Members of the Senate Commerce Committee, and their staff, have made it clear for months that they have been frustrated with the lack of information they have received from NASA about its plans to implement provisions of the 2010 NASA authorization act, particularly regarding the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. Last month they formally requested a comprehensive set of documents from NASA on various programs, including SLS, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and commercial crew initiatives.
The committee’s patience may have finally run out. In a letter Wednesday to NASA administration Charles Bolden, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the chair and ranking member of the full committee, warned NASA that if it did not provide specific documents to the committee by the end of the day Monday it would issue a subpoena for them. “While NASA has provided a partial response to our May 18 letter, you have thwarted our oversight activities by withholding key documents that describe NASA’s compliance with the 2010 Act,” the letter states. It adds that in one case “NASA was withholding at least 19 separate drafts of a report it is required to submit to Congress under Section 309 of the 2010 Act.” That section of the 2010 authorization act requires NASA to provide a “detailed report” on the agency’s plans to implement the SLS and MPCV. NASA released a draft report in January but has yet to provide the final report.
So, will this subpoena compel NASA to release the documents? Or, perhaps, encourage NASA to accelerate release of the final report and make a formal decision on its SLS plans, which recent reports indicate are all but a done deal?