June 21, 2010

Lawmakers Inquire About NASA Administrator’s Plan

House lawmakers have given NASA Administrator Charles Bolden until June 25 to deliver all records, charts, emails, voice messages and other supporting materials used in drafting the agency's 2011 budget proposal.

The House Science and Technology Committee gave NASA last week until June 16 to flesh out supporting analysis for the agency's controversial shift in course, which would abandon the Constellation program.  The new plan entails backing a commercial crew taxi service to the International Space Station and developing enabling technologies for deep space exploration.

"Since NASA has failed to provide the Committee with any detailed supporting materials with which Congress can judge the proposed human spaceflight plan, Congress must insist upon the production of all materials NASA relied upon in formulating its proposal," the committee's chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), wrote in the June 17 letter to Bolden.  Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the committee's ranking member, cosigned the letter along with Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and Pete Olson (R-Texas).

The letter demands that all records relating to the development of NASA's human spaceflight proposal include "any analysis of the executability of the proposed plan through 2025."

It also demands that all records relating to the formulation of NASA's revised human spaceflight proposal announced by U.S. President Barack Obama on April 15.

The letter said that the committee also wants all NASA records relating to any budgetary analysis as well as estimates of the employment impact of canceling the Constellation program and implementing the new plan, "both for the agency and for the private sector."

Lawmakers requested that materials be delivered to the committee's room for the Rayburn House Office building in Capital Hill "no later than close of business on Friday June 25, 2010."

The committee asks that any relevant records that NASA chooses not to share be documented "item by item, with the express legal basis for the privilege claimed for each item clearly noted."

The letter notes that the committee has "made repeated requests for detailed cost and programmatic information which was lacking in the [fiscal] 2011 budget request," and that House lawmakers have asked Bolden and his staff for these materials on at least four separate occasions.

"The failure of NASA to supply Congress with this information hampers our ability to address the future of NASA's human spaceflight program in a timely manner," the letter states. "Simultaneously, the agency is implementing dramatic changes to the Constellation program, which are resulting in the loss of thousands of skilled jobs and which will cause unavoidable delays in the development of Ares-I and Orion, should Congress decide not to terminate those programs."


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