Space Frontier Foundation Backs Congressional Letter Calling Foul on Space Launch System Contracts

by Space Frontier Foundation on September 27, 2011

 

SLS Already Unaffordable and Now Possibly In Violation of the Competition in Contracting Act

The Space Frontier Foundation voiced its strong support for a U.S. Congressional letter sent last week asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate possible violations of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) in NASA’s plans for buying a new super-heavy lift launch vehicle, frequently called the “Senate Launch System.” The Foundation urged the GAO to issue a “stay” on the project to prevent implementation of any contact modifications, extensions, or other actions until they complete a thorough investigation into the legality of NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Space Launch System (SLS).

The Senate’s monster rocket is looking worse every day. Not only is it unaffordable and unnecessary, but it looks like NASA’s plan to do the Congress’ bidding actually violates the law,” said Foundation Chairman Bob Werb. “Senator Hutchison may be in a hurry to feed pork to a few big aerospace contractors, but that doesn’t allow our space agency to ignore laws designed to stop sole-source, no-bid contracts from wasting taxpayer money. Thank goodness Congressman McClintock threw a penalty flag on this outrage.

The CICA proscribes federal agencies such as NASA from making a “de facto sole-source award” by substantially modifying the goals of current contracts without allowing other companies to compete for the new tasks. NASA itself has already demonstrated that multiple companies are capable of providing all or part of the SLS, since the agency awarded contracts to thirteen different companies in 2010 to study options for super-heavy lift rockets.

Even if you wrongly assume that NASA needs a 130 metric ton launch system anytime soon, there are clearly multiple ways to achieve that and many are much cheaper than the Senate’s preferred path,” Werb added. “Simply modifying existing Shuttle or Constellation contracts to accelerate payments to the same companies to build SLS is a violation of the law.”

America’s taxpayers owe Congressman McClintock and his colleagues our thanks and admiration for standing up to these special interests,” said Foundation Executive Director Will Watson. “NASA exists to serve the whole country, not just a few Senators’ favored constituents.  If only politicians would stop trying to play rocket scientist and instead encourage the best ideas and approaches to arise from competition, we could actually start exploring the solar system sooner and cheaper.

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