NASA IG: Agency Will Spend $215 Million on Unneeded Constellation Program Elements If Congress Does Not Act

NASA IG: Agency Will Spend $215 Million on Unneeded Constellation Program Elements If Congress Does Not Act

NASA’s Inspector General (IG), Paul Martin, wrote to Congress today warning that the agency will spend $215 million by the end of February on unnecessary elements of the Constellation program if Congress does not act quickly to relieve the agency of restrictions in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act. That figure could grow to $575 million by the end of FY2011, according to the letter.

Although FY2010 has ended, NASA is being funded by a Continuing Resolution that carries over the language from the Consolidated Appropriations Act. Included is a provision that prohibits NASA from terminating the Constellation program or initiating a replacement until Congress directs it to do so in a future appropriations act. That has not happened even though Congress passed the 2010 NASA authorization act directing NASA to initiate a somewhat different program. NASA is caught between the two laws.

Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said in a statement that this is an issue that appropriators must deal with “in an expedient manner, in order to avoid wasteful spending.” He added that his committee will provide “strong Congressional oversight” of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Science and Space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has already written legislation to repeal the provision, according to the National Journal (subscription required). It quotes Sen. Nelson as saying that “every dime counts in our space program right now, we can’t afford to be wasting money.” The Senate is in recess until January 25; presumably the bill will be introduced then.

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