One of the larger controversies last spring was the General Services Administration’s (GSA) $822,000 “Hats Off” Program gathering in Las Vegas, Nevada. A music video highlighting the extravaganza and its expenses caused a political firestorm. The GSA’s largess stood in stark contrast to what Congress was trying to impress upon the public – that it understood the new economic reality and was working to stop wasteful spending. More than a half-dozen top leaders at GSA were immediately fired, put on leave or in the case of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, forced to resign. This was followed by stern rebukes came from the Obama White House.
On 1 October, The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is being held for 5 days in Naples Italy. NASA is planning on sending 50 civil servants to Italy to attend the IAC. Yesterday, House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf raised this issue with NASA Administrator Bolden. Rep. Wolf is concerned that, despite assurances from Administrator Bolden, NASA has not gotten the message from the GSA controversy to be vigilant in containing unnecessary expenses. In response to the “Hats Off” GSA event in Las Vegas last spring that quickly became a controversy, on 22 May 2012 House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf sent a letter to NASA Administrator Bolden requesting that, in light of the GSA controversy, NASA be especially diligent in not making the same mistakes.
On 15 June 2012 NASA Administrator Bolden responded by assuring the House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman that any conference attended by NASA personnel exceeding $100,000 would be subject to review. Bolden also stated that, “As the NASA Administrator, I take my responsibility and accountability for use of taxpayer dollars in this area seriously…”