[Update a few minutes later]
Over at Space Politics, DBN points out the real failure of the administration on space policy:
I’m no fan of the NASA workforce, but if you’re right and Tip O’Neill’s maxim that “all politics is local” is what’s driving the repeated failures of the Administration’s civil space initiatives, then the Administration is to blame for never making the local argument about how their initiatives would maintain NASA employment by shifting workers from Program A to Programs X, Y, and Z. We never saw that kind of argument, commitment, or the workforce numbers to back it up when the Administration rolled out its Constellation replacement programs, and we never saw it earlier this year when ARM was proposed.
I don’t lay this failure at Garver’s doorstep because we don’t know who did what in the Administration and White House before these initiatives were rolled out. That decision process is embargoed, and for all we know, Garver was pounding her fists for a sane workforce transition plan instead of the vacuum that ensued. And maybe the hyperpartisan environment on the Hill would have rendered even Tip O’Neill’s maxim useless. But the fact that the Administration never got to square one on the politics 101 topic of workforce redistribution is not Congress’s fault. As venal and stupid as Congress is, at some level their rejection of the Administration’s civil space initiatives is just them doing their job under the Constitution and protecting their constituents’ local interests. In the absence of any workforce argument, commitment, or plan from the Administration, it’s hard to see how the key members in Congress could have reacted differently. Even a workforce commitment and detailed plan might not have been enough to get the Administration’s civil space initiatives off the ground, but the Administration also didn’t even bother to try.
That’s because space policy wasn’t important to them. That was good, in terms of their willingness to leave it more to the commercial sector, but bad in that they made no effort to implement their good policy on the Hill. Of course, they’ve been pretty incompetent at dealing with Congress in general.