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Monday 21 April 2014

A Tea Party In Space graphic depicting the Space Launch System. - Image credit: TPIS

A Tea Party In Space graphic depicting the Space Launch System. - Image credit: TPIS


Congressman, Space Frontier Foundation, And Tea Party In Space Call For NASA SLS Investigation

Congressman Tom McClintock
WASHINGTON, D.C. — California congressman Tom McClintock is asking a federal watchdog agency to investigate whether NASA is violating government rules on competition with its plans to build its Space Launch System. The heavy reliance on existing agreements with shuttle and  other manufacturers is the crux of contention.

In a letter dated September 22, Republican congressman McClintock requests the Government Accountability Office to examine the contracts for violations of open competition laws. Rep. McClintock in his letter (available here ) states “serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more ‘de facto sole source awards.’”

The Space Frontier Foundation
The Space Frontier Foundation voiced its strong support for a U.S. Congressional letter sent last week asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate possible violations of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) in NASA’s plans for buying a new super-heavy lift launch vehicle, frequently called the “Senate Launch System.” The Foundation urged the GAO to issue a “stay” on the project to prevent implementation of any contact modifications, extensions, or other actions until they complete a thorough investigation into the legality of NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Space Launch System (SLS).

“The Senate’s monster rocket is looking worse every day. Not only is it unaffordable and unnecessary, but it looks like NASA’s plan to do the Congress’ bidding actually violates the law,” said Foundation Chairman Bob Werb. “Senator Hutchison may be in a hurry to feed pork to a few big aerospace contractors, but that doesn’t allow our space agency to ignore laws designed to stop sole-source, no-bid contracts from wasting taxpayer money. Thank goodness Congressman McClintock threw a penalty flag on this outrage.”

The CICA proscribes federal agencies such as NASA from making a “de facto sole-source award” by substantially modifying the goals of current contracts without allowing other companies to compete for the new tasks. NASA itself has already demonstrated that multiple companies are capable of providing all or part of the SLS, since the agency awarded contracts to thirteen different companies in 2010 to study options for super-heavy lift rockets.

“Even if you wrongly assume that NASA needs a 130 metric ton launch system anytime soon, there are clearly multiple ways to achieve that and many are much cheaper than the Senate’s preferred path,” Werb added. “Simply modifying existing Shuttle or Constellation contracts to accelerate payments to the same companies to build SLS is a violation of the law.”

“America’s taxpayers owe Congressman McClintock and his colleagues our thanks and admiration for standing up to these special interests,” said Foundation Executive Director Will Watson. “NASA exists to serve the whole country, not just a few Senators’ favored constituents. If only politicians would stop trying to play rocket scientist and instead encourage the best ideas and approaches to arise from competition, we could actually start exploring the solar system sooner and cheaper.”

Tea Party In Space
Tea Party in Space (TPIS), a non-partisan organization, today strongly endorsed U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock’s letter asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate NASA’s plans to issue $32 Billion in “no bid” contracts for the Space Launch System.

“Last year several Senators demanded a multi-billion earmark for a heavy lift rocket that NASA clearly can’t afford. Now NASA has capitulated, and has announced plans to heavily modify existing contracts for a failed rocket, to award billions without any competition,” said TPIS President Andrew Gasser. “The GAO should stop this anti-competitive plan before it goes any further.”

TPIS and its fellow Tea Party organizations called on the GAO to issue a “stay” halting any SLS-related contract extensions or modifications while it fully investigates whether NASA’s SLS plans violated the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA).

“This SLS bailout earmark is Solyndra on steroids. Every thoughtful member of Congress should join Congressman McClintock in challenging the spending of $32 billion in taxpayer funds without free and open competition,” declared Gasser. “Only brave actions like this will protect us from the evils of crony capitalism that is running rampant in Washington. NASA’s SLS strategy abandons everything that defines America’s system of government: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.”

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