I respect the idea of a civilian space program. However, given the disdain some have for anything civilian except it's under the guidance of the Department of Defense, I wonder if it might not be a bad idea to fold NASA under the control of Pentagon general or admiral and allow a greater military role in the future of US space exploration.
There is a current crop of astronauts at NASA who's future are muddier than at any other time. Congress is playing politics with the US economy. If future space missions are given greater military involvement and label them as being in the interest of national or even global security, maybe NASA might have less of a hard time finding the resources from Washington to support its role in space.
It's an absolute disgrace that only Russia, and to some extent, China are the ones with the vehicles to take humans into space at this time.
NBC has a report on a group of astronaut candidates whose roles will be working on the International Space Station and as support roles. The US won't have its own vehicle ready for another five years (optimistically), that is all they can do.
So far, grand space programs from presidents Bush and Obama are just words spoken at State of the Union addresses because they play will to polls but no one seems to remember the pride and prestige of US presence on the moon and the launches of space shuttles. If you do a Jay Leno style interview of people on the street, you probably won't get people to recall whether we've even been to the moon, had shuttles, starships, or can travel to other star systems. Folks are just not excited about space.
But we are still very proud of our military and given a greater role to, say, the navy or air force could get Congress to pay more attention to US role in space.
However, that isn't to say that there isn't a role for civilians. SpaceX (wiki page) is a successful private space company that has not only launched missions to the ISS but is also working on new rockets that NASA and its old-tired partners, typically also late and over-budget on programs, could never do on its own.
Space is going to be huge (for humans) and American presence is needed no matter the political situation on Earth. Fostering private companies like SpaceX is great but a greater role of American public is needed as well. And NASA, prey to politics, should think about a takeover by the Pentagon.