Apr 08 2008

'No NASA without Marshall Space Center'

Huntsville Times

Shelby says future looks bright here 'for long time to come'

New military work shouldn't be the only anchor to Huntsville's economy in the coming years, Alabama's senior senator said Monday. Stable NASA work and incoming federal law enforcement jobs should all combine to make Redstone Arsenal prosperous.

Thousands of jobs will be coming to Redstone because of relocated military work, special schools the Justice Department plans to build on Redstone and, because Marshall Space Flight Center is at the center of designing new rockets to replace the retiring space shuttle, said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

"There is no NASA without Marshall Space Flight Center, because there is no space travel without propulsion," Shelby said.

Shelby met with NASA Administrator Dr. Mike Griffin last week to discuss Marshall's future, he said, and was pleased that Griffin assured him that propulsion work would continue in Huntsville.

"Other NASA centers are going to go through tough times and losing jobs it appears, but Marshall is in a good position, as is all of Redstone Arsenal," Shelby said during a meeting with The Times.

"The sun is going to shine on (Huntsville) for a long time to come."

Across the nation, however, economic times are apparently turning bad, with a collapsing home market and high energy prices driving inflation.

"Our economy in this country had its boom years. It was prosperous for four or five years," Shelby told about 2,000 people at his annual Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce Washington Update breakfast.

Shelby said across the United States unemployment is up and job creation is down, and that probably indicates the nation's economy is faltering into a recession.

"I'm not sure it has bottomed out," he said.

Poor home lending practices and "a lack of discipline" have added to the nation's economic woes also, Shelby said.

However, massive stimulus packages and government bailouts are not the way to deal with the problem because they add to the overall drain on federal coffers, Shelby said.

Wartime commitments have also placed a strain on the nation's military, he said.

The war in Iraq has changed dramatically since the March 2003 invasion "when we dispatched the Iraqi army," Shelby said. "We've made some mistakes since then."

Shelby pointed to not sending in enough troops during the first phase of the war and a lack of post-invasion planning as key mistakes. By stripping the Iraqi army of a reconstruction role, "we really just created more terrorists," he said.

"But we are there now, and we can't just leave," Shelby said. "We have to work through these problems."