In order to prevent the budget sequester from taking effect on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms as an interim step until lawmakers reach broader consensus on reducing the federal budget deficit. “I know that a full budget may not be finished before March 1,” he said in remarks at the White House. The smaller budget package “would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution,” he added. Among its cuts, the sequester would strip some $500 billion from the Defense Department’s budget through Fiscal 2021. Pentagon leaders have maintained that this reduction would be devastating for the US military. “This doesn’t have to happen,” said Obama in calling for congressional action. “Our economy right now is headed in the right direction and it will stay that way as long as there aren’t any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington. So let’s keep on chipping away at this problem,” he said. (See also White House blog entry with video of Obama’s Feb. 5 remarks.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.