WASHINGTON, D.C. – In wake of the announcement that retired NASA Shuttles will go to New York, California, Florida, and Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Reps. Mike Turner (OH-3), Steve Austria (OH-7), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) and Steven LaTourette (OH-14) today called for a federal investigation examining the site selection process.
The NASA shuttle disposal plan, affirmed by Congress in the National Aeronautics and Space Authorization Act of 2010, directs NASA to consider regional diversity and educational value when choosing sites. The law indicates that equipment declared surplus to the Agency’s needs should be offered first to other Federal agencies—including the Defense Department—before they can be offered to any organization outside the federal government. The U.S. Air Force Museum was the only Department of Defense entity to bid on a retired shuttle.
This request for a GAO investigation was triggered by the lack of regional diversity among the selected sites, and some of the selected sites’ plans to charge admission to view the taxpayer-financed shuttles. The ‘Disposition of Orbiter Vehicles’ section of the NASA Authorization Act laid out criteria for site selection, including geographic diversity, locations that would provide for the display and maintenance of orbiters with the best potential value to the public, and locations that would advance educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Finally, eligible sites would have a historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters or the retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles, or significant contributions to human space flight.
Yesterday, during a Senate Appropriations Commerce, Science, and Justice and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, Brown pressed NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden on the process he and his predecessors laid out – including a ten point selection criteria analyzed by a “team” within the organization. Today’s letter is calling for a GAO review to determine the 10 criteria for selecting sites, the members of the team, and how the final decision was determined.
In their letter to Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office, Brown, Turner, Austria, Kaptur, and LaTourette request a formal assurance that NASA followed existing federal law in determining the disposition process.
Full text of the letter is below.
April 12, 2011
The Honorable Gene Dodaro
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
We are writing to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undertake a review of the policies and practices of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) and the Smithsonian’s disposition of the shuttle program related property.
The National Aeronautics and Space Authorization Act of 2010 (Public Law No: 111-267) reiterated Congressional support for the existing NASA disposal plan. Section 603 of the Act states, “The orbiter vehicles shall be made available and located for display and maintenance through a competitive procedure established pursuant to the disposition plan developed under section 613(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008.”
The law regarding disposal of excess government property is clear, and NASA’s disposition plan for the shuttle clearly affirms that NASA will follow it. NASA is bound to follow existing federal property disposal laws, including the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. That law indicates that if the Space Shuttle Orbiters are declared surplus to NASA’s needs, they need to be offered to other Federal agencies (including the Defense Department) before they can be offered to any organization outside the federal government.
While answering questions before the Senate and House Appropriations Commerce, Science, and Justice and Related Agencies Subcommittees, NASA Administrator Bolden stated that the decision on shuttle disposition was his alone based on the process he and his predecessors laid out – including a ten point selection criteria analyzed by a “team” within the organization. Any such GAO review should disclose the 10 criteria, the members of the team, and how the final decision was determined.
Specifically, we ask that GAO review how the disposition of the shuttle program related property carried out, and if NASA and the Smithsonian did so in accordance with all statutory and regulatory guidelines.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
Sherrod Brown Michael R. Turner
United States Senator Member of Congress
Steve Austria Marcy Kaptur
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Steven C. LaTourette
Member of Congress