I have not had a chance to review yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Contributions of Space to National Imperatives” (I’m on travel this week at the International Space Development Conference in Huntsville). However, there is at least one newsworthy item of interest to come out of the hearing. In his opening testimony, committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV) said that he and other committee members have sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking, in effect, for proof that NASA is implementing provisions of the NASA authorization act passed last year:
More than seven months after President Obama signed this [authorization] bill into law, I am concerned NASA is not moving forward with implementing it with the urgency it requires. I’m worried that NASA’s inaction and indecision in making this transition could hurt America’s space leadership—something that would cost us billions of dollars and years to repair.
It is for this reason that I’m prepared to step up the Committee’s oversight today.
This morning I, along with members of this Committee, sent a letter to Administrator Bolden. The letter outlines steps NASA should to take to help this Committee determine whether it is fully implementing the law. As I’ve said before, implementation of the law is a priority for me, and for this Committee. We simply can’t afford to get it wrong.
Space News provides some more details about the contents of the letter, which isn’t posted on the committee’s web site. The committee is asking for “bi-monthly briefings and detailed information” on the agency’s implementation plans, starting at the end of this month. The documentation includes a variety of reports on heavy-lift launch vehicle development and transition of Orion to the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, studies assessing demand for commercial crew transportation (including a controversial Aerospace Corporation study that suggested the business case for commercial crew didn’t close), effects on the the country’s propulsion industrial base of a new heavy-lift vehicle, and lists of contract modifications and transitions, among other documents. It’s the latest sign of frustration that has been building among some members of Congress for months about the lack of information they’ve received from NASA about their plans. NASA, though, blames the fact that a final FY11 spending measure wasn’t passed until last month; the long series of continuing resolutions and uncertainty during that time hindered their planning, they argue.