WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama appointed members of a task force charged with determining how to spend $40 million the president pledged for work force training and economic development near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., when the agency retires its space shuttle fleet this year.
Led by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the task force will “construct an economic development action plan by August 15, 2010,” according to a May 3 memo released by the White House.
Obama promised $40 million for work force training and economic development during a speech at Kennedy April 15. The following week, Bolden told a Senate panel that the president’s plan to spur economic development along Florida’s space coast would be funded from $2.5 billion NASA is requesting to cover the cost of canceling the Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new rockets and spacecraft optimized for lunar missions.
In February, Obama sent a $19 billion NASA budget proposal to Congress that called for canceling all of Constellation, including the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. But during his April 15 visit to Kennedy, the president redirected NASA to produce a scaled-down version of the Orion capsule for use as a crew escape pod on the international space station. Obama also highlighted the $6 billion increase he is seeking for NASA over the next five years, some $2 billion of which he has pledged for modernizing Kennedy and other nearby launch facilities.
“While all of the new aspects of my Administration’s plan together will create thousands of new jobs in Florida, past decisions to end the Space Shuttle program will still affect families and communities along Florida’s ‘Space Coast,’” Obama wrote in the memo.
The task force, which will remain in effect until May 4, 2013, will be composed of senior leaders from several Cabinet-level agencies, including the departments of Defense, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Transportation, as well as participants from senior advisory bodies within the administration, according to the memo.