Congress, NASA

Senators push NASA for documents

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?

38 comments to Senators push NASA for documents

  • To quote Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison character in JFK, “What else do you expect from a pig but a grunt?”

  • kop

    Why doesn’t Rockefeller get in the party’s line?

    Why don’t they wait for the announcement scheduled for the last Shuttle flight?

  • Major Tom

    “So, will this subpoena compel NASA to release the documents? Or, perhaps, encourage NASA to accelerate release of the final report…”

    Unlikely if NASA or the White House don’t want to release. After the committee releases the subpoena, NASA will have another period of time to respond. If NASA still doesn’t respond, the committee can send a report of contempt to the full Senate. The full Senate would then have to find Bolden (or whomever is named in the report) in contempt. If they do, the matter is then referred to the U.S. Attorney, who then has to impanel a grand jury to determine whether to prosecute. If they prosecute, then there’d finally be a trial in which someone might actually be fined (limited to $100-1,000) and/or go to jail (limited to 1-12 months). Given the extraordinary length of this process, the large number of gates in the process, the high likelihood that the process will be stopped cold at one of those gates, the relatively light punishments meted out at the end of the process, and the fact that only one person has actually been fined or gone to jail for contempt of congress since 1975, the latest Rockefeller/Hutchison letter isn’t going to compel much of anything that NASA and the White House don’t already want to supply.

    But by all accounts, NASA is ready to release its SLS plan, so the Rockefeller/Hutchison latest letter is little more than grandstanding at this point. The only wrinkle is whether OMB and the White House can hold up their nose long enough to agree with the SLS plan. If OMB and the White House don’t agree and don’t want the plan released without substantial changes, then Rockefeller/Hutchison will have to decide whether they’re willing to wait for those changes or whether sending empty nastygrams to the White House is also in their political interest. With Rockefeller, that’s not going to be the case.

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    Major Tom,

    Thanks for the detailed and informative response.

    - Al

  • common sense

    I am glad that our Congress seems to finally see the light on how to cut idiotic spending on legal err theatrical spending!

    Whatever…

  • I remember watching Bolden’s and Garver’s confirmation hearing before this committee in 2009. Rockefeller kept complaining that he didn’t want to be there and wanted to find someone else to chair it so he could move on.

    That’s how much he really cares about NASA.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Jeff asks, So, will this subpoena compel NASA to release the documents?

    A subpoena is intended to compel action. And it will, one way or another. Either NASA will produce the requested documents by Monday, 6PM, or the Committee will issue a subpoena. If NASA’s leadership continues to resist, the next step is a Contempt of Congress charge. And that is where things get very serious very quickly. And expensive. DC area counsel doesn’t come cheap, with a good attorney starting in the $750/hour and quickly rising from there.

    One thing is probable, to let things get this far, it seems reasonable to assume something is up with the remaining documents that the Senate CST Committee is seeking. There is something in those files that NASA, or someone high-up within NASA, is embarrassed about. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that should those documents fall, as they eventually will, in the hands of Rockefeller & Co., it won’t be long before someone is going to be making an announcement that they are leaving to spend some quality time with their family.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Because there is zero trust by those in the Senate of NASA’s HQ, I think Major Tom’s prediction is more than a bit too rosy.

    The Sec. 309 report is 4-5 months late. NASA is 3 weeks late in fulfilling the demands of the May 18th letter. That’s the public side. On the not-so public side, there are ample indications that NASA’s two leaders have deliberately slow-rolled the SLS and Orion MPCV programs and are likely to continue to do so.

    I’m not sure why the Major thinks that NASA will be given much time on the subpoena. Given that NASA already knows what it is supposed to produce under the May 18th letter, I’ll hazard a guess that the Committee will give NASA a day or two, not weeks or months, to comply.

    Those documents which NASA refuses to turn-over must be pretty interesting reading to let things get this far. And I may be wrong, but this will be the Obama Administration’s first subpoena from Congress. NASA’s leadership it seems is exploring uncharted territory for the Administration…see? They are explorers after all.

  • Al Fansome

    Rockefeller is clearly doing this as a favor to Hutchison, as he is not an advocate of NASA’s traditional approaches. There is no evidence that Rockefeller will go to the mat on this one. In fact there is evidence that he is looking for change.

    From an AIP report on Bolden/Garver’s Senate confirmation hearing on July 9, 2009 …

    From http://www.aip.org/fyi/2009/088.html

    Chairman Rockefeller’s questions to both nominees centered on his concern that NASA has drifted, and is no longer the inspiration to the American people it once was. “I need bolstering on NASA” he said, asking Bolden and Garver what they would do to restore the agency to its former position. Rockefeller went on to say that NASA was “more a splendid story of the past” which since then “had some really bad mishaps.” He told the nominees that support for NASA has to be earned every year, warning that “it is not a given.”

    - Al

  • Major Tom

    “A subpoena is intended to compel action. And it will, one way or another.”

    Not necessarily. See my earlier post above.

    “If NASA’s leadership continues to resist, the next step is a Contempt of Congress charge.”

    Wrong. Assuming NASA does not respond to the subpoena, the next step is that the committee has to vote on whether it wants to forward a report of contempt to the full Senate. Hutchison or someone on her staff is clearly worked up and Rockefeller or someone on his staff is going along for now. But it’s far from clear that the majority of the committee will feel the same way, especially in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

    “And that is where things get very serious very quickly. And expensive. DC area counsel doesn’t come cheap, with a good attorney starting in the $750/hour and quickly rising from there.”

    Wrong again. Even if the committee sent a report of contempt to the full Senate, the Senate then has to vote on whether it agrees with the report and finds Bolden (or whomever) in contempt. Again, it’s far from clear that the majority of the Senate will agree to go along with Hutchison’s or her staff’s crusade, especially in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

    If that happens, the matter is then referred to the U.S. Attorney, and they then have to decide whether the matter is worth pursuing.

    If they do, they then have to impanel a grand jury to determine whether there will be a trial. Only if the grand jury decides that there is sufficient evidence for a trial will Bolden (or whomever) need an attorney. (And the NASA General Counsel or Executive Branch may provide that attorney, especially if Bolden is still serving as Administrator, anyway.)

    This is a process that takes months to years to carry out. The House found Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, and other Bush II Administration officials in contempt back in 2007-8 and those matters are still ongoing in mid-2011.

    For better or worse, if an Administration doesn’t want to release something, there’s little Congress can do to compel the release in a useful timeframe.

    “One thing is probable, to let things get this far, it seems reasonable to assume something is up with the remaining documents that the Senate CST Committee is seeking. There is something in those files that NASA, or someone high-up within NASA, is embarrassed about.”

    Anything is possible, but it’s pretty clear from the Rockefeller/Hutchison letter that they’re after a document that NASA still has in draft form. That likely has more to do with SLS decisons that Bolden and other senior NASA managers have yet to make (and/or that the White House has yet to endorse) than anything to be “embarrassed about”.

    “I think Major Tom’s prediction is more than a bit too rosy.”

    It’s not a “prediction”. It’s how the contempt of Congress process works.

    Ignore reality at your own peril.

    “The Sec. 309 report is 4-5 months late.”

    And it should be even later. ESAS was a rushed study, and it produced Ares I/V designs that didn’t last more than a year, and a Constellation program that missed its schedule by years and its budget by billions of dollars. The program had to be terminated, throwing much of the civil human space flight program into chaos at a critical time of transition. No matter how many tantrums Hutchison or her staff want to throw before she retires from the Senate, NASA should not repeat the ESAS mistake, rush to decisions, and wind up with another technically compromised, over-budget, behind-schedule program facing termination a couple years from now. It took the Apollo Program 18 months — a year-and-a-half — to get the lunar architecture and Saturn V design settled, and that was a crash program. Instead of rushing to ignorant and arbitrary congressional deadlines, NASA and the White House should take a roughly equivalent amount of time to get major SLS/MPCV design decisions right via good studies and/or substantive competition.

    “…there are ample indications that NASA’s two leaders have deliberately slow-rolled the SLS and Orion MPCV programs and are likely to continue to do so.”

    And those “indications” are what, specifically? What’s your evidence? Where are your references?

    Don’t make things up.

    “I’m not sure why the Major thinks that NASA will be given much time on the subpoena. Given that NASA already knows what it is supposed to produce under the May 18th letter, I’ll hazard a guess that the Committee will give NASA a day or two, not weeks or months, to comply.”

    Where did I say that a subpoena would give NASA “weeks or months”?

    Again, don’t make things up.

    Sigh…

  • Egad

    A question: Assuming that NASA immediately ships the Committee the requested documents, including “at least 19 separate drafts of a report…[that] may contain important information about the data and analyses NASA has relied on to comply with the 2010 Act’s space launch system and crew vehicle requirements,” what’s the Committee going to do with them?

    Unless the Senators find memos in which some NASA officials gloat somewhat explicitly about how they’re scheming to defeat the will of Congress, what are the solons going to have except voluminous and esoteric technical (and perhaps financial) trade-off studies? And, anyway, who does the Committee have to render technical opinions about the 19+ drafts? Staffers? Hired consultants? ATK engineers?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim Hillhouse wrote @ June 24th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    “One thing is probable, to let things get this far, it seems reasonable to assume something is up with the remaining documents that the Senate CST Committee is seeking”

    my saintly father who is one of those 1000 dollar an hour lawyers you reference would disagree…and having served some time (grin) as a federal law enforcement officer at much less pay (Flying narcotics interdiction on the southern border) I would disagree as well.

    What is “in work” (in NASA parlance) looks for all the world to be a “data dump” at the last minute and while those can be a “hide bad news” thing, they are also designed as “plug stoppers” to slow down a process that the slower it goes the better it is for the folks who are doing the data dump.

    Charlie et al does not in my view want to do an SLS in any form, much less a form that uses shuttle parts…and the longer the process of doing a SD HLV takes, the harder it gets to do a “get well” (again enjoying NASA terminology which my ISO 9000 and 14001 safety courses have been mocking) on the process. Slowly but surely the shuttle infrastructure is dying and as it dies “resurrecting” it gets harder.

    Making the committee “work” for the data harms no one. Charlie is not going to be held in contempt of the Senate that is just not going to happen…so “dragging along” is doing a lot of good and little harm for his point of view.

    What is going on here needs to be seen in the context of the larger national issues of the debt and debt ceiling and the coming political battle over spending/taxes.

    Robert G. Oler

  • And I may be wrong, but this will be the Obama Administration’s first subpoena from Congress.

    You are wrong in this, as in most of what you commented. You apparently haven’t been paying much attention to Eric Holder’s Department of (In)Justice. He’s been stonewalling Darryl Issa for months.

  • The unanswered question is *why* the committee feels the need to micromanage the design phase. My guess is that they want to assure the pork is being directed to their states and they’re afraid Bolden will go in another direction.

    Perhaps the committee should introduce legislation eliminating the Administrator position so they can run NASA themselves.

  • Bennett

    Egad wrote @ June 24th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Really good questions. I suspect staffers, ATK engineers, or nobody at all. This looks more and more like a politically motivated pissing contest. All show, no real reason for it.

    Just like the SLS.

  • Vladislaw

    “My guess is that they want to assure the pork is being directed to their states and they’re afraid Bolden will go in another direction.”

    They have to know their states will be taking hits in the budget in general, this is an area they have more of a lock then most states, in general, and by securing long term contracts their state can take a hit in a different area and have it offset by their NASA money and still be better off then a state with no NASA center.

  • vulture4

    Unfortunately two-thirds of Constellation is still in progress. The problem with the ESAS was not that it was rushed, but that it produced the result ordered by Griffin. What possible practical benefit will there be in spending tens of billions on a hugely expensive throw-away rocket that could, for a mere $150 or $200 billion, possibly send a few civil servants back to the moon, as many as five or six times?

  • Roga

    “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,”

    While congress has provided a law, they have not passed a budget for the new rocket. Ye reap what ye sow.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Oler, your time in law enforcement is to be commended. And Major Tom, if you think the Committee will not vote out a contempt charge quickly, then you haven’t been following this from the inside.

    Rockefeller is not a big space supporter. He has never hidden that. When Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong testified before his Committee, he made no secret that he is not a big supporter of human space flight. But he is, like all senior Senators, a big supporter of Congress’ prerogative as a co-equal branch of the government. And that is what this fight is about. A law was passed and program authorized. Those programs were funded. Yet NASA continues to slow-roll those programs in defiance of Congress.

    I’d be curious upon what basis anyone imagines that the Committee will not fall behind the Chairman and Ranking member, along with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the space Subcommittee on a contempt vote? Would it be members’ past opposition to the S. 3729? Well, S. 3729 was passed unanimously by the Committee and by unanimous consent out of the Senate. Perhaps some feel that Committee members won’t wish to embarrass the White House by holding in contempt two members of the Executive Branch? But that would presuppose that Rockefeller and Hutchison made an empty threat. Or that NASA’s leaders still have some elements of support in the Senate? Well, if so, then who? Reid? We can guess he is still smarting from having the White House rebuff his January 2010 letter to the President imploring the Administration to follow the 2010 NASA Auth. Act when writing the 2012 NASA Budget, which the White House didn’t even try to do, i.e. not funding the SLS and MPCV after 2012 isn’t exactly supporting the 2010 NASA Auth. Act when the Act carries those program through 2013. Perhaps there’s a silent majority in the Senate that has been just waiting for the chance to jump to the defense of the Administration’s opposition to the 2010 NASA Act?

    From day one of debacle otherwise known as the Obama 2011 NASA Budget roll-out on Feb. 2, 2010, many assumed Obama would roll Congress; instead it was the President who was rolled. They said that Constellation was DOA; today we still have Orion MPCV (the new official name of Orion as of last week) per Sec. 303 of the Act, Ares V from Sec. 302 of the Act, and cis-lunar space as our human exploration focus per 301, (b), (1) and 301, (b), (1); if ATK’s Liberty Launcher wins a CCDev 3 round (it came in 2nd in CCDev 2) then…that begs the question of what was the last year and a half about? They all assumed that Congress wouldn’t fund the SLS and Orion MPCV fully; in fact Congress gave both programs a funding boost over authorized levels of $249 million, $169M for SLS and $80M for Orion. And they assumed that Congress would not engage in vigorous oversight of SLS and MPCV; the May 18th and June 22nd letters speak for themselves. Now some of these same poor sooth-sayers predict that the CST Committee won’t vote out a subpoena. Or that the same Committee won’t vote a contempt charge if NASA ignores the Committee’s own subpoena.

    I stand corrected that this will be the first subpoena facing the Administration. But then, Issa was ready to subpoena the Obama Administration before his re-election celebrations last November had even begun to settle down. I should have said, the first subpoena from the Democratic controlled Senate. It’s one thing to have a crazy California Republican go after the Administration. It’s quite another to have a senior Democratic Senator.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Sorry, I meant Reid’s January 2011 letter, not 2010.

  • DCSCA

    Bolden turns 65 in August. When shuttle retires, he won’t be far behind. Grab those gov’t pensions while they’re all still flush, Charlie. No fun being the administrator of an agency ending a 30 year program and downsizing in an era of fiscal austerity.

  • I’d love to see these porkers subpoena or even try to find in contempt a national hero who not only served his country in time of war but flew on the Shuttle four times. Yes, let’s explain to the national media why we want to jail the man for not promptly funnelling pork into our states. Let’s shine the light of public scrutiny on this Senate Launch System joke. Let’s turn loose 60 Minutes on how a small group of politicians took it upon themselves to dictate to NASA how to design an obsolete rocket that doesn’t even have a destination.

    Please, by all means, bring it on.

  • Byeman

    The age of 65 has no special meaning when it comes to Executive branch department heads. There is no mandatory retirement. 63, 64, 65, 66, etc there is no difference. Why do you keep up this idiotic rant?

  • vulture4

    NASA is not downsizing significantly. The budget has declined only slightly. Not one NASA civil servant will lose their job involuntarily. What is happening is that hundreds of people who have kept the shuttles flying safely, not with NASA paperwork and redundancy, but with their experience, judgement and craftsmanship, are being laid off. Most of them are quite stoic about it. There is none of the self-centered egotism one sees in NASA bureaucrats. But they are the very people who could build a new generation of spacecraft that would be reusable and practical, and they cannot be replaced.

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ June 25th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    “But they are the very people who could build a new generation of spacecraft that would be reusable and practical, and they cannot be replaced.”

    Wow what a stretch! In what are they qualified to at least first design such a vehicle?

  • Martijn Meijering

    There is none of the self-centered egotism one sees in NASA bureaucrats.

    Heh, if you step over to nasaspaceflight.com you’ll see a few fine specimens that contradict your assertion.

    But they are the very people who could build a new generation of spacecraft that would be reusable and practical, and they cannot be replaced.

    Oh really, and you base that on what? On the fact that the same crew haven’t been able to run the Shuttle cost-effectively for thirty years?

  • Egad

    > Let’s shine the light of public scrutiny on this Senate Launch System joke. Let’s turn loose 60 Minutes on how a small group of politicians took it upon themselves to dictate to NASA how to design an obsolete rocket that doesn’t even have a destination.

    Yes, that’s the conversation someone at the White House should be having with Senator Rockefeller this weekend. “Senator, do you really want to go down this road? Do you really want people to learn what your committee has been doing? Do you understand that SLS has much worse optics than Sen. Stevens’ Bridge to Nowhere?”

  • Major Tom

    “And Major Tom, if you think the Committee will not vote out a contempt charge…”

    It’s not a “charge”. Only the U.S. Attorney can make a “charge”. The committee can only read out a contempt report.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “I’d be curious upon what basis anyone imagines that the Committee will not fall behind the Chairman and Ranking member, along with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the space Subcommittee on a contempt vote?”

    I can think of five:

    1) If Bolden is named in the contempt report, Sen. Nelson isn’t going to let the report go forward. Nelson chairs the relevant subcommittee, flew on STS-61 with Bolden, backed Bolden for Administrator, and is personal friends with Bolden. (Duh…)

    2) The committee is controlled by Democrats in a Democrat-controlled Senate, the same party as the Administration. The Democrats on the committee are only going to go so far when it comes to members of their own party who are working for their President. (Double duh…)

    3) Hutchison is driving this, but she’s a lame duck retiring in 2012. No one, even the Republicans on the committee, is going to owe her many votes going forward. And she can’t promise much of anything going forward in exchange for votes. (Triple duh…)

    4) Bolden is ex-Marine Major General and four-time Shuttle pilot and commander. It’s hard to see any committee sending a contempt report forward with his name in it (or someone with equivalent stature) simply because his agency hasn’t finished drafting a report. Hutchison is retiring and has nothing to lose at this point, but other committee members are not going to want to appear petty and vindictive.

    5) There’s no there, there. The equivalent House committee thinks it has enough materials from NASA at this point to hold a hearing on SLS. Senate committee members are not going to want to look like idiots sending a contempt report forward over suppossedly withheld materials that the NASA Administrator is publicly testifying to their House colleagues about.

    http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-review-nasa%E2%80%99s-space-launch-system

    “Yet NASA continues to slow-roll those programs in defiance of Congress.”

    NASA has slow-rolled nothing. Any idiot can search the web and find that NASA has submitted an interim report to Congress, made a preliminary design decision a month ago, has worked a competition for the booster, and has submitted the package for OMB/White House review. Rome was not built in a day, and major, multi-ten billion dollar procurement decisions are not made overnight.

    And the reality is that NASA should be taking a year or more to make this decision, as happened with Apollo/Saturn V, not a handful of months or less, as happened with the failed ESAS/Constellation/Ares effort.

    “From day one of debacle otherwise known as the Obama 2011 NASA Budget roll-out on Feb. 2, 2010, many assumed Obama would roll Congress; instead it was the President who was rolled.”

    No one “rolled” anyone. But the facts remain that Constellation, Ares I, and Altair are dead; Orion and Ares V are starting over again from scratch; and MPCV and SLS won’t launch until 2016 at the earliest.

    In the meantime, Falcon 9 has launched twice, Taurus II will launch later this year or next, Dragon has orbited and returned and will rendezvous with ISS this year or next, Falcon Heavy is scheduled to test in 2013-14, and multiple other COTS and CCDev vehicles are completing milestones.

    Regardless of who “rolled” whom, it’s very clear who the winners are. To pretend otherwise is idiocy or sour grapes.

    “if ATK’s Liberty Launcher wins a CCDev 3 round (it came in 2nd in CCDev 2)”

    It didn’t. There were four awards in CCDev 2. That means Liberty came in at least fifth (and likely behind others given the competition).

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “They all assumed that Congress wouldn’t fund the SLS and Orion MPCV fully”

    We don’t know yet whether Congress will fund SLS and MPCV fully. The authorization is through FY13. We’re only in FY11, and the Obama Administration has cut FY12. It remains to be seen whether Congress will restore that cut in this budget environment and at what levels these projects will be funded in FY13.

    Moreover, NASA doesn’t know how much SLS or MPCV are going to cost. Until there’s a reliable cost estimate, any talk of “adequate funding” is nonsense.

    Sigh…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim Hillhouse wrote @ June 25th, 2011 at 1:24 am

    “Oler, your time in law enforcement is to be commended. And Major Tom, if you think the Committee will not vote out a contempt charge quickly, then you haven’t been following this from the inside.”

    My time in law enforcement was a happy sequel in my career of flying planes and kicking ass and managing larger and larger efforts. I found some natural joy both in low level interdiction, landing on taxiways at DFW, gun battles at the Phoenix airport, and landing in the dead of night on HWY 10 chasing a doper. But it also gave me a good feel for the notion and politics of subpoenas at the federal court level…and that seems to parallel my Dad’s experience in both state and federal government.

    There is no chance whatsoever that the Democratic Senate is going to issue a contempt of the Senate vote for Charlie Bolden. To think that they are going to do that is laughable. I know it is the currency of the DIRECT fans who think “the law is on our side”, but all that shows is how ignorant they are of the process that make the federal government tick, processes that have been in place since the founding of The Republic. People like you really need to go look at the “goings on” behind what is now viewed as The Constellation class of frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. If you can grasp that then you can figure out why the notion of a contempt of the SEnate against Charlie is ludicrous.

    What we are seeing is the end game of killing a federal program. I know it is painful, but your side is losing. Just watch. By the end of summer all hope of a SDV will be gone…and people like you will have learned a valued lesson in civics..

    I have not gotten a single significant thing wrong about space politics and policy since I predicted some years ago (shortly after Bush the last announced it) that the plan would falter by 2010.

    As Bush the first use to say “watch listen and learn” RGO

  • DCSCA

    @Byeman wrote @ June 25th, 2011 at 7:52 am
    The only person who mentioned ‘mandatory’ is you. 65 for Bolden is opportune and given the imploding finances of the U.S. government and the retirement of shuttle. Smart time to end his career there. Little point ‘administering’ over an agency in decline in the face of fiscal austerity at his age. Grab those pensions and go fishin’, Charlie.

  • DCSCA

    @vulture4 wrote @ June 25th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    NASA is not downsizing significantly.

    Depends on how you measure ‘significance.’ NASA’s budget is projected as essentially flatlined for five years; shuttle folks and associated support staff/contractors etc., are destined for layoffs as the program ends; Constellation work is evaporating as well. Consolidation proposals across the board for government operations are all the buzz to cut costs in the Age of Austerity so NASA’s immediate future, immediate being the next 5-10 years is less than ‘stellar.’ But you go on believing otherwise.

  • Why do you keep up this idiotic rant?

    I think the question answers itself.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Major Tom:

    From Wikipedia:
    Inherent contempt

    Under this process, the procedure for holding a person in contempt involves only the chamber concerned. Following a contempt citation, the person cited is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate (usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation).

    Concerned with the time-consuming nature of a contempt proceeding and the inability to extend punishment further than the session of the Congress concerned (under Supreme Court rulings), Congress created a statutory process in 1857. While Congress retains its “inherent contempt” authority and may exercise it at any time, this inherent contempt process was last used by the Senate in 1934, in a Senate investigation of airlines and the U.S. Postmaster. After a one-week trial on the Senate floor (presided over by the Vice-President of the United States, acting as Senate President), William P. MacCracken, a lawyer and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics who had allowed clients to rip up subpoenaed documents, was found guilty and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment.[5]

    MacCracken filed a petition of Habeas Corpus in federal courts to overturn his arrest, but after litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had acted constitutionally, and denied the petition in the case Jurney v. MacCracken.[6][7]

    Presidential pardons appear not to apply to a civil contempt procedure such as the above, since it is not an “offense against the United States” or against “the dignity of public authority.”[8] (emphasis added)

  • Major Tom

    “@Major Tom:

    From Wikipedia:
    Inherent contempt”

    I’m not sure what your point here is. Per the article, the shortcut of inherent contempt hasn’t been employed since 1934.

    It is interesting that there was an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics back then. (A measure of how important the nation saw that field back then.) But it’s just a coincidence that someone with that title was the last person this measure was used against.

    FWIW…

  • Martijn Meijering

    I’m not sure what your point here is.

    Just a piece of trivia I wanted to share. :-)

  • Coastal Ron

    Jim Hillhouse wrote @ June 25th, 2011 at 1:24 am

    if ATK’s Liberty Launcher wins a CCDev 3 round (it came in 2nd in CCDev 2)

    Let’s remember what the CCDev program is for. CCDev stands for Commercial Crew Development, and it’s goal is to:

    Stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop system concepts and capabilities that could ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services.

    In no way could you say that ATK’s proposal “came in 2nd” in the CCDev=2 competition. If you read the NASA CCDev-2 Selection Statement, on page 16 you’ll see that NASA said:

    - No spacecraft manufacturer was interested in using the Liberty.

    - ATK has not characterized the vehicle environments enough for NASA to have confidence that Liberty is appropriate for crew.

    - Other potential crew launch vehicles, which already exist, did not get CCDev-2 funding because they are not on the critical path yet.

    Call it a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma for ATK/Astrium, but NASA is not going to fund them for CCDev until they can prove that someone wants to use them, and likely no one will sign up to use them over ULA or even SpaceX until ATK/Astrium show that they are going to build Liberty (which they’re not as of yet).

    Besides, the Liberty is far too big for the current class of CCDev spacecraft, since they fit fine on 10,000 kg class lifters, and the Liberty is in the 20,000 kg range.

    What possible advantage could Liberty have that would entice a spacecraft manufacturer away from Atlas V or Falcon 9? Price? Availability? I don’t see Liberty ever flying.

  • Egad

    OK, it’s now 18:05 — what has happened, or not?

  • yg1968

    Another option would for the President (or Bolden) to contest the subpoena by invoking executive privilege.

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