NASA Over-Stepping

On Friday, February 12, as reported on by The Houston Chronicle in, Twenty-seven House members challenge NASA cuts, 27 Congressional Representatives sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden exhoriating NASA’s efforts to work on Constellation’s cancelation during budget year 2010.

It seems that NASA management last month placed on hold a Constellation contract.  And it has come to light that NASA headquarters has set-up tiger teams, that is small groups of people, to map out the step-by-step phase out of Constellation. Oh, almost forgot, it also appears that NASA headquarters management likely asked Johnson Space Center’s Mike Coats “to slow down or to terminate contracts related to the Constellation programs”. Very naughty.

The termination of the Constellation programs is a proposal by the president but it is Congress who will accept or reject that proposal. In the meantime, funds for the Constellation programs are to be spent as if the program will continue.

NASA’s actions prompted Rep. Pete Olson (R TX-22) to gather together 26 other Democratic and Republican pro-space Representatives and send a letter last Friday to Administrator Bolden, telling him to

  • Restart the Constellation contract
  • Kill the Constellation close-out tiger teams
  • Provide lawmakers his “personal assurance that there will be no instructions to slow down or to terminate contracts related to the Constellation programs.”
  • Respond to their letter by March 1st.

What’s the language restricting NASA from doing anything to Constellation?

We need to look in the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Bill Summary concerning NASA funding, particularly with regard to Project Constellation. The most interesting is the following language on page 5, final paragraph, of the report,

Human Spaceflight: In October 2009, the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee (The Augustine Commission) reported its findings on NASA’s human space flight program. The Augustine Commission raised several issues regarding the current program and budget profile that will require thoughtful consideration by the Administration. In the absence of a bona fide proposal from the Administration on the future of U.S. human spaceflight activities and investments, the bill provides the budget request of $3.1 billion for activities to support human spaceflight in fiscal year 2010; however, the bill requires that any program termination or elimination or the creation of any new program, project or activity not contemplated in the budget request must be approved in subsequent appropriations Acts.

Anyone reading that language would agree that holding contracts, engaging in shut-down activities of Constellation, even if it is just planning, and certainly telling a NASA Center to stop work on Constellation violate the above.

As the letter reminded, his actions could violate the Impoundment Act.

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