Senators Threaten to Subpoena NASA Documents

Senators Threaten to Subpoena NASA Documents

The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have written to NASA warning that they will issue a subpoena for NASA documents if the agency does not supply them by 6:00 pm on Monday, June 27.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) sent the letter on Wednesday. Referring to a previous letter they sent on May 18, the bipartisan committee leadership complained that NASA “has repeatedly refused to provide documents the Senate Commerce Committee needs to conduct appropriate oversight of your agency.” Saying that NASA had provided only a “partial response” to the May 18 letter, the Senators went on to say that “you have thwarted our oversight activities by witholding key documents” including “at least 19 separate drafts of a report it is required to submit to Congress under Section 309” of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

The letter highlights the continuing tension between the White House and Congress over the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program that has been the subject of numerous hearings since last year. Section 309 of the Act requires NASA to submit a report on how it will fulfill the Act’s requirements to build a new Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) to enable human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The report was required to be submitted by January 2011, but only an interim report was provided.

Congress is growing increasingly impatient with Administration delays in submitting the final report. NASA announced in May that the Orion capsule started under President George W. Bush’s Constellation program would be used for the MPCV, and reportedly is close to announcing its plans for the SLS. The most recent rumor is that the announcement will be made before the final space shuttle launch currently scheduled for July 8.

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