KTVT-TV, a CBS affiliate in Dallas-Ft. Worth, turned its investigative lens on NASA in a report that aired Monday night. Reporter Tracy Rowlett used a number of GAO studies (such as its recent review of NASA’s aircraft fleet) and interviews with the head of Citizens Against Government Waste (which has previously been critical of NASA) to conclude that NASA is “wasting taxpayer dollars by the millions”.
Whenever I hear that NASA is wasting “millions”, I am reminded of a quote from the very first episode of The X Files that I saw, when Mulder, investigating strange events at NASA, says something to the effect, “Millions of dollars wasted: that’s all Congress needs to shut NASA down.” (When I heard this I started laughing and concluded this was actually a comedy show; it was years before I watched another episode. But I digress.) Millions have been wasted at NASA (and probably every other government agency of any size), yet the space agency lives on.
The CAGW’s Tom Schatz believes that Congress doesn’t want “to rein in an agency that’s very popular with voters”, adding that while Congress likes to hold hearings on such issues, they are less effective in forcing reform. An alternative, though, might be that when the agency’s and Congress’ focus is on a gap of up to $6 billon between NASA’s plans and its budget, concerns like inappropriate use of agency aircraft, while unfortunate and undesirable, are simply a much lower priority.