Grey 1979). NASA's reputation for delivering
on its promises, no matter how difficult the task, gave the agency confidence
that it would succeed, given the political and budgetary support to which it
had become accustomed.
Early designs included a two-stage approach similar in size to the
Saturn 5 moon rocket. The stages would be either stacked in the traditional
fashion or the second stage would ride piggyback on the first. But the most
unique aspect was that both stages sported wings to provide aerodynamic lift
for a gliding reentry and runway landing. The first stage, after separation,
would head back to a landing strip near the launch site, while the second
stage would continue into orbit, later to land aircraft-style after completing its
mission. Both stages would be piloted, and both would be reused. NASA
estimated development costs at approximately $15 billion over 10 years (Grey
Unfortunately for the space agency, its budget had been on a downward
trend since its peak in 1967, and little support existed for a change in that
trend in the Nixon White House or the Congress. NASA was informed that
the price tag was too high and the development schedule too long. OMB
staffers involved in the shuttle issue (with the notable exception of deputy
director Caspar Weinberger) were opposed to the project from the start,
seeking to further diminish the impact of space spending on the budget. With
technical assistance from a special review panel of the President's Science
Advisory Committee, OMB forced NASA to review an assortment of smaller

alternatives to the agency's preferred design. The alternatives came from a
variety of sources, but since all were filtered through the budget office NASA
managers complained about the OMB running its own shuttle design shop.
The eventual result was that the White House told NASA to complete the
project before the end of the 1970s with a total expenditure of no more than
$5.5 billion (later reduced to $5.15 billion by OMB), even though the chosen
configuration was one of the larger, partially reusable ones that NASA, with
input from the Defense Department, had proposed. The promise to eliminate
the ELV fleet while bringing down launch costs was still to be honored.
Despite an awareness that this was likely an impossible task, NASA agreed
(Logsdon 1986).
President Jimmy Carter wanted to reduce the planned number of
shuttle orbiters from five to three in 1978 when the program was facing delays
and cost overruns. Vice-President Walter Mondale, who as a senator had
been one of the prime actors in congressional attempts to deny approval for
the program, provided a strong negative influence over space-related
decision-making, including indirect influence through operatives within the
OMB. Salvation came through the intervention of a powerful ally, the
Department of Defense. For years, DoD had been told to design all of its
satellite payloads with shuttle deployment in mind. If the shuttle were
suddenly unavailable, the cost of redesigning spacecraft already in progress
would have been exorbitant, and the delays would pose a serious threat to
national security. Carter relented, but limited the program's procurement to
four orbiters (Trento 1987).
Less than three months after Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the
space shuttle made its first flight, and programmatic decisions at the White
House level appeared to be a thing of the past. But another high-level concern

would emerge in the wake of the 1986 Challenger accident: What policy
changes, if any, need to be made to get the shuttle program in particular, and
the space program in general, back on track? The accident would have
repercussions across many NASA programs, especially the space station. The
White House would have to decide whether a replacement orbiter would be
funded (at a cost of around $2 billion) and whether operational changes
would be mandated.
The directives handed down by the administration were not
surprising. First, a new orbiter would be requested, a move that the president
correctly surmised would receive support in Congress. Second, shuttle
payloads would be restricted to those requiring the unique capabilities of the
vehicle. That meant NASA could no longer sell shuttle launches to owners
of commercial communications satellites. National security payloads and
those having foreign policy implications would be the only exceptions. This
policy shift was one which many in the space community had been clamoring
for almost since the shuttle started flying (SBN 1986b).
The administration received high marks for its immediate
appointment of an investigative commission after the January 1986 accident.
The Rogers Commission delivered its report in June of that year. But
observers were dismayed that the new shuttle policies were not announced
until August. Many felt that the rather obvious steps eventually taken need
not have waited for the Commission's findings, and certainly should not
have taken seven months to emerge. The inefficiency of SIG-Space and
White House decision mechanisms are generally blamed for the delay (SBN
White House treatment of the shuttle program during the Bush
presidency was no smoother under the National Space Council. After the

release of the Synthesis Group report, Vice-President Quayle announced that
no additional shuttles would be built, except in the case of a loss in the
existing four-orbiter fleet. At the same time, NASA administrator and former
shuttle pilot Richard Truly had been pushing for a fifth orbiter (Day 1995).
This is one of many examples showing the inability of Bush's executive
branch to speak with one voice about space program priorities, even though
this is precisely what the Council was set up to ensure.
Space Station Development
NASA administrator James Beggs was committed to getting a "new
start" for the space station during his time as head of the space agency, which
began in 1981. Among other things, he was looking for an Apollo-type
announcement like the one John F. Kennedy made to the Congress twenty
years earlier, and by mid-1982 he thought he had just such an opportunity.
The fourth flight of the space shuttle Columbia was scheduled to return to
Earth on July 4, 1982, at which time the shuttle would be declared
"operational." President Reagan would be in attendance at the landing
festivities at Edwards Air Force Base in California to deliver a patriotic
Independence Day speech, which would also include the announcement of a
new national space policy. Beggs wanted the speech to include one additional
thing: a bold executive mandate for a permanently manned space station. But
his wish was not fulfilled at this event. By the time the speech-writers and the
rest of the White House staff had ironed out the final wording, all that
remained was a vague promise to strive for "a more permanent presence in
space." (Mark 1987) This did not amount to a bold mandate by any standards.
That would have to wait another year and a half.
Beggs pressed onward with contract awards for Phase A (feasibility
study and concept definition) of the space station, and began the formidable

task of coalition-building. To become part of the president's budget request,
the project would need the support of the Senior Interagency Group for Space
and key members of the Cabinet. To receive funding for Phase B (preliminary
design) and beyond, the coalition must be expanded-and maintained for a
considerable time-with a significant number of the members of Congress,
especially those in key positions.
In 1983, it was dear that support for the station was far from universal.
White House science advisor George Keyworth felt the idea was premature
because the mission of the facility was too poorly defined. More vocal protests
came from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who predicted a price-tag for
the project of $18 billion, which seemed high at the time but later turned out
to be an underestimate. Any investment on that scale, Weinberger claimed,
must provide substantial service to all of the nation's space activities, and he
saw no military utility in the facility (Mark 1987). Clearly, Weinberger feared
budget impacts on rapidly growing military satellite programs and on the
Strategic Defense Initiative, which had just been initiated that year.
Though his interests leaned heavily toward the military programs,
Ronald Reagan was more supportive of space activities than any president
since Lyndon Johnson. Despite negative feedback from some of his top
advisors, Reagan finally answered the prayers of NASA administrator Beggs
in his 1984 State of the Union speech: he directed NASA to begin work on a
permanently manned space station (McCurdy 1991). However, his call for
deployment of the station "within a decade," an attempt to emulate
Kennedy's history-making Apollo speech of 1961, would fall prey to the
collapse of consensus that made the political process of the 1980s so different
from that of the 1960s.

Nevertheless, the program had been initiated, with the additional
complication that Reagan had pledged to invite U.S. friends and allies to join
the project. This paved the way for the largest international scientific and
technological cooperative effort ever undertaken. Soon after Reagan's speech,
Beggs made the rounds of likely participants (Europe, Japan, and Canada) to
assess their interest, and upon returning reported to Secretary of State George
Schultz that all were eager to participate, provided the project was for peaceful
purposes only (Mark 1987).
Early 1987 brought an unexpected and largely unwelcome intrusion
into the multinational negotiating process: SIG-Space decided to become
involved. Motivated by the Defense Department's interest in possible use of
the space station, SIG-Space kept the negotiators on hold for a month while a
"statement of U.S. position" was drafted. This was intended to provide a back
door for defense-related research aboard the station, a move which displeased
many of the international partners (SBN 1987a).
Still at the helm of the Defense Department was Caspar Weinberger,
who had gone on record in 1983 as saying that the station had no military
utility. Despite this, he wrote a letter to Secretary of State George Schultz on
April 7 saying that the U.S. should go it alone. Predictably, negotiations with
the partners were halted again, this time awaiting the results of an April 16
meeting of the National Security Council, where Weinberger stated his case.
The other members of the NSC suggested that he would have to go to
President Reagan and ask that he renege on the invitation he had extended to
U.S. allies in his 1984 State of the Union address. At this point, Weinberger
backed down-for the moment (SBN 1987b).
Less than a month later, on May 8, Weinberger wrote another letter,
this time to the House Science and Technology Committee. It was delivered

to the committee one day prior to the scheduled markup of NASA's FY88
authorization bill. In it the defense secretary made thinly veiled attacks on
particular members of the committee who were supporting an amendment to
the bill that would prohibit any defense-related activity on the station. He
went so far as to accuse them of succumbing to "Soviet propaganda" (SBN
1987c). He later apologized to the committee for some of his remarks, having
stimulated some strong reactions (SBN 1987d).
The whole episode had the effect of delaying the markup of the NASA
authorization bill by over a month. One result was a requirement that the
Defense Department submit a report to the committee by January 1988
outlining any projects planned for the space station. When that report was
delivered by Frank Carlucci, the new Secretary of Defense, it was only seven
pages long and had no specific details. In effect, it said that the Pentagon
currently had no plans, but wanted to keep its options open for fulfilling
future requirements (Carlucci 1988).
Meanwhile, the first half of 1987 was a busy time for other aspects of
the station program. The release of the request for proposals (RFP) for Phase
C/D (final design/full-scale development) was set for February 3, but just
prior to that date NASA administrator James Fletcher gave testimony to a
Senate subcommittee that would change those plans. He stated that initial
operations of the station would be pushed back from 1994 to 1996 and that the
development cost had gone up from $8 billion to $13 billion. When the
revised figures, with estimates as high as $20 billion, were presented to the
OMB, the release of the RFP was postponed until a cost review could be
conducted by the White House. A new plan was issued two months later
(April 3) that was a compromise between Fletcher, OMB director James
Miller, science advisor William Graham, and national security advisor (soon

to be Secretary of Defense) Frank Carlucci. The space station design thus
experienced its first politically motivated reduction (Lawler & Vedda 1987).
The RPFs for Phase C/D were finally released April 24, with industry
responses due in July. But the space station had another hurdle to overcome
as a result of the White House compromise: the National Research Council,
the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, was given the task of
reviewing the program and reporting back to the White House by September
of that year. When the NRC report came out, it was a mixed blessing for the
space agency. It had some things that NASA liked, such as a recommendation
that the space station get multi-year appropriations. It also had some things
that NASA didn't like, such as a new cost estimate of $32 billion. NASA had
not included shuttle launch costs in its own estimates because, the agency
said, those costs belonged to a separate program, not to the station (NRC 1987).
Other input having a negative effect on the space station came from
the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program (the
Augustine committee), the blue-ribbon panel whose December 1990 report
placed space science missions-not the station-as NASA's number one
priority (Augustine 1990). Following on its heals was the report of the
National Space Council's Synthesis Group, which dealt with scenarios for
human missions to the Moon and Mars. It made only cursory mention of the
space station rather than identifying it as a critical element (Synthesis Group
1991). Prior to its release in May 1991, many suspected the Space Council of
withholding the long-awaited report so that its lack of enthusiasm for the
station wouldn't hinder that year's budget deliberations (Asker 1991).
The space station survived the Bush years despite the frequent debates
about its justification and long-term cost. The station's budget, both the
president's requests and the final appropriations, have been remarkably stable

since FY92 (see Table 4 in Chapter 3). The first year of the Clinton
administration, however, brought another major redesign and a shake-up in
the project's management. The incoming Clinton team determined that
station funding requirements in the years to come would not fit within the
expected NASA budget, so the agency was directed to conduct yet another
redesign effort to reduce costs of both development and operations. An ad-
hoc panel called the White House Advisory Committee on the Redesign of
the Space Station was convened to independently review NASA's efforts. By
June 1993, the agency's redesign team presented the White House with three
options.6 Clinton chose the middle-ground option, which was a modular,
scaled-down version of existing station blueprints (Mills 1993).
The redesign was not the only major adjustment that took shape that
year. Under the supervision of Vice-President Gore, the Russian Space
Agency was brought in as a full partner on the space station project, a move
that contributed to the administration's foreign policy goals but caused
additional complications for the program (Lawler 1993a). For example,
important aspects of the international agreements accepted five years earlier
by the station's other foreign partners would have to be reconsidered. In
hardware development, Russia's contributions would inevitably displace
those of other participants, including the U.S., on the recently downsized
station. That meant the possible loss of U.S. jobs in exchange for achievement
of a foreign policy objective that not everyone saw as valuable. Eventually,
even the planned orbital inclination (angle of the orbit's path relative to the
equator) was changed to accommodate the Russians' launch sites, thereby

6 NASA Headquarters Public Affairs, press release 93-104, June 4, 1993.


reducing the size of payloads that the U.S. shuttle would be able to carry from
its own launch sites to this less-convenient orbit (Lawler 1993b).
Currently, scientific and technical justifications for the space station get
lost in debates over the relative importance of achieving foreign policy goals
(emphasized by the White House) and maintaining U.S. jobs (preferred by the
Congress). Flight hardware is finally being produced and on-orbit assembly
schedules have held firm longer than has typically been the case for the
program, but the station's political coalition remains fragile as NASA's budget
slowly shrinks. If any of the international partners decide to terminate or
significantly reduce their contributions to the project-and all but Japan have
shown signs of wavering in the past two years (Knapp 1994; DeSelding
1995)-the political coalition could be irreparably damaged.
Beyond the initiation of the space station program, presidential
involvement, when it has been present at all, has been in the form of damage
control. The White House tolerated attacks on the program from senior
administration officials such as the Secretary of Defense, oversaw downsizing
of the project in 1987 and 1993, and passively witnessed downsizing efforts in
the space agency and the Congress in 1989 and 1991. Despite favorable
rhetoric, the troubled space station has become a liability to presidents
concerned with annual budget deficits.
The Space Exploration Initiative
Presidential enthusiasm is a necessary but not sufficient element in the
success of space projects. It doesn't guarantee a high probability of political
acceptance. As discussed earlier with regard to the Synthesis Group report,
George Bush used his speech at the ceremony for the twentieth anniversary
of Apollo 11 to generate interest in a return to the Moon and a human
expedition to Mars by early in the next century (Bush 1989). He even backed it

up with sizable requests for start-up funding, and had Dan Quayle and the
National Space Council devote the bulk of their efforts to promoting the
concept. It all fell on deaf ears in Congress, which granted only token

appropriations for preliminary studies. Even that meager funding dried up by
1993 (Day 1995).
The primary reason for the failure of SEI was that virtually no one
outside the immediate benefactors in the space community was willing to
commit to a decades-long project of this magnitude in the existing budget
climate. The 90-day study that NASA performed as a follow-up to the
president's announcement was a long wish-list of programs that had been
waiting for a window of opportunity for many years (NASA 1989). But NASA
managers misjudged how much the window had opened; it had lifted just a
tiny crack, not all the way (see Kingdon 1995). Thirty-year cost projections in
the range of $300 billion to $400 billion were enough to turn SEI from a bold
vision into an embarrassment for the president.
This embarrassment was only part of the reason why the president's
enthusiasm for SEI was short-lived. Day (1995) suggests that Bush was a space
advocate in the same sense that he was the "environmental president" or the
"education president." After the initial rhetoric, he never again intervened
on behalf of the program. Perhaps his support for the venture had been weak
from the beginning, or perhaps he decided it wasn't worth investing time and
effort in something which may not show results until 30 years hence.
The work of promoting SEI was left to the National Space Council, but
its actions proved to be divisive rather than unifying. The Council's
immediate rejection of NASA's 90-day study, and its initiation of the
Synthesis Group effort to solicit cheaper alternatives from outside the space
agency, alienated those inside the agency. NASA Administrator Richard


Truly, who wanted the agency to stay focused on the shuttle and space station,
openly expressed his disdain for SEI, further complicating the relationship
with the Council. This friction between Truly and the Council eventually led
to Truly's termination as administrator in early 1992 (Day 1995).
The Council's relationship with Congress was no better. More precisely,
the NSpC staff and congressional staffers were not communicating very well,
much less cooperating. Concerned congress-members came to view the
Council, which the legislature had eagerly endorsed just a short time earlier,
as a means of wresting control of space policy from the Congress and NASA
and consolidating it in the White House. Members began to call for more
access to the inner workings of the Council and Senate confirmation of its
executive secretary (Day 1995).
It is quite likely that the Space Exploration Initiative never had a
chance in the fiscal climate of the 1990s. However, numerous other missteps
such as presidential neglect and conflict between the branches insured that
the program would not build the coalition it needed to succeed.
Fundamental Changes
Having reviewed the three major post-Apollo programs involving
presidential initiative-shuttle, space station, and SEI-it is evident that each
failed in some way to conform to the three decision criteria put forth by
Logsdon (1970) as the keys to Apollo's political success. Fundamental aspects
of the political environment for civilian space activities changed between the
Apollo decision and the decisions that followed. During the Kennedy years,
the national interest and the space program's contribution to it were shaped
by an expansive drive, a sense of destiny, and unified opposition to the spread
of communism. Apollo was a strategic program that the president used
decisively to further those interests. Since that time, the American world

view has been changing, and this has accelerated since the end of the Cold
War. Some would have the American world view become more isolationist.
In any event, civilian space efforts have become decoupled from U.S. national
interests, recasting them as domestic politics rather than strategic programs
and removing much of the incentive for direct presidential involvement.
The essential unanswered question of the civilian space program for the past
25 years has been: What are U.S. national interests, and what is the space
program's link to them? Finding the answer is made more difficult by the fact
that it is undoubtedly a moving target.



Parties and Ideologies
Prior to 1995, the entire history of the U.S. space effort took place under
Democratic Congresses. Throughout this period, the space program had been
looked upon as a bipartisan effort, even though Democratic voters are
statistically more likely to question the value of the space program and
Republican voters are more likely to support it (Fries 1992). Civilian space
projects have never been significant campaign issues, and there has been little
in the way of organized efforts by the parties to take sides. As a result, there
has been little incentive for the attentive public (other than active members
of the space community) to get involved in the process (Miller 1994).
With the new Republican majority in Congress, and many domestic
spending programs facing threats of severe cuts, it cannot be assumed that the
Republicans' traditionally strong support for the space program will continue
automatically (lannotta 1994b; Byerly & Pielke 1995). Also, the large number
of new congressmembers elected in 1994 may have little concern, regardless of
party, for the health of U.S. space efforts as they direct their attention toward
budget-cutting (Weaver & Rockman 1993; lannotta 1995).
There is a clear ideological difference between the parties in the details
of S&T policy, if not the overall picture. Applied research-that which seeks
to develop new products and processes for an identified user community-is

seen by liberals as an appropriate area for government involvement and by
conservatives as a private-sector responsibility. Since World War II, both
sides have acknowledged that basic research-that which is done for the sake
of new knowledge, not practical applications-is worthy of government
support because of its strategic importance to the nation and industry's
tendency to underinvest in it (Barke 1986; Katz 1978). Despite the apparent
agreement in the basic research sector, the Democrats' enthusiasm for
government funding of applied research has led Republicans to portray
themselves as superior patrons of basic science, especially in a zero-sum game
of constrained budgets. Not surprisingly, Democrats are quick to question this
portrayal (Brown 1995).
The Evolving Institution
Congressional attention to space policy, and S&T policy in general, was
elevated to a high priority after the October 1957 launch of Sputnik 1. Today's
House Science Committee started out as the Select Committee on Science and
Astronautics in 1958 and became a permanent committee the following year.
Expansion of the Committee's jurisdiction to include aviation, energy, and
environmental research relegated space to a subcommittee in 1975. A similar
evolution took place in what is now the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation, which shifted NASA authorization and
oversight to the subcommittee level in 1977 (Hechler 1982).
Institutional change in the legislature during the post-Apollo era has
been at least as significant as in the presidency. This section of the study
discusses specific changes as they affect the space program, in particular the
space shuttle and space station programs.

The Space Shuttle and Post-Apollo Incrementalism
Throughout the Apollo years, many congressmembers, especially
Senate Democrats, resented the attention and budgetary priority that the space
program received, but found there was little they could do to restrain the
politically popular moon program. But soon after the first moon landing,
public support for space spending began to drop and attention turned to other
priorities such as the Vietnam war, civil unrest, and the economy. Space
opponents took the opportunity to put up roadblocks to prevent large new
space ventures from being initiated (Grey 1979).
The Senate opponents, led by Walter Mondale (D-MN) and William
Proxmire (D-WI), found many allies, sometimes in surprising places. In the
House, they found sympathy from Joseph Karth (D-MN), the chairman of the
Space Science and Applications subcommittee of the House Committee on
Science and Astronautics. Karth was disturbed because NASA's post-Apollo
shuttle/station plans were leading to delays and displacement of science and
applications projects under the purview of his subcommittee. With the moon
program nearly ended, Karth sought to strike a new balance between manned
and unmanned space efforts. He received considerable support from
prominent members of the space science community, who had lamented
throughout the Apollo years that they were not receiving their fair share, and
saw NASA's latest human spaceflight plans as perpetuating this sorry state of
affairs. In 1970, Karth was unable to convince the full space committee to
eliminate the shuttle/station funding from the authorization bill, so he
proposed an amendment to do so on the floor of the House, which ended in a
tie vote (Grey 1979).
Karth's near-victory emboldened the Senate opposition to use similar
tactics on the Senate floor. Mondale reinforced his position by pointing out

the Air Force's lukewarm support of the shuttle. One of the shuttle's main
selling points was its utility in carrying critical defense payloads into orbit,
cheaply and on-demand. But the Defense Department was not willing to put
any money into shuttle development since the Air Force already had a stable
of proven expendable launch vehicles to handle its projected payloads. If
NASA succeeded in building a space shuttle-with several major design
parameters specified by the Air Force-the military would use it, but if NASA
failed to produce the vehicle, the Air Force would not seek funding to build
its own. Mondale portrayed this attitude as seriously undermining the
justification for the shuttle (Grey 1979).
The Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee was solidly
behind the shuttle, and its staff carried out a strenuous lobbying campaign to
save the project, which Mondale challenged on three opportunities in 1970.
He proposed amendments to both the authorization and appropriations bills
on the floor, and made another attempt when the appropriations bill had to
be reconsidered after an unrelated Nixon veto. In the first two cases,
Mondale's amendment was rejected 29-56 and 28-32, and in the third case a
motion to table his amendment passed 50-26 (Grey 1979).
Undeterred, Mondale tried again on authorization votes in 1971 and
1972, but was defeated both times by even larger margins. By this time, Karth
in the House had softened his anti-shuttle attitude, and space committee
staffers in the Senate had become even more adept at countering opposition
arguments. Grey (1979) speculates that another factor may have been the
demise of two other big high-tech projects in 1971, the Anti-Ballistic Missile
system and the Supersonic Transport aircraft. Democratic members may have
felt that voting against these two projects had satisfied liberal/anti-technology

constituents, so a vote in favor of the shuttle would balance this by catering to
the pro-technology public.
During this period, the Congress successfully expressed its skepticism
about ambitious new human spaceflight programs. Lawmakers were not
willing to buy into long-term commitments for a shuttle and space station
that would ultimately lead to human missions to Mars (Logsdon 1986). The
space community would have to settle for a space shuttle with an assortment
of unclear objectives and no politically endorsed long-range goals. Having
absolved themselves of establishing overarching goals for the shuttle
program or the space agency, incrementalism became the policy-makers'
approach to allowing limited progress in the absence of political consensus
(McCurdy 1990). Once this approach became entrenched, it later plagued
NASA's next big human spaceflight program, the space station.

The Space Station and Its Fragile Coalition
The previous section of this study described the tenuous support for
the space station that has existed in the executive branch since the program's
inception. The station has had an even more precarious position in the
Congress during the past decade. A look at the space station's budget history is
illustrative both of the program's controversy and of the vagaries of the
congressional budget process. The controversy has been particularly evident
since the program embarked on Phase C/D (final design/full-scale
development) in 1987. This was the period in which the annual station
budget approached and surpassed the $1 billion mark.
The authorization committees in both the House and Senate typically
have approved the administration's funding requests for the station, though
conditions often have been amended to the bills. The activity on the

appropriations side, however, is an enlightening look at the effects of the
budget process on policy-setting for NASA.
The president's FY88 request for the station was $767 million, a number

that House Appropriations found acceptable but which hit a roadblock on the
Senate side. That roadblock came from Senator William Proxmire, chairman
of the subcommittee handling NASA's budget, and a long-time opponent of

the space agency, as already noted. As Congress returned from its August
recess in 1987, Proxmire swore that he would do his best to kill the space
Proxmire's committee didn't completely honor his wishes, but did turn
out a bill that cut the station back to $559 million. The differences between the
House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill had to be reconciled in
conference committee, which might be expected to compromise on a number
somewhere between $559 million and $767 million. The end result, however,
was a space station line item for $425 million, only slightly greater than had
been appropriated the previous year (SSN 1987).
The FY89 request for the station came up just short of the billion dollar
mark at $967 million. This caught the attention of an increasingly deficit-
conscious Congress. On the House side, the bad news was an appropriation of
only $700 million. On the Senate side, the news was even worse: $200
million, which amounted to close-out costs to end the program. It was clear
that the upcoming presidential election played a part in the conference
committee action that followed. It was assumed that, if elected, Republican
candidate George Bush would continue the project, whereas Democratic
candidate Michael Dukakis would seek its quick demise. The House/Senate

1 Press release from the office of Senator William Proxmire dated
August 27, 1987.

compromise to deal with this situation appears rather unusual: Instead of
splitting the difference between the two numbers, the conference report
recommended $900 million-nearly the original request. This was accepted by
both chambers. There was a catch, however: $515 million of the total would
not be released to NASA until May 15 (seven and a half months into the
fiscal year) based on a decision by the new president to either continue or
terminate the program (SSN 1988). Congress had "passed the buck" to the
president. The legislators' logic is clear. They were wavering on their
commitment to a large, visible program, so they built flexibility into its
funding scheme and left the make-or-break decision to the president. If the
president kills the program, he takes the blame. If the president preserves it
and it flops, he also takes the blame. If the president saves it and it succeeds,
Congress can take at least some credit for making it happen.
The budget numbers for the next two years were a bit more
straightforward, but it was clear that the administration would experience
strong resistance to its hoped-for funding levels, now topping $2 billion
annually. The FY90 request of $2.05 billion yielded an appropriation of $1.8
billion, and the FY91 request of $2.5 billion was reduced to only $1.9 billion.
Additionally, the FY91 legislation mandated a cut of $6 billion in planned
space station spending over the next five years, requiring a major redesign of
the station's configuration (Covault 1990).
Congressional acceptance of the new configuration plan probably gave
NASA the sense that the annual appropriations process would go more
smoothly, at least for FY92. Instead, the opposite occurred: the House
Appropriations Committee granted only $100 million to the space station
rather than the $2 billion in the president's request. As had happened in the
Senate in during the FY89 budget debates, the Appropriations Committee was

recommending only enough funding to pay the close-out costs of the
program (Key House Panel ... 1991).
The debate over the appropriations bill on the House floor sparked a

wide variety of interested parties, both pro and con, to get involved in the
process. The National Space Council, the OMB, NASA, lobbyists from
aerospace companies and the science community, individual congress-
members, and the president himself, all played a role. When the smoke had
cleared, the funding had been reinstated at $1.9 billion-still short of the
original request, but on a par with the previous year's (FY91) level. The space
science budget was the biggest loser in the trade-offs that made this possible
(Brunner 1994).

Table 4: Space station appropriations history (in million of dollars)

Fiscal year Request House Senate Actual

1988 $767 $767 $559 $425
1989 967 700 200 900
1990 2,050 1,655 1,850 1,800
1991 2,500 2,300 1,600 1,900
1992 2,028 1,900 2,028 2,023
1993 2,230 1,700 2,100 2,100
1994 2,100 1,850 2,100 2,100

Source: Space News, various issues

The Clinton administration has been a remarkably stable period for the
station's budget fortunes, with a steady $2.1 billion annually since FY93. But
the controversy remains, as factions seeking cancellation in both chambers
bring annual challenges to the existence of the program. Also, the inclusion
of the Russians in the project as a result of the redesign ordered by Clinton

has brought opposition that includes some of the station's allies. Rep. James
Sensenbrenner (R-WI), then ranking minority member and now chair of
NASA's authorization subcommittee, spoke for many when he questioned
the reliability and trustworthiness of the Russians in such an expensive, long-
term undertaking (Lawler 1994a).
The space station exists in an unstable policy environment, but this
instability is not entirely internal to the program or the agency. The external
political environment is a major contributor, making NASA's struggles more
closely resemble those of other agencies rather than being the unique
problems of a unique entity.

Space Policy-Making in a Changing Environment
The extensive congressional reforms of the 1970s included several
changes which have had substantial influence on the process of space policy-
making. These changes, such as the shift of power to subcommittees,
alterations in the budget process, extensive use of multiple referrals, access to
more staff and new information sources, increased entrepreneurship among
individual members, and greater use of amendments on the floor, are well
documented (for example, see Ornstein et al. 1993; Sinclair 1992; Smith &
Deering 1990; Shepsle 1989; Smith 1986). Each of these will be introduced
briefly here, with the exception of multiple referral, which had no discernable
impact on NASA's core programs.
Subcommittee Government
As already mentioned, the House and Senate shifted space issues to the
subcommittee level in 1975 and 1977, respectively. Earlier in the reforms, the
House had switched the space committee from a major to a non-major
committee (Hechler 1982), a status which today's House Science Committee

still holds. Therefore, unlike other issues that had been housed in
subcommittees all along, NASA issues did not benefit from the increased
resources and independence that the reforms brought to subcommittees. Civil
space issues were de-emphasized in the 1970s, but fortunately for NASA the
reshuffling of committee jurisdictions did not spread oversight responsibility
for the agency's core programs across a number of panels-though minor
programs such as satellite communications and remote sensing sometimes
attracted attention in other committee venues.2
Budget Reform
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was
just one component of the many reforms that swept the Congress during the
early 1970s, but it was the most significant piece of budget reform legislation
since the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. Pressure to revise the budget
process was building during the intervening half-century because the 1921
Act, intended to bring organization and control to the nation's aggregate
budget, shifted power toward the president and gave the presidency an
advantage in information resources (Masters 1993). As presidential
encroachment on Congress's power of the purse came to a head during the
Nixon administration, the 1974 Act was adopted to redress the perceived
The 1974 Act responded to the power imbalance in two ways. One was
to create the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan support agency that

2 There have been a small number of hearings in other committees
regarding shuttle and space station concerns. For example, since the
Challenger accident, the House Government Operations Committee
has held hearings on the shuttle's solid rocket motor upgrade (U.S.
House 1986) and the costs and justification for the space station (U.S.
House 1992), and the House Energy and Commerce Committee has
looked at space station contracting (U.S. House 1995).

would provide the legislature with independent analyses of budget requests
as well as forecasts of future budgets and the performance of the nation's
economy. This would counterbalance the president's Office of Management
and Budget (OMB), which had been growing in capability and influence. The
other response to the president, brought on by Nixon's abuse of
impoundments, was to alter the impoundment process by providing for a
congressional veto. Impoundments would now be divided into deferrals and
rescissions. Deferrals are temporary restrictions on expenditures which
Congress (acting through its Appropriations Committees) can overturn,
while rescissions are permanent cancellations of spending which Congress
must agree to within 45 days if they are to take effect (Thurber & Durst 1991).
Congress saw the need to enforce discipline on itself as well as the
president. Year after year, significant portions of the federal budget remained
unresolved well into the new fiscal year, and in some cases agencies operated
under continuing resolutions throughout an entire fiscal year (AEI 1985).
Additionally, deficit spending was a problem that was getting worse instead of
better. The 1974 reform instituted new deadlines for funding measures that, it
was hoped, would alleviate the tardiness problem. Also, to put caps on
aggregate spending and create an overall plan for the budget independent of
the president's request, Budget Committees were created in the House and
Senate to estimate revenues and set limits on expenditures in an annual
budget resolution that would guide the appropriations process for the
remainder of the session. Toward the end of the budget process, a
reconciliation procedure is employed to bring the various spending and
revenue bills into agreement with the numbers in the budget resolution
(Davidson & Oleszek 1994).

In summary, the 1974 reforms sought to accomplish two things:

reassert the congressional power of the purse, and discipline the Congress to
meet its deadlines and keep the total budget under control. But the
consequences of the reforms go beyond the mechanics of budgeting.
Centralization and automation, particularly as introduced by the two Gramm-
Rudman-Hollings laws of 1985 and 1987 and the Budget Enforcement Act of
1990, have reduced the policy-making ability of the legislature by
institutionalizing disincentives to change. Categorical caps and zero-sum
rules cause members to rally in support of existing programs while
abandoning hope of establishing new ones. Congressional scholars have
lamented the legislature's partial abdication of policy-making ability as
budgeting increasingly overwhelms governing (Wildavsky 1988; Thurber &
Durst 1993). This inevitably has a chilling effect on long-term commitments
to expensive, highly visible new starts at the space agency, as the space
station's politically stormy development period has shown.
Information and Staff Growth
Space technology is a prime example of an issue area dominated by
esoteric knowledge, making policy-makers dependent on a community of
experts. In the earliest days of the space program, expertise was highly
concentrated in executive agencies-specifically, NASA and the Defense
Department-and those agencies' prime contractors. Congress had no
independent assessment capability, so the recruitment of technically
competent staff was a priority from the outset for the newly formed House
and Senate committees on science and astronautics. The recruitment task
proved difficult. By February 1960, the House space committee was being
criticized by Aviation Week & Space Technology, the aerospace industry's
weekly trade magazine, for the staff's lack of technically qualified

professionals and for excessive recruiting of staff in the chairman's home
district in Louisiana (Hechler 1982).
Staff quality in both the House and Senate space committees has
fluctuated substantially in the years since the committees were created, even
as staff sizes grew during the reform era.3 Meanwhile, the congressional
support agencies improved their ability to make meaningful contributions to
space-related issue debates. Both the Congressional Research Service and the
General Accounting Office expanded their personnel and expertise in this
area, and the Office of Technology Assessment was created to examine a
variety of high-tech endeavors, space development being a prominent one.
Also, the new Congressional Budget Office began estimating the funding
requirements of current and proposed NASA projects in reports dedicated to
civilian space program cost projections.
By the 1980s, the Congress had built up substantial in-house capability
in the space field. Additionally, even more substantial expertise exists today
in the wider community, outside the traditional iron-triangle participants.
Universities, professional associations, businesses not connected to the
NASA pipeline, and other special interest groups have emerged as sources of
advice, ideas, and opinions for congressional committees, further improving
the legislature's informational balance with the executive branch.
Entrepreneurship and Growth in Floor Activity
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed increased individualism among
congressmembers, especially in the House. Deference to the expertise of

3 This assessment is based on my review of listings and biographies of
space committee staff in both houses in the annual editions of the
Congressional Staff Directory (Brownson 1959-93). For more on
concerns regarding staff expertise, see Fox & Hammond (1977), Malbin
(1980), and Hammond (1985).

fellow members has given way to more frequent challenges on the floor from
members not belonging to the relevant committees, or from younger
members challenging the judgment of older members (Sinclair 1992). Clearly,
this new pattern is in evidence in civil space issues, as the analysis below
demonstrates. It provides additional evidence that the space subgovernment
of the early NASA years has expanded to include a wider array of policy-
makers and interests.

Influences on Legislative Choice
The current study covers a period that is particularly interesting,
beginning as it does at the initiation of the reform era of the 1970s. In
examining the House, Smith (1986) found an increase in floor decision-
making between the 1950s and 1980s. During that time, the number of
members in each Congress offering amendments on the floor almost
doubled, the number of amendments offered more than tripled, and the
percentage of legislation subject to floor amendments more than quadrupled.
More recently, Sinclair (1992) has also observed that bills are more vulnerable
to attack and change on the House floor, a development she attributes to
increased use of recorded votes, reduced powers of committee chairmen, and
the availability of enhanced resources for individual members. The relevance
of this trend to space policy, especially in the space station era, is evident in
the list of key votes presented in the appendix and analyzed below, which
consists mostly of floor amendments.
What the growth of floor activity says about the quality of
representation is a matter of some debate. The positions of members-
including their decisions whether or not to participate in particular votes--
are motivated by their own preferences and expertise, their constituents'

interests (as members perceive them), and the actions of other actors in and
out of government (Bond & Fleisher 1990). Among House members, Miller
and Stokes (1963) generally found weak correlations between roll-call voting
and constituency attitudes, although connections were significantly stronger
when high-salience issues were involved. With regard to low-salience issues,
Kingdon (1989) has suggested that elected officials may anticipate future
constituency opinion or attacks from future electoral opponents, motivating
them to act accordingly even if constituents are not likely to be aware of how
the member voted. Arnold (1990) agrees with this assessment, noting the
traceability of roll-call votes. Arnold also points out the difficult judgments
facing legislators who are confronted with the usually unambiguous views of
attentive publics versus the potential backlash from inattentive publics
aroused by opposing organized interests or opinion leaders.
According to Hall (1993), members are responsive to constituents at the
district-delegate level to the extent that issues are salient, signals from the
constituency are dear, and consequences are traceable to the individual
member's actions. But these conditions are rarely all true in the case of space
policy matters. This brings us to the collective deliberation level at which,
Hall reminds us, participation is neither universal nor equal. Activists who
may not represent the larger assembly will assert themselves. Space issues are
typically non-salient and technically complex; their benefits may or may not
be concentrated but their costs are nearly always dispersed. In such a situation,
those members not significantly affected engage in what Hall calls rational
abdication, which he sees as a better explanation of policy results than
logrolling, reciprocity, or deference to expertise. If this assessment is accurate,
then we should not expect to see congruence between congressional voting
patterns on space issues and national survey results, such as those obtained by

Miller (1994). This does not necessarily contradict Page and Shapiro's (1983)
finding of typically high congruence levels, since their sample showed the
greatest likelihood of congruence when issues were salient and changes in
public opinion were large and stable-clearly not the case here.
The picture is muddied by differing approaches to the definition and
measurement of congruence. Fries (1992) looked at the downward trend in
NASA's budget from the mid-60s through the mid-70s and found it fairly
consistent with changes in public opinion during this period. The same
relationship did not seem to hold true in the 80s and early 90s, however. The
space agency's budget steadily grew during that time, but favorable public
opinion did not.
Defense policy, a much more thoroughly studied area, has frequently
been used as an analog for space policy, though there are serious limitations
to their comparability. Studies of the defense arena reveal mixed signals
regarding the interaction between public opinion and elite behavior. For
example, Bartels (1991) found that House roll-call votes on defense budget
issues at the beginning of the Reagan years were strongly related to
constituency opinion. Looking at a longer time period and restricting his
focus to strategic weapons systems, Lindsay (1990) found just the opposite:
House and Senate members typically have voted according to their policy
views, not their constituents' interests. Even if defense and space do behave
similarly, we still have no clear guidelines as to what linkages to expect
between the public and elites.
For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that Republicans in
Congress are more sympathetic to science and technology programs than
Democrats (Ferster 1994). The recent Republican takeover of the Congress has

sparked some commentators and government officials to herald a new era of
reinvigorated federal S&T programs even in an era of constrained budgets
(for example, see Ferster 1994; Muncy 1994; Reynolds 1994).
Levels of partisan support for the space program can be empirically
verified to a great extent. This section of the study tests whether there has
been a consistent, significant difference in the level of support that each of the
two parties has given to the civil space program since the end of Apollo. Also,
it tests for the influence of geographic differences that may reflect constituent
interests, and committee membership that may reflect both constituent
concerns and individual members' interests.
The roll-call vote has long been the preferred instrument for the study
of the Congress because of both its importance in defining legislative
behavior and its ease of measurement (Mezey 1993). The period of time
considered in this study has witnessed many critical floor votes related to
space policy-making, most of which took place in the post-reform Congress
and are likely to have been affected by the institutional developments
mentioned above. There have been several times since the early 1970s that
the Congress has voted on bills having major ramifications for the future of
NASA and the civil space program. These have focused on the human
spaceflight projects that have been NASA's trademark and have dominated
its budgets. Almost since its inception, NASA has built its organization and
efforts around large projects in human spaceflight, with most of the
remaining smaller programs linked to the larger ones in some way. The two
flagship programs in the post-Apollo era have been the space shuttle and
space station. Together, these two programs account for half of NASA's
budget, a situation that is expected to continue throughout the 1990s (Lawler
1993d). The set of "key space votes' analyzed here were, or could have been,

major turning points for the space agency. The selected votes, from both
chambers of Congress, were reported in various issues of CQ Weekly Report
from 1970 through 1994.
Votes on final passage of NASA's authorization and appropriations
bills are not among the selected key votes. They are not adequate tests of
policy conflict since they have tended to pass with large bipartisan majorities,
which may indicate not widespread agreement, but rather that controversial
items have been resolved prior to final bill passage. In the case of authorizing
legislation, a supposition of controversy (or alternatively, low priority) is
reinforced by the fact that NASA authorization bills were not passed in some
years during the period of study (fiscal years 87, 94, and 95) (lannotta 1995). On
the appropriations side, floor votes cannot be interpreted for their space
program support since several other programs, including housing, veteran's
programs, environmental protection, and other science programs are on the
same bill.
The selected roll-call votes include only those likely to test a member's
support for NASA's core programs. The test votes fall into two critical
periods: 1970-79, during which Apollo ended, the space shuttle was initiated,
and the Carter administration was faced with the shuttle's development snags
and cost overruns; and 1987-present, the development period for the highly
controversial and costly space station. (No votes judged to be of significance to
this study were found in the 1980-86 period.) The votes are listed and
described in the appendix. There are nine from the House and 10 from the
Senate; six are from the shuttle era and 13 are from the space station era. The
votes are numbered in chronological order and are referred to in this manner
throughout the analysis.

From this selection of votes, it is evident that the preponderance of
activity has occurred since the late 1980s and has focused on the space station
program.4 Clearly, the president's interest in the votes is more visible in the
later period. The chief executive took a position on 10 of the votes in the
sample, nine of which occurred during the Bush and Clinton
administrations; of those nine, eight involved the space station.
Using roll-call data obtained from various issues of CQ Weekly Report,
a probit analysis was done on each of the key votes. The dependent variable is
trichotomous, indicating whether an individual member voted in a manner
that was supportive (of the NASA program in question), unsupportive, or
did not vote. There are four independent variables. The first is a dummy
variable representing party (1 for Republican, 0 for Democrat) to test whether
partisanship is a significant factor in the direction of the vote.
The second independent variable assesses geographic influences. For
Senate votes, the state-by-state breakdown of NASA spending over the period
of study was obtained from NASA's Annual Procurement Reports. The value
assigned to the variable is the amount of NASA spending on prime contracts
in each senator's home state in the fiscal year in which the vote takes place.
Fourteen states have received the bulk of NASA's post-Apollo funding and
contracts. Any evidence of geographic voting patterns should be visible in
these states. They include the eight states with NASA field centers (California,

4 However, there were four additional House votes from 1970-72 in
which key amendments were defeated that would have eliminated
funding for the shuttle in NASA authorization and appropriations
bills. Due to pre-reform procedures in effect at the time, none of these
were recorded votes, preventing their inclusion in this analysis. Also
excluded were a few amendments, late in the period, in which minor
reductions were proposed for the NASA budget but the bulk of the
proposed changes would be felt elsewhere.

Florida, Texas, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, Ohio) and six others
that consistently got contracts totaling at least $100 million a year in the early
1990s (Utah, Louisiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
Massachusetts) (Beyer 1992).
Fiorina (1974) has noted that it is not uncommon for senators from

opposing parties representing the same state (and therefore the same
geographic constituency) to exhibit different voting patterns. He sees this as
evidence of representation of ideological segments of the same geographic
constituency, i.e., a senator's co-partisans. This underlines the importance of
including both party and geography in the analysis of voting patterns.
For the House, the geographic variable should use the same procedure
as for the Senate, employing district-by-district funding data. Unfortunately,
personal communications with representatives of the budget, procurement,
and congressional liaison offices at NASA Headquarters revealed that no
complete data sets of this type were ever complied, and partial sets of
historical data have not been retained. To accommodate this deficiency, two
variables were used to provide a reading of geographic interests in the House.
The first variable employs the state-level funding data used for the Senate,
since this can be expected to influence a representative's position as state
delegations act in concert to support the various interests within their group.
Also, a dummy variable was used to distinguish NASA-influenced districts
from all other districts. A NASA-influenced district is defined as any district
containing a NASA center or any adjacent district which includes a
significant complement of NASA contractors or employees in residence.
Appropriate districts were chosen with the aid of Congressional Quarterly's
Congressional Districts editions covering the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s
(Diamond 1974; Gottron 1983; Preimesberger & Tarr 1993).

Membership on NASA-related committees also was considered. This

was done using two additional dummy variables, one for NASA's
authorization subcommittee and one for the appropriations subcommittee (1
if member, 0 if not).
Each of the 19 votes was analyzed separately to assess the relative

strengths of various influences, especially partisanship and geography. They

were then compared to determine if the influences remained consistent over
time, or if particular trends became evident.

Table 5: Congressional districts with NASA influence

State 1970s 1980s 1990s
Alabama 5 5 5
California 10,11,12,13 10,11,12,13 12, 13, 14, 15
(Mountain View)
California 18, 20, 22, 25, 26, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31,
(Pasadena) 27, 32, 34, 35 32, 33,42 36, 38,40,45
Florida 9 11 8, 15
Ohio 20, 23 19, 20, 21 10,11,19
Maryland 4,5, 6, 7,8 4,5,6,7,8 4,5, 6,7, 8
Mississippi 5 5 5
Texas 8,9,22 9,22,25 9,22,25
Virginia 1 1 1

Analysis of Results
A look at the general characteristics of the sample reveals some

noteworthy patterns. All of the votes were decided in NASA's favor. All of
the anti-NASA amendments were sponsored by Democrats. In every case, a
higher percentage of Republicans gave supportive votes to NASA than was
the case among Democrats, as shown in Figure 2. In fact, 13 of the 19 votes
were party votes-a majority of Republicans voted against a majority of









Rohde (1991) describes two measures that are useful in this case to
demonstrate the level of disagreement between and within parties. They are
particularly helpful for purposes of this study in that both measures can be
averaged across a set of key votes. The between-party comparison, the average
party difference, is computed by taking the difference between the proportion
of each party voting aye (or in this case, pro-NASA). The range is from 0,
where 50% of each party is on opposite sides of the vote, to 100, where the
parties are unanimously opposed. This yields a more detailed estimate of the
distance between the parties than simply acknowledging that majorities of
each party voted against each other. The within-party comparison, the index
of cohesion, is computed by taking the difference between the proportion of a
party's members voting aye (pro-NASA) and the proportion voting nay (anti-
NASA). The range will be from 0, where 50% of the party is on each side of
the vote, to 100, where the party is unanimous.

40 M---



6 8 9 10 12 13 15 16 18
House vote number
Figure 3: Average party differences-House

The average party differences for the House votes are shown in Figure
3, with higher values indicating greater party differences. Vote 6, the 1979
shuttle supplemental bill, shows the least party difference of any in the
sample with a value of 10. The remaining House votes have indexes ranging
from 22 to 41. The average index for the entire group is 28, and the average for
votes specifically targeted at terminating the space station (numbers 10, 12, 13,
15, 16, 18) is just over 29. The highest party difference was on vote 10, in
which the entire $1.9 billion space station appropriation for FY92 was at stake
after the Appropriations Committee recommended the program's
cancellation, prompting a partisan battle.
Party differences are more extreme in the Senate, as can be seen from
Figure 4. The range of the indexes is from 19 to 50, and the group average is
38.6. The average for the votes targeted at terminating the space station
(numbers 11, 14, 17, 19) is a startling 44.25, providing evidence that partisan
differences on NASA issues generally, and the space station in particular, are
more severe in the Senate than in the House.
Levels of cohesion within the parties also are dramatically different in
the two chambers. The House cohesion indexes are displayed in Figure 5,
with higher values indicating greater party cohesion. The overall average for
the Republicans is 59 (range: 30-92) and for the Democrats it is a dismal 17
(range: 0-72). For space station termination votes, the Republican average
cohesion is 50 and the Democratic average is 12.
Figure 6 shows the cohesion indexes for the Senate votes. In this
chamber the Republican average is 78.2 (range: 50-96) and the Democratic
average is 20.6 (range: 2-58). Space station termination votes display a strong
average cohesiveness among Republicans at 76 compared to the Democrats'


Senate vote number

Figure 4: Average party differences-Senate

SrI1 d


6 8 9 10 12 13 15 16 18
House vote number

jE Republicans E Democrats

Figure 5: Index of party cohesion-House



much weaker showing of 18.5. Overall, Democratic cohesiveness is weak on

space issues in both chambers, while Republican performance is fairly robust

in the House and even stronger in the Senate.


3 4 5
Senate vote

7 11

14 17 19

U Republicans El Democrats

Figure 6: Index of party cohesion-Senate

The data presented so far make a compelling case for a strong partisan

bias in policy toward core programs in the civilian space effort. Republicans

appear substantially stronger and more united in their support. The results of

the regression equations for each roll-call vote overwhelmingly reinforce this

finding (see Tables 6 and 7). In every instance, the party variable is a very

influential element in determining the vote, often the strongest element.

Party is significant to at least the .01 level in every case, and most often (15 out

of 19 times) is significant to the .0001 level. The hypothesis that party is a

major determinant in floor votes relevant to NASA is strongly supported.







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Geographic influences were expected to be the next-strongest drivers of
the votes. This hypothesis is also supported, and the patterns that emerge
point to some possible causal links. The state-by-state funding variable was
significant in most votes in both the Senate (7 of 10) and the House (6 of 9). In
the House, state funding does not show significance until the mid-1991 vote
on the fate of the space station in the NASA appropriations bill, but from that
point on it is significant at the .0001 level in every case, equaling the
significance level of the party variable. From vote 10 onward, the
standardized coefficients of the state variable gain ground on those of the
party variable, eventually surpassing them on the last three votes.
Despite the strength of the state funding variable, the other geographic
variable, highlighting NASA-influenced districts, did not demonstrate
significance in any of the nine House votes. A possible explanation for this is
a rallying effect within state delegations that overwhelmed district-by-district
behavior toward NASA issues.
The apparent shift of attention toward the distributive aspects of the
space station program may have been driven by changes in the political
environment between vote 9 and vote 10. First, the last remnants of Cold
War space competition with the Soviets disappeared in the wake of the fall of
the Berlin Wall and the toppling of communist regimes in eastern Europe.
The Soviet Union itself broke up just two months after vote 10. Second, the
annual budget for the station more than doubled from 1989 to 1991, from $900
million to $1.9 billion. Also, the fact that congressional support suddenly
began reflecting state funding indicates that organizational interests-that is,
state voting blocs-coalesced around what had become a public works
program to many members (Macauley 1995). The influence of the state

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