DAYTON, OHIO - An investigation initiated by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) into the selection process for the placement of the retired space shuttles shows that if a reporting error were caught, Dayton would have been in a three-way tie to receive two shuttles. While a tie would have been broken by the NASA Administrator, Brown criticized the selection criteria revealed in the report by the NASA Inspector General (IG) – which weighted international access ahead of geographic diversity with the United States.
"NASA may have followed the law when awarding the shuttles, but it is still guilty of incredibly bad judgment. It is outrageous that easy access for foreign visitors was deemed more important than access for visitors from America’s heartland,” Brown said. “The shuttles were paid for by American taxpayers and developed by American ingenuity. The IG confirms that Dayton had a great bid worthy of a Shuttle, but unfortunately NASA chose spots on the coasts instead of Dayton- the birthplace of aviation."
Brown was an outspoken advocate for landing a shuttle at National Museum of the United States Air Force at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. When it appeared that Dayton’s bid would have been undermined by a provision that would have given priority to museums directly connected to shuttle operations, Brown fought to amend the NASA Authorization Act – which named criteria for selecting sites – to keep Dayton in the running. Brown’s effort resulted in allowing locations like Dayton, which have made significant contributions to human space flight, remain eligible to receive a shuttle. Brown also made the case for Dayton’s selection with numerous federal leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden; White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley; NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors. Brown led several letters signed by the Ohio Delegation in support of Dayton’s bid, visited NASA’s Glenn Research Center with Bolden, and visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in October 2010 to discuss the shuttle.
The day before the announcement, Brown pressed Bolden at a Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on the process he and his predecessors laid out – including reports of a “commission” within the organization. In response to a question from Brown, Bolden replied that “If there is such a thing, I don’t know about it. And -- and I am going to make the decision, probably when I get back over to my office this afternoon. So if I need to consult with them, somebody should tell me really quick.” An email exchange revealed by the IG report indicated that the decision had been made prior to the hearing.
The selection criteria that were used gave a maximum of 15 points for “international access” without giving equal scoring to geographic diversity of the shuttle locations within the United States.