NASA Leaders Trying To Work Around Congress On Constellation

If one had watched the two House hearings last week regarding space, one would have noticed quite a bit of interest in NASA’s decision to send letters to Constellation contractors notifying them that they are responsible, under the terms of their contracts, for preserving funds for close-out of their Constellation work. In a well-written article, Amy Klamper, of Space News, sheds more light on this issue in, Contractors Preserving Constellation Funds To Pay for Program Closeout.

She starts out by noting, “Lockheed Martin could be forced to slow or stop work on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle this spring in order to preserve enough money to cover the cost of shutting down the project as soon as this fall, according to congressional sources.”

Ms. Klamper’s article brings into stark relief the disingenuous claims made by the NASA Administrator that he had not choice but to send such notification under the Anti-Deficiency Act, which requires NASA to ensure that its contractors do not overspend the $3.5 billion Congress appropriated for Constellation for 2010, because NASA may not have enough money for Constellation close-out, though it has budgeted $2.5B over the next two years for such work.

“Won’t the impact of those letters be such that in order to comply the contractors will still have to stop or delay work on Constellation that was planned for [fiscal year] 2010 despite the administration’s assurances to the contrary?” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.)

“I would just suggest that NASA spend a little less time figuring out ways to wiggle out of some of these contracts and figure out how to negotiate this without thinking that we’re going to notice, and more on following what the direction of the Congress and the United States people had in mind.” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Chairwoman, House Science & Technology Subcommittee.

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