May 20, 2016
Passing along my recent Op-Ed in The Virginia Gazette in case you missed it. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields play such an important role in the lives of our students -- both inside and outside of the classroom. We need to be encouraging them to grow, learn, and innovate, so we can equip them with the tools they need to compete in an increasingly global economy. You can read my Op-Ed here or below.
Yours in Service,
Thank you, Mr. Armstrong
The Virginia Gazette
May 13, 2016
It was July 20, 1969. I was a 17-year-old driving past the golden corn fields that lined quiet rural roads of Virginia.
I remember the rich, smoky voice of the announcer coming through the speakers, the rush of cold air blasting out of the vents of my father's Ford on that hot, heavy Sunday afternoon. Neil Armstrong was commanding Apollo 11.
With only minutes of fuel remaining, Armstrong was piloting a tiny fleck of a spaceship nearly a quarter of a million miles away. Humanity drew in its breath to listen as he took the controls to manually redirect the craft on course to collide with bulky craters jutting out of the charcoal landscape.
My heart hammered in my chest. My mind raced. Around the world, a half a billion hearts pumped with me. Armstrong was unflappably calm. Precise. He held the anticipation of all of humanity in that moment.
"Houston, Tranquility Base here," he radioed. "The Eagle has landed."
"Roger, Tranquility," mission control replied. "We copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again."
It was a day I will carry with me forever. Armstrong was a main character in a national narrative of hope. Hope based not in words but in deeds. Hope measured by not by soundbites but by skill. He lived at a time when the word 'communism' wasn't a theory but a threat. And when he walked on the surface of moon that day, the world felt the power of our nation's pride.
Virginia's children may not have lived the nervous excitement of that day, but they hold within them a freshness of vision that we remember of our younger selves.
We see that across Virginia, as students are learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students walk into W-JCC schools every day, craving creativity. Their minds are, as Armstrong's was, equipped to think critically and to solve complex problems. They tinker, question, test, and retest. They build websites. They create apps. They code. They build virtual cities.
The same curiosity that existed in Neil Armstrong's heart and mind lives on in our nation's youngest citizens today. When we tell our students about the man who walked on the moon, we must show them that the biggest ideas start in unfamiliar places, move forward with small steps, and bring leaps for mankind.
We must tell them how our economy and global competitiveness depend on the skill level, adaptability, and diverse knowledge of our workforce. We must equip our students with the knowledge and resources they need to hone their abilities to compete in an increasingly global economy. As a representative of these Virginian students, I believe it is both my job and my privilege to create avenues for this. That's why I've made it a mission to advocate for programs promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. That's why I believe it's necessary that we expand the definition of STEM technology to include computer science, a growing and critical field today. That's why I've supported legislation like the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which highlights the importance of industry investment and partnerships when it comes to STEM education. And it's why we must create opportunities to get students excited about learning, through competitions like the Congressional App Challenge that recognizes and awards students who build software applications. Because students who are empowered to invest in STEM fields today, tomorrow may do what Neil Armstrong did – change the world.
Passing on the torch of curiosity and creativity that these great discoverers is critical not just for our country's economy, but for its future. Because scientific discovery remains the antidote for a weary nation, jostled and numb by an onslaught of mediocrity and dizzy from a national lens out-of-focus.
Read the full Op-Ed here.
May 19, 2016
I wanted to be sure you saw the Op-Ed I recently wrote in the Daily Press on my vision for the future of U.S. policy in space and the role Hampton Roads can play in the decades ahead. Read here or below.
Yours in Service,
A springboard for adventure
By Congressman Randy Forbes
May 10, 2016
As is the case with many people my age, Cape Canaveral has a special place in my heart and my imagination. When I was a child, it was from "The Cape" that the most intrepid pioneers of our age set out on epic missions of discovery. And I will never forget the moment man set foot on the moon. But what I didn't know then, listening in awe to my car radio, was that some of the first and most important steps of mankind's epic journey to the Moon had been taken right here in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.
Even those of us who have spent our whole lives in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore may not fully appreciate the critically important role that our region has played — and continues to play — in the exploration of our universe. A strong argument can be made, however, that the "giant leap" mankind made in 1969 started at the Langley Research Center on the Peninsula. It was right there in 1917 that the organization that would later become National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), established its first research center.
From the beginning, Langley focused on cutting-edge aeronautics research and the design of ever-better performing aircraft including the legendary P-51 Mustang of World War II fame. But in 1945, Langley Research Center set up an offshoot facility on Wallops Island to experiment with what was then a largely unproven but incredibly promising technology — rocket propulsion.
Wallops' rockets were initially used for propelling model aircraft—some of the first UAVs—but starting in 1958, when NASA was established, Wallops took on a new mission: putting men into space. Unbeknownst to many residents, the capsules that would carry the first Americans into space during Project Mercury were tested at Wallops right here on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Meanwhile, back at Langley, men who would soon have household names underwent training to become America's first astronauts. One of them, known around Virginia Beach for driving a flashy white convertible, was Alan Shepard, who would soon become the first American in space. A few years later, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong would come to Langley to train in its lunar landing simulator for that day that my generation remembers so very well.
There is a tendency among air and space enthusiasts to focus on those glory days in the 1960s, but the decades since have witnessed many more accomplishments by the hardworking men and women of NASA. Langley Research Center has continued to push the frontiers of aerospace research and today, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's senior curator, "It's hard to think of an airliner in the air today that doesn't have Langley's signature on it" or "a military airplane flying today that Langley wasn't involved with in one way or another." Wallops Flight Facility, meanwhile, has continued launching rockets, and in September 2013 became the first place outside "the Cape" to send an American mission to the moon.
While Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore's space facilities have an incredible history to be proud of, the future looks equally bright. For both Langley and Wallops, good things appear to be in store. NASA's budget, which was submitted to Congress last month, contained a 10-year plan to reach "New Aviation Horizons" by building and flying a new generation of cutting-edge "X-plane" prototypes. The first of these experimental programs will be managed by the aerospace experts at Langley, with more projects likely to follow. Meanwhile, Wallops Island has developed into a viable commercial spaceport that is currently used by the company Orbital ATK to send resupply missions to the International Space Station. Looking ahead, as the commander of the Air Force's Space Command told me recently, Wallops could have growing utility as a site for launching a new generation of smaller military satellites with important national security missions. As one of only a handful of sites authorized by the FAA for the testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, Wallops could also play a major role in that dynamic market.
All these local contributions to air and space exploration should inspire in Virginians the same pride, optimism and excitement about future opportunities that I felt on that roadside in 1969. In many ways, Virginia represents a model for the future with its innovative partnerships between the commonwealth, the federal government, and the private sector. With its NASA facilities, military presence, universities, high-tech industry and supportive communities, Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore have all "the right stuff" to support future breakthroughs. As with any federal program, however, NASA's ambitious plans will need strong support in Washington to succeed. That is why I am establishing a congressional NASA caucus, to ensure that members of Congress are well-informed about the inspiring work NASA is doing and why it is so important.
With the 100th anniversary of NASA Langley's creation approaching, we should all be excited to see what new milestones in aeronautics, spaceflight and our understanding of the universe we can reach in the century ahead.
Read the full Op-Ed here.
May 11, 2016
Like many Americans, I’ve always been in awe of the work NASA does and the new worlds they unlock.
Recently, I visited the NASA Langley Research Center to see firsthand the incredible work these men and women do for the future of our economy and national security. In order to make sure all Members of Congress understand and support the limitless opportunities NASA offers for our future, I am launching a bipartisan Congressional NASA caucus. You can see my press release announcing the Caucus here, along with the Daily Press’ coverage below.
Yours in service,
Forbes at NASA Langley to push hypersonics research
May 6, 2016
Nearly 60 years ago, America and the world watched as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit, besting everyone else in artificial satellite technology and ushering in the space age.
"Very few people really knew what a satellite was, or anything about a satellite," U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, said in a phone interview Thursday. "Then, all of the sudden, we see Sputnik going across the sky. And America had this Kodak moment for a while, saying, 'Oh, my gosh, we are getting behind the Russians.'"
Sputnik sparked the space race that led to NASA's Mercury and Apollo programs and the U.S. landing the first man on the moon.
Well, said Forbes, the race is on again. Only this time it's with China and advanced hypersonic vehicles.
Last month, Chinese media announced a successful flight test of a hypersonic glider capable of flying at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or five to 10 times the speed of sound. Hypersonic generally means speeds above Mach 5.
This concerns Forbes, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and others because such technology theoretically could be used to send missiles hurtling over vast distances at a fraction of current speeds, leaving little time to respond.
"This glider, if they develop it, will be able to beat most of the air and missile defense systems in the world today," Forbes said. "That should be a similar kind of Sputnik moment for us to realize we have got to reach not only existing levels of hypersonics — but we have to go to new horizons."
To that end, Forbes was in Hampton Friday afternoon for a tour of NASA Langley Research Center before announcing the formation of a bipartisan congressional NASA Caucus intended to spur advances in select technologies, including hypersonics.
About 50 NASA Langley Research Center contractors have been laid off since Oct. 1, according to a Langley spokeswoman.
The research center was deliberately chosen, he said.
"Whether or not we're able to take advantage of the challenges and opportunities that hypersonics gives us," Forbes said, "is going to be dependent pretty much on the work that's done in Hampton, Va., at NASA Langley."
The center was established nearly a century ago as the country's first civilian aeronautics laboratory, and continues to help develop next-generation aircraft technologies.
The U.S. Air Force has been working on its own hypersonic technology, and in 2004 partnered with NASA — in this case, the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California — in a $300 million technology demonstration program to prove the viability of supersonic scramjet propulsion.
After some initial failures, that effort culminated in 2013 when officials announced the historic final flight of the X-51A Waverider, a cruiser that reached Mach 5.1 and traveled more than 230 nautical miles at 60,000 feet in just over six minutes.
Other partners in that effort were Boeing, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Air Force has said there was no immediate successor to that program, but that hypersonic research would continue.
In an email statement Friday, Jay Dryer, head of the Advanced Air Vehicles Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that developing new hypersonic capabilities is "important for the country."
"In the near-term, application of hypersonics is likely to be on enhanced defense systems," Dryer said. "But this could eventually expand to include improved access to space capabilities that would directly benefit NASA."
The space agency's Hypersonics Technology Project is part of its Advanced Air Vehicles Program. Dryer said their project will continue to research high-speed propulsion systems and other advanced physics-based models while coordinating closely with the Defense Department.
Russia is also developing its own hypersonic technology, joining with India to develop a short-range supersonic cruise missile called BrahMos that can carry a nuclear warhead.
"We just can't afford to let these other countries take the lead," Forbes said.
At NASA Langley, the congressman was given a hypersonics overview and shown the hypersonic scramjet test facility where fundamental research is conducted, said center spokesman Rob Wyman.
He was also briefed on other aeronautics activity, including a flying laboratory used to study Earth systems, the Cirrus SR22 single-engine plane that assisted the first government-approved drone deliver medical supplies last summer by remote piloting, and a model of a Mars flyer that could one day be used on the Red Planet.
Forbes was also shown the "boom room," or supersonic simulation building, used to develop ways to minimize or redirect the loud booms generated by supersonic aircraft when they break the sound barrier. If successful, Wyman said, it could one day return supersonic flights over land.
The next step for the NASA Caucus, Forbes said, is staffing it with members who will choose critical research areas to champion.
"Instead of having one person that's promoting NASA, you will have a large number of members of Congress kind of speaking with a single voice," Forbes said.
"Which should be hugely beneficial both to NASA and, we believe, to NASA Langley and the importance of the kind of work that's going to be done there over the next decade or more."
October 12, 2015
17 percent. That’s the approximate amount that the average American pays in combined federal, state, and local government wireless taxes and fees on their phone bill each month, according to research by the Tax Foundation.
We should all be able to agree that something needs to be done about this. Especially since for many Americans, cell phones are increasingly their sole means of communication and connectivity. It’s unfair for the government to single out one set of consumers (like wireless users). Yet that is exactly what they are continuing to do.
I’m championing a bill to stop state and local governments from tacking on any new taxes and fees on specific communications services, like wireless, for five years. During this freeze, there is time for state and local governments to make common sense changes to their communications tax structures, modernizing them to reflect current usage patterns. Take a look at H.R. 1087.
I also supported a bill to keep internet access tax-free. Learn more about the bill, here.
September 04, 2015
22 million. That is the approximate number of people impacted by the recent hack against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which a number of accounts have attributed to the Chinese government. Although this malicious hack has not be formally confirmed to have originated the Chinese government, there is no shortage of evidence that China is actively promoting cyber espionage. And they are not just hacking personal information—they are also suspected of making off with some of our most sensitive military technology and the medical data of millions of Americans.
So far the Administration has pursued at best an incoherent strategy for addressing this growing threat.
As Chairman of the Congressional China Caucus, I sent a letter to the President, along with Rep Joe Wilson, Chairman of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee outlining China’s belligerent behavior to the United States and urging him to take decisive action -- in the form of punitive economic sanctions -- to protect the intellectual property and personal data of U.S. based companies, as well as government data and personnel information. It is time to send a clear message to China, and to the world, that state sponsored hacking against the United States will not be tolerated and will have tangible repercussions.
You can read more about our letter in the article below, published in The Hill.
Lawmakers press Obama to sanction China
The Hill | Thursday, September 3, 2015
Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) on Thursday called on President Obama to impose economic sanctions on China “to let the world know that state sponsored hacking will have tangible repercussions.”
In a letter to the White House, Wilson and Forbes pointed to mounting evidence of Beijing’s active promotion of cyber espionage, specifically its alleged hack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The congressmen said the White House has pursued an “incoherent deterrent strategy” when it comes to state-backed cyber espionage.
While Obama authorized additional sanctions for certain North Korean officials in response to the attack on Sony Pictures, the representatives said he has taken no such action against the five Chinese military hackers indicted on economic espionage charges in 2014.
Some observers say it’s unlikely the five members of the People’s Liberation Army charged in 2014 will ever see the inside of a U.S. court room, and that the purpose of the indictments was simply to send a diplomatic warning.
“A clear and unwavering line needs to be drawn by your Administration in protecting the intellectual property and personal data of U.S. based companies, as well as government data and personnel information,” Wilson and Forbes wrote.
The representatives’ call comes in the wake of recent White House leaks that revealed the administration is developing possible economic sanctions to use as a tool to deter China cyber spying.
The unnamed White House sources suggested that those sanctions would most likely be targeted at Chinese companies, not Beijing — and that the OPM hack would not be one of the actions subject to sanctions.
Policy experts say there is a critical distinction between hacking for commercial gain and hacking for traditional intelligence purposes. Most reports indicate that the sanctions would address only the former.
The president has been under increasing pressure to take a more offensive stance on cyber espionage where China is concerned, with rhetoric amongst D.C. lawmakers reaching a fever pitch in the wake of the OPM hack.
“One of the conclusions we’ve reached is that we need to be a bit more public about our responses, and one reason is deterrence,” a White House official told The New York Times in an oft-quoted interview on administration policy. “We need to disrupt and deter what our adversaries are doing in cyberspace, and that means you need a full range of tools to tailor a response.”
“We strongly urge your Administration, in consultation with the Treasury Department, to apply punitive economic sanctions to entities and individuals conducting cyberattacks to punish and deter such action,” Wilson and Forbes wrote.
August 07, 2014
A recent report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the U.S. ranks below average when it comes to innovation in primary and secondary schools.
Innovation is essential to the progress of our education systems and in strengthening our students’ ability to compete in an increasingly global economy, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. I believe that we must encourage students to get involved in STEM at an early age, not only to develop their interest in those subjects, but to allow them to see that what they like doing – like playing on computers – can be what they do for a living. By coupling increased interest with strengthening STEM education itself, we can spur economic development through the diffusion of technology and information, and better equip our students to push our country towards to a brighter future.
I supported the STEM Education Act of 2014, H.Res.5031, which expands the definition of STEM education to include computer science and ensures the awarding of National Science Foundation grants to improve STEM learning outcomes, as well as research that advances the field of informal STEM education. I will continue to support the expansion of STEM education throughout the Commonwealth and across the country.
April 03, 2014
Since 1998, the Department of Commerce has exercised control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private, non-profit organization that manages basic functions of the Internet.
Earlier this month, however, the administration announced its intent to relinquish control of ICANN to the global Internet community.
In 2012, the House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions expressing the sense of Congress that the administration should maintain the United States’ support of a global Internet free from government control, and work to preserve and advance the multi-stakeholder model that governs the Internet today.
Question of the week: Do you support transitioning authority of the Internet to a global community?
( ) Yes.
( ) No.
( ) I don’t know.
( ) Other.
Take the Poll here.
Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
January 13, 2012
In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in FCC v. Pacifica that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had the power to police public broadcast radio and television programming during times when children typically watch and listen to radio and television (6:00 AM and 10:00 PM). This week, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments over whether the FCC should still have a role in regulating the public airwaves or whether its indecency regulations violate guarantees of free speech. Broadcasters say the FCC policy is unconstitutionally vague and violates free-speech rights. Specifically, Fox Television Stations is requesting the Supreme Court to abandon a rule that allows more government regulation of broadcast, compared with cable, because of the scarcity of the airwaves and the pervasiveness of broadcast TV and radio. Proponents of the regulation, however, argue that broadcasters utilize public airwaves that the government is entitled to regulate in order to prevent the proliferation of indecency during traditional family viewing hours.
Question of the Week: Should the FCC continue to monitor public broadcast airwaves to prevent indecency during family viewing hours?
( ) Yes, the FCC should continue to monitor public broadcast radio and TV content.
( ) No, the FCC should cease policing public broadcast programming.
( ) I am unsure.
( ) Other (leave your comments below)
Take the poll here.
Find the results of last week's instaPoll here.
June 24, 2011
Imagine if the federal government could ask the “what if” questions about a wide variety of national disasters from natural to manmade. Imagine a crisis that could be solved in hours or days, rather than months, or, better yet, prevent it altogether. Imagine a virtual command center where hundreds of ideas from across the nation could be simulated, rated for effectiveness, and placed into effect across all federal agencies within a matter of moments. Imagine if our nation had had the opportunity to train and prepare for disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil Spill before they even happened.
This week, the 6th Annual Congressional Modeling and Simulation Expo showcased ways in which that can be done through the use of modeling and simulation technology. In today’s high-tech society and with the increasing potential of global threats, the federal government must be prepared for national emergencies, and M&S is uniquely positioned to provide practice for responding quickly and effectively to disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil Spill.
Read more about the Congressional Modeling and Simulation Caucus, which I founded and chair, here.
Here are some photos of the event.
May 27, 2011
Recent news reports are now suggesting that energy-hungry China is ‘cranking up the heat’ in its efforts to reach nuclear fusion, a scientific achievement that has long eluded the United States.
China has previously been involved in a collaborative $21 billion effort toward developing a viable nuclear fusion program with the multinational International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program, which involves hundreds of scientists from China, the European Union, Japan, India, Korea, Russia and the United States. However, a recent report reveals that Beijing is planning to train 2,000 more of its own experts to independently pursue research and development into magnetic confinement fusion, which would use magnetic fields to produce the high-pressure conditions necessary for fusion.
Read the Wall Street Journal article below to learn more about the significance of China’s decision to pursue its own research of fusion technologies, or click here.
May 26, 2011, 7:49 PM HKT
China Cranks Up Heat on Nuclear Fusion
Is China’s latest technological drive going to end up producing yet another Sputnik moment for the U.S.?
That has to be one question on the minds of scientists, researchers and politicians in the U.S. as China unveils its latest attempt to reach for one of science’s brass rings: viable nuclear fusion technology.
According to a report in the state-run China Daily, the central government is planning to train 2,000 experts to pursue research and development into magnetic confinement fusion, which seeks to use magnetic fields to create the high-pressure conditions necessary for fusion.
A number of research institutes and private companies around the world are racing to perfect magnetic confinement.
China is already a signatory and participant in the France-based International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, that is perhaps the largest project pursuing magnetic approach. Arguably one of the most world’s ambitious multinational scientific undertakings, the project has a price tag of at least $21 billion and involves hundreds of scientists from China, the European Union, Japan, India Korea, Russia and the United States.
One concern among Chinese scientists is that the nation is not getting enough value out of its investment the ITER project. “China is trying to dispatch more qualified scientists to work on” the project, Cao Jianlin, vice-minister of science and technology, told China Daily.
Right now China provides 10% of the funding for the project, but supplies only 5% of the scientists, which means the country is missing out on valuable training for its would-be fusion experts.
Chinese engineers and scientists are currently responsible for building components such as heating, diagnostic and remote maintenance equipment for the project, as well as transporting it to Cadarache in the south of France, where the ITER reactor will be built.
Another researcher quoted by the China Daily thinks it’s not nearly enough and complained about the lack of exposure Chinese scientists are getting to the new technologies that could reshape the energy market.
“The ITER is related to 34 core scientific engineering technologies and management subjects,” Wan Yuanxi, dean of the school of nuclear science and technology under the University of Science and Technology of China, said. “Chinese researchers only work on 11 of them, which means we have no involvement in more than 60 percent of its core scientific engineering technologies and management subjects.”
In addition to its international efforts, China is also pursuing its own research into fusion technologies in research around the country, including at a laboratory in Chengdu.
An April guideline issued jointly by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the China National Nuclear Corp. recommends the government subsidize at least 200 researchers who intend to pursue doctorates in magnetic controlled fusion.
Currently there are 1,254 researchers have been involved with magnetic controlled fusion-related projects in China, according to the China Daily report.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars on fusion research, in addition to the work it is doing to promote ITER projects domestically and on the main project in France, although funding for the European project has been a political football in the past. Like China, the US is responsible for around 9% of the ITER project’s total costs, with the EU has taking on the bulk of financing.
Indeed, institutions globally are all racing to find some way to commercialize technology that seems almost too good to be true – providing cheap, nearly unlimited power with no harmful emissions.
It’s a quest that has created some strange bedfellows. In the U.S., supporters of fusion technology range from the original “Penthouse” magazine publisher Bob Guccione to some of the nation’s premiere technology investment firms.