Amy Klamper over at Space News reported in Mikulski Troubled by Approach to Constellation Termination that the White House’s Director of OMB Peter Orszag received a letter from Senate Appropriations Science Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski warning the White House and NASA to discontinue its back-door approach to shutting-down Project Constellation.
In particular, Senator Mikulski seems to be unhappy with NASA’s new practice of enforcing the old, here-to-fore unenforced Antideficiency Act when it comes to Constellation’s contractors. Contractors such as ATK, Orbital Sciences, and Lockheed Martin have, upon receiving letters from NASA warning such contractors that they must have sufficient financial reserves for contract termination in order to comply with the Antideficiency Act, been forced to curtail their Constellation work. Mikulski’s warned that, while NASA may be following the letter of the law in enforcing the Act even as it tries to adhere to the Fiscal Year 2010 language prohibiting NASA from terminating or changing Constellation, it certainly is not following the spirit of that language.
AmericaSpace Note: Congress spoke very clearly in its FY 2010 Omnibus language of its desire that Constellation continue uninhibited until such time as both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approve changes to that program. Playing a legal game with Congress, especially with members of the very Appropriations Committee who inserted this language in the first place, by following the letter but not the spirit of that language seems amaturish and only serves to build opposition within Congress to the very changes NASA’s executive management seeks. Such legal gamesmanship also raises the specter of possible, or worse intentional, violations of the Impoundment Act by executive management at NASA, an issue that was raised as far back as February 14th in a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden signed by 27 members of Congress.