WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to reports of a bait-and-switch regarding plans for the Space Shuttle Enterprise, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on NASA to reopen the assignment of the Enterprise shuttle to existing bids. In a letter sent today to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Brown urges Bolden to review the readiness plans for the selected sites and if those plans are lacking, seek alternative sites that are ready to take delivery, as recommended in an August NASA Inspector General (IG) report.
"On the heels of a report from NASA showing that a reporting error might have cost Dayton its chance to land a shuttle comes the news of a bait-and-switch from New York's Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. If the Intrepid Museum's plan was to build a new facility in an area of New York that it does not currently have permission to build on, that should have been made clear to NASA from the start," Brown said. "This report makes it evident that New York City was, and still is, woefully unprepared to house the Enterprise Space Shuttle. This also raises further questions about the thoroughness of NASA's selection process--and I urge NASA to revisit its decision to send the Enterprise to New York.”
New York has recently indicated that it may be fundamentally changing its proposal to put the Space Shuttle Enterprise in a completely different museum in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. This could present major obstacles to its placement, including lengthy and expensive local zoning and regulatory approvals and land acquisition. New York was selected to receive the Enterprise based on its proposal to house the shuttle with to the USS Intrepid.
An investigation initiated by Brown into the selection process for the placement of the retired space shuttles revealed that if a reporting error were caught, Dayton would have been in a three-way tie to receive two shuttles. The report found several flaws in the selection process that might have led to a different outcome for site selection.
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.
Full text of the letter is below.
October 11, 2011
Major General Charles Bolden
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
300 E Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001
Dear General Bolden:
I am writing regarding the recent events surrounding the placement of a Shuttle in New York City in concert with the Space Shuttle Disposition Plan. As you know, New York has recently indicated that it may be fundamentally changing its proposal. Such a change would deem that award void and we ask that you reexamine the proposals presented for the original competition.
I understand that New York does not plan, after all, to put its Shuttle next to the USS Intrepid, as it claimed in its application. Plans now include putting it in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, as part of a completely different museum. In addition, the Hell’s Kitchen area is not currently zoned for such use. In order to accomplish all of these changes, the bidders will face lengthy and expensive local zoning and regulatory approvals, land acquisition, as well as hurdles associated with forming a new “space-themed museum”. These actions would represent a completely different proposal from the one NASA considered.
Moreover, the recent NASA Inspector General report found several flaws in the selection process that might have led to a different outcome for site selection. I am amazed and disappointed that you would choose to proceed with your original decision given the serious flaws in the selection process and New York’s recent decisions regarding their shuttle site. I strongly urge you to follow the Inspector General’s recommendation to carefully review the readiness plans for the selected sites and, if those plans are lacking, seek alternative sites that are ready to accept delivery.
As you know from the favorable assessment NASA gave the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, they are ready today to accept a Shuttle. Bait and switch actions undermine the Shuttle Disposition process. I therefore request you reexamine the proposals.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
United States Senator