Cao: “Saving Up To 800 Jobs at Michoud”

October 4, 2010

Congress Passes Bill Funding Up to 800 Jobs at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility
I’m somewhat relieved in reporting that NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East will be able to retain hundreds of jobs under a Senate-approved bill passed late Wednesday night by the House.
I was among those who pushed for passage and voted in favor of S. 3729, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2010, which passed the House by a vote of 304 to 118, with 10 non-voters. The vote came at 11:29 p.m. EST following a marathon day of debates.

The bill – to authorize NASA programs for fiscal years 2011 through 2013 – provides $58 billion for NASA over that three year period. It will allow for the ultimate transition towards commercial access to Low Earth Orbit, in tandem with NASA’s re-focused goals on exploration via a new HLV (Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle).

The funding will enable Michoud to keep as many as 800 jobs. As you know, this comes at a critical time for the New Orleans assembly facility. Michoud has been forced to lay off more than 60% of its work force over the past 18 months due to the retirement of the Space Shuttle.

The process of downsizing has been going on for many years at Michoud, which, in its hey-day in the late 1960s, employed as many as 12,000 people. In recent times, that number has dwindled to just a little over one-thousand.

The facility has been facing even further layoffs because of the Administration’s decision to terminate the Constellation lunar mission program.

S. 3729 brings hope. It funds continuation of Michoud jobs as follows:

It protects the Orion crew vehicle and ensures that the crew vehicle is fully developed for deep space missions as intended, not just as an International Space Station lifeboat as the Administration planned. Work on Orion will keep between 250-300 jobs at Michoud.

It directs NASA to begin the refurbishment of ET-94, the Space Shuttle external fuel tank stored at Michoud that was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Work on ET-94 will keep between 300-500 jobs at Michoud.

It requires NASA to move ahead with heavy lift launch vehicle development immediately, using existing Shuttle and Constellation program parts and technology. The core stage of this vehicle could only be manufactured at Michoud.

House approval came after I joined other members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation in signing a letter urging colleagues to support the bill. S. 3729 now goes to the President for his signature.

This is a substantial political victory for the economy of Greater New Orleans. Losing hundreds more jobs at Michoud, at a time when we’re struggling to recover from both the oil spill and Katrina as well as a national recession, would have been catastrophic. I’m glad we were able to persuade our House colleagues to support this crucial legislation.

Even so, we must continue to look for ways to fill the gap created by all those layoffs over the years. Rest assured that I will persist in searching diligently for opportunities to expand the work force at Michoud.

Homeland Security Official Testifies Administration Held Up Disaster Planning

Two weeks ago, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a full committee hearing ywhich focused on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and lessons which could be taken from the disaster.
I was privileged to question witnesses from the Ranking Member’s Chair after being granted the opportunity from Ranking Member Peter King.

Witnesses included actor Kevin Costner and St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro. Testimony focused largely on the poor coordination and information sharing between federal coordinators and local officials during disaster responses. A number of other members and I called for additional hearings to explore how the working relationship between federal agencies and local officials can be improved.

During the hearing the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, Richard Skinner, testified that his department and FEMA had been barred from working on a national planning program by the Obama Administration. In his testimony Skinner told the Committee, “As I said before, DHS and FEMA were making progress on the National Planning Scenarios; however, in July 2009, the White House National Security Staff (NSS) began a review of HSPD-8 and temporarily put on hold efforts to complete the remaining plans.”

This news came just after I had called attention to an apparent move by the Administration to suppress scientific information about the scope and impact of the spill. This is a serious matter, because the public deserves to know if Gulf waters and seafood are safe. Know that I will continue to push the Administration for transparency. I challenge the Obama Administration to be transparent in its dealings with BP and the public, comply with all requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and release all factual information related to the spill and its impacts.

Pushing for Louisiana’s Fair Share of Coastal Restoration Dollars from BP

Last week, I joined Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and my House colleague, Rep. Steve Scalise, at the Port of New Orleans to announce release of a plan for Gulf Coast restoration from the spill.

The plan calls for, among other things: creation of a Gulf Coast Restoration Fund with $5-19 billion in civil fines paid by BP, the largest portion to be dedicated to environmental and economic restoration in Louisiana and other spill-affected Gulf Coast states; establishment of a Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force comprised of representatives from various branches of federal and state governement as well as Gulf tribal organizations to manage the fund; Congressional authorization of a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to oversee long-term coastal restoration, with a Presidentially-appointed Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to serve in the interim; and expedited release by the Interior Department of approximately $600 million under the Coastal Impact Assistance Program for coastal restoration.

The largest share of the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund should come to Louisiana, because we suffered the greatest harm, both environmentally and economically. I will be pushing hard or an equitable distribution to make sure Louisiana gets its fair share.

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