White House Declines Death Star Undertaking, Cites Budget Constraints
Enemies of the Pentagon will not witness the power of a fully operational battle station anytime soon.
Last month an online petition to the White House site We the People that called for the construction of the Death Star from the "Star Wars" movies surpassed the 25,000 signature threshold required to initiate an official response.
Citing national security and the number of jobs the initiative would create, the petition gained 34,000 signatures.
On Friday Paul Shawcross of the Office of Management and Budget, showed he was up for satire and responded in kind, issuing a tongue-in-cheek address to the demand for a space station capable of obliterating entire planets.
A chief obstacle, he said, was the budget.
"The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850 quadrillion. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it," OMB's science and technology officer wrote, using figures drawn from Lehigh University business students.
For perspective, the World Bank estimates the combined GDP of all nations to rest at $70 trillion. It would take the Earth 12,000 years to fund construction.
Regardless of cost, Shawcross said President Obama "does not support blowing up planets" as a matter of foreign policy.
The administration also made much of the Death Star's known weakness: A single rebel pilot could destroy it.
"Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star … that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"
Getting serious, Shawcross used his message to highlight science and educational opportunities available to students.
"You'll notice something already floating in the sky - that's no moon, it's a space station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-size International Space Station in orbit around Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations," he wrote as he trumped the recent series of robotic Mars rovers landed by NASA and leaps by the private space industry.
Shawcross listed other developments in the sciences, including advances in prosthetic limb replacement - or as he called it, movie hero Luke Skywalker's robotic arm.
"We are living in the future! Enjoy it," he said. "Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field.
The White House did divulge one secret in what may be described as a Friday-night document dump: the metaphysical powers of "the Force" are real.
"If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force."
Despite what a letdown this must be for "Star Wars" fans, they can take heart. The Defense Department has routinely used science fiction to inspire its research. As originally reported by Wired magazine, the Pentagon even used the Death Star itself in experiments on funding appropriations and cost-versus-benefit analysis.
Read the full White House response here.
Many Bothans died contributing to this report.