Vol. 40, No. 3

A Note from the Chairman

From the moment the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Americans have known that we were in a different kind of war. But in at least one respect, the war we are fighting today bears some resemblance to wars we have fought in the past.

Branding America

After nearly five years, we no longer remember all their names. But we remember their faces. And we will never forget their eyes. They are the eyes of killers. They are the eyes of the 19 hijackers who commandeered four planes on September 11, 2001, taking the lives of over 3,000 people and taking us […]

Karen Hughes’ Challenge

Since Sept. 11 , 2001, it has become commonplace to say that the United States is engaged in a war of ideas for the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims. Even Donald Rumsfeld has admitted that the metric for measuring success in a war against jihadist terrorism is whether the numbers we kill or deter […]

On the Frontlines of Freedom

Today on the world stage, particularly in Muslim nations, our military is too often viewed only as the enemy, a disturbing fact not lost on those who now wear the uniform. Make no mistake — death and violence are products of any war. But lost within today’s highly partisan environment are such deeply held goals […]

Madison Avenue’s Take on Brand America

If any country in the world can be viewed as a brand, it’s America. After all, we invented “branding.” So why, when we are the most powerful nation on earth and facing precarious times, can’t we leverage America’s brand assets? For inspiration and guidance, I returned to the basics of brand building that have worked […]

A View From Abroad

It is too late to walk or talk softly. The big stick—the enormous military might of the U.S.—bears its own ominous message, but the U.S. might try to promote its democratic ideals with more skill, conviction, and volume. Even the British, our most loyal consumers and faithful allies, are losing the faith, despite their relative […]

Q&A With Bill Thomas

Earlier this year, Congressman Bill Thomas announced his retirement after nearly 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. First elected in 1978, Thomas has served as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee since 2001. He recently sat down with the Ripon Forum to discuss his experiences in politics and share his thoughts on […]

No More Mistakes

As the world becomes increasingly focused on Iran’s nuclear activities, we are once again looking to our intelligence to determine what those activities mean.

Russia Under Putin: Neither Friend Nor Foe

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters were “outraged.” A Kremlin spokesperson denounced the speech as “inconceivable” and “subjective” in its interpretations of Russian internal affairs. Others in Moscow, as well as some in the West, called the speech a return to the Cold War. One Moscow headline suggested that U.S.-Russian relations were at their […]

How the Millennials Get Their News

Last year’s media coverage of the Gulf Coast hurricanes helped re-define the domestic political agenda leading into this year’s mid-term elections. But it wasn’t just storm coverage. Political damage control was in full effect, with elected officials from all sides of the political spectrum flocking to cable news channels to assuage public fears, tamp down […]

Immigration Reform: The Challenges Ahead

The immigration debate is at a fever pitch as the Ripon Forum goes to press. Only a fool would try to predict what will happen next, either in the Senate, which will probably vote this week, or in the skirmishing that could follow if lawmakers then move ahead to try to reconcile the Senate package […]

Back to the Moon… and Beyond!

A robust space exploration program is crucial to maintaining America’s scientific and technological preeminence in the twenty-first century. No other endeavor challenges us to develop innovative new technologies which often improve our quality of life, while simultaneously fulfilling the basic human need to explore new horizons.

Back to the Moon… But Let’s Fix NASA First

I believe that America – this time with her international partners – should go back to the moon.

The Back Page: Can you be a Republican and Still Like The Boss?

I got turned onto Bruce Springsteen the summer before my junior year in college. It was 1984. Born in the USA had come out on June 4th. And my friends and I were on a 10-day road trip to Florida before school started back up in the fall.

Ripon Profile of Susan Collins

I am a Republican because I believe in the core party principles of individual responsibility, personal liberty, federalism, and a strong national defense.

Back to the Moon… and Beyond!

one small step

A robust space exploration program is crucial to maintaining America’s scientific and technological preeminence in the twenty-first century. No other endeavor challenges us to develop innovative new technologies which often improve our quality of life, while simultaneously fulfilling the basic human need to explore new horizons. 

Space exploration is an enterprise capable of capturing the public imagination and inspiring young people to pursue careers in engineering and science. One need only look to the pictures of the Apollo Moon landings and the ubiquitous Hubble Space Telescope images in schools, businesses, products and homes to understand that Americans are intrigued by and support space exploration.  

In January 2004, the President announced a Vision for Space Exploration that aimed to refocus NASA on space exploration beyond low earth orbit with the goal of returning humans to the Moon, and later to Mars and beyond. The Vision proposed an approach that utilizes robotic missions to pave the way for manned missions. 

In the two years since the Vision was introduced, I have worked with my Congressional colleagues to translate it into our nation’s space policy. In 2005, the Congress passed and the President signed into law the first NASA Authorization bill in five years. The bill represents the will of the people and an official endorsement of the Vision as a guide for NASA’s structure and organization. 

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has done a fantastic job in guiding the Agency during this transition period. As I have said many times before, he is the right person, at the right time for this position. He is able to make the tough decisions that must be made as the Agency is restructured to carry out a bold exploration agenda while maintaining leading edge aeronautic and science research programs. 

As we move forward in implementing the Vision, I see three challenges that America will continue to face. 

Continuity – The Vision is a decades long endeavor that will cover many administrations and congresses.  We need to provide for ongoing funding for NASA, and create continuity in our space policies, which by nature are long term endeavors. 

Consensus – Just as Congress was forced to come to a consensus on NASA policy, the core constituencies within NASA must come to a consensus under the leadership of the Administrator on the implementation of the Vision and its balance between exploration, science and aeronautics within NASA. NASA stakeholders must refocus their energies towards garnering the support needed to raise the top line of the NASA budget.

Competition – Like it or not, the United States is not the only nation developing an ambitious space program.  China, Russia, the Europeans, India, Japan and others are investing significant resources in space. We will cooperate with some of these nations and compete with others in space. And with China, Russia, and Europe, we may do both. 

America does not need a competitor in space to motivate us to do the right thing and implement a robust space program. Sometimes, knowing someone else is pursuing the same goals can focus our efforts. 


To meet these three challenges, NASA must be appropriately funded. In the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Congress authorized $17 .9 billion for FY07 NASA funding. This is a little more than $1 billion over the Administration request of $16.8 billion. 

I believe that the authorization bill reflects the proper amount of funding for meeting the challenges ahead. In order to justify this amount, NASA’s core constituencies will have to garner public support and build a broader and deeper national consensus in order to expand NASA’s piece of the budgeting pie. Congress is by design a reactive institution and we respond to the concerns of our constituents. Polls have consistently shown strong public support for NASA and space exploration at up to 1 percent of the federal budget. Currently we spend about 0.7 percent of the budget on NASA. To increase this amount, American citizens will need to contact their elected officials to convey their support for our nation’s space program. If we cooperate, I am confident we can reach a consensus on a level of funding that will ensure the continuity of the Vision and keep America competitive in the space age of the twenty-first century. 

As my friend, astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, “Much work remains to be done to convince the public and Congress of the need for a sustained investment in NASA, with returns on education, the economy, and security. It’s not just about Tang and Velcro. It’s about a way of enabling a future we all want to occupy.”

Ken Calvert represents the 44th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science Committee.