It appears that NASA has complied, at least partially, with a request by a House committee for documents about the FY11 budget process. Tucked into an article about impending layoffs at Constellation contractors, the New York Times reports that NASA sent over documents to the House Science and Technology Committee Friday evening, which staff members are now reviewing. The committee demanded the documents last week after NASA was not forthcoming with earlier requests for information about aspects of the budget. The report does not indicate, however, whether the agency withheld any documents, and if so for what reasons.
Meanwhile, six senators have written to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, asking him to abandon efforts to slow down Constellation by requiring contractors to withhold funds to cover termination liability. In the letter the senators cite concerns about “inconsistent treatment and the counter-productive effect of withholding funding” on NASA contractors. The letter was organized, according to Florida Today, by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and signed by Sens. Robert Bennett (R-UT), Jon Cornyn (R-TX), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), George LeMieux (R-FL), and David Vitter (R-LA). While the signers are all from states that have perhaps the most to lose from the cancellation of Constellation, interestingly, neither Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) nor Alabama’s two senators signed the letter.
All this comes as the House is expected to finally start to take action on the NASA budget proposal. Next Tuesday afternoon the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will markup its version of the FY11 spending bill, which includes NASA. The House is also expected to take up next week a supplemental appropriations bill for FY10, including deciding whether to include language similar to the Senate version that requires NASA to fund “continued performance of Constellation contracts” with the remaining funding this fiscal year. An article in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle discusses these developments, although some might find the article has a curious tilt. “Two milestones in the protracted congressional budget process are expected to provide NASA supporters their first concrete evidence next week that lawmakers from states without major NASA facilities are willing to defy the president and support the campaign to salvage parts of the $108 billion back-to-the-moon program,” the article states. So one can’t be a “NASA supporter” and also back the administration’s new direction for the agency? Perhaps not in Houston.