Hanley "Reassignment" Prompts Calls for IG Investigation

Hanley "Reassignment" Prompts Calls for IG Investigation

NASA’s decision to “reassign” Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley prompted two key Senators to ask for an investigation by NASA’s Inspector General. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee respectively, sent a letter to NASA’s Inspector General, Paul Martin, asking him to look into the reassignment. Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) made a similar request according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Write Stuff blog.

Some consider the reassignment to be a firing, though Hanley was elevated to the position of Deputy Director of Johnson Space Center for Strategic Capabilities. Hanley’s reassignment was revealed to the public by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Wednesday as NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was testifying to the House Science and Technology Committee. Saying she had just learned of it, she asked Bolden if it was true. Bolden replied that it was his understanding Hanley was being told that very morning. The Orlando Sentinel reported that after the hearing Bolden said Hanley was reassigned “because he was ‘conflicted’ and had become a lightning rod for controversy.” NASAWatch published an email from Hanley to others in the Constellation program telling them that he had been told his services no longer were required as program manager.

Congress has been relentlessly questioning NASA about whether the agency is complying with the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act that prohibits NASA from spending any funds to terminate Constellation or begin a replacement program. A recent GAO ruling found that NASA has not violated the law but cautioned the agency to be “mindful” of the language. Nonetheless, actions like this cannot help but fuel criticism that NASA is trying to kill Constellation without direction from Congress to do so. The timing of Hanley’s reassignment — when the NASA Administrator was testifying to Congress — adds to the perception that the agency is in a confrontational mood with regard to Capitol Hill critics.

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