Friday, 10 August 1990 Washington, DC
1. "BRILLIANT PEBBLES" HAVE LOST THEIR LUSTER IN THE SENATE.
only did the Senate cut $1B from the President's total $4.6B Star
Wars request as expected
(WN 3 Aug 90), the money was "earmarked"
to shift the emphasis to ground-based defenses. Brilliant Pebbles
research was frozen at last year's level, delaying the planned
1993 decision on deployment indefinately. Nor can supporters of
Star Wars expect help from the House; the House Armed Services
Committee approved only $2.9B for SDI, and a move will be made on
the floor to cut it to $2.3B. Some of the disenchantment with
Brilliant Pebbles may come from a Lowell Wood backlash. The
Livermore scientist dreamed up Brilliant Pebbles after the X-ray
laser, which he also touted, failed to produce enough X-rays to
check airport luggage. His aggressive promotion of a plan for
cheap inflatable spacecraft, or "brilliant condoms," may have led
to the elimination of discretionary research funds at DOE labs in
the House version of the energy appropriations bill. According to
Space News, congressional sources said the action was a rebuke of
Wood, who used such funds to research his plan. The Senate is
not expected to agree to a ban discretionary research projects.
2. A STRATEGY TO UPGRADE CRUMBLING ACADEMIC RESEARCH FACILITIES
was called for in a letter to President Bush signed by a group of
27 lawmakers. The bipartisan group, headed by Sen. Terry Sanford
(D-NC), noted that we have had no policy for federal investment
in academic research facilities in more than 20 years. In the
absence of such a policy, much of the limited federal spending on
academic research facilities in recent years has been the result
of congressional earmarking for projects of uncertain value. The
letter calls for: funding the NSF Academic Research Facilities
Modernization program at its authorized level of $250M, realistic
depreciation allowances for research facilities, tax incentives
for gifts and facilities programs under the Higher Education Act.
3. INDEPENDENT COST ESTIMATE PUTS SUPERCOLLIDER COST AT $11.7B!
according to a story in "Inside Energy," a news weekly covering
federal energy activities. DOE, however, would not confirm the
story, and no one at DOE returned our calls today. The estimate,
which is said to come from an internal DOE accounting group,
would be the last of the four estimates on which DOE will base a
hard number for Congress (WN 27 Jul 90). The other estimates
range from $7.8B to $8.6B and differ mostly in the allowance for
contingencies, such as construction delays. This new estimate
increases the contingency allowance by another $1B, which would
bring the figure to about $9.7B but it also adds $2B to the cost
of the detectors. One person familiar with the Independent Cost
Estimating group said their estimates typically run about 25%
higher than others--which probably means they are usually closer.
DOE still plans to reconcile the four estimates and deliver a
final "hard" figure to Congress on the 17 August deadline.
Congress, of course, will be out of town until 4 September.