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Wed, Aug 24, 2011

Hutchison Calls On NASA To Announce SLS Design Immediately

Senator: "The Plan Is Financially And Technically Sound"

The ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee issued a statement late last week regarding NASA’s implementation of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, particularly with regard to the direction of U.S. human spaceflight programs.

"Today NASA is scheduled to formally receive the independent cost assessment for the Space Launch System (SLS) that was requested by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)," said Texas Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchison (pictured) Thursday. "I expect this independent assessment will confirm what myself and the NASA technical staff have known for many months – that the SLS plan is financially and technically sound, and that NASA should move forward immediately."
 
Hutchinson said she remains "very concerned" about continuing delays. While the 2010 NASA Authorization Act required NASA to bring forward a plan by January 10, 2011, "the political leadership at NASA and at OMB has dragged their feet on implementation. After many requests for NASA to comply with the law, the Commerce Committee finally initiated a formal investigation earlier this summer. While that investigation is ongoing, I reiterate my call to NASA and the Administration to proceed with its SLS development program immediately, in compliance with the law."
 
According to the Senator, NASA has been working on the development of the SLS for more than a year, as reflected in its Broad Agency Announcement in June 2010 regarding development approaches for a Heavy Lift Vehicle. NASA began reviewing additional alternatives for the SLS in November of 2010. Since then, more than over 5,500 jobs have been lost, many of which, Hutchison says,  could have been transferred to the SLS program. This past June, Administrator Bolden confirmed that NASA had a design for the SLS, however a formal announcement was delayed while the Administration awaited the results of an independent cost assessment, a delay that has cost 3,000 jobs.

The next set of layoff notices for most of the remaining space shuttle and Constellation workers who can transition to the SLS program is expected to occur this week. "We cannot delay in announcing the plan that can provide a focus and a purpose for workers that remain and for the industries that rely on our space program to survive," she said. “Commerce Committee staff have been briefed by Booz Allen Hamilton on their study approach and NASA has provided the baseline schedule and budget assumptions on which the Booz Allen Hamilton assessment is based, and has committed to deliver the report to the Congress later today. I expect the assessment will confirm what Congress and the NASA technical experts have known for nine months, that the Administration could have approved the vehicle design concept months ago, prevented the loss of thousands of jobs, and ensured U.S. leadership in space and science. While I have concerns that the funding levels and schedule contained in the assessment do not achieve the timeline for a return to U.S. manned spaceflight as required in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, the Administration should immediately announce a formal decision approving the vehicle design concept and prevent the loss of even more jobs and the further deterioration of our human space flight capabilities. We can then work together, and on a bipartisan basis, to identify and seek to provide the resources that can bring these vehicles to reality. This underscores my frustration at the continuing delay in announcing the plans for our path forward. When NASA resisted our inquiries into the reason for delay in the announcement the Committee issued a subpoena for information and documents.
 
Hutchison says she remains confident that the design concept outlined in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, supported by the NASA technical experts, and reaffirmed though independent cost assessments, is solid and provides a path forward to a safe and sustainable national human space launch capability for future exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. "I am reassured that the Space Launch System can be developed in a way that meets the core requirements laid out in the Act," she said, "and restate my commitment to work with NASA, the White House, and my colleagues in Congress to restore and sustain America's leadership in human spaceflight."

FMI: http://commerce.senate.gov
 

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