Saturday, January 11, 2014

As Useless as Congress

WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi
Click the arrow to watch the WLOX-TV in Biloxi video on the Bloomberg News report. Note that the video shows Space Launch System but calls it Constellation.

In the latest example of Congressional gluttony, Bloomberg News reported on January 8 that Congress has ordered NASA to build a $350 million engine testing structure at the Stennis Space Center “even though the agency doesn’t need it.” The test stand at Stennis is designated A-3.

The tower was designed to test a GenCorp Inc. (GY) engine for a rocket program canceled in 2010. Its funding survived thanks to Mississippi Republican senators led by Roger Wicker, who crafted a provision requiring the agency to complete the work.

The test stand is an example of how U.S. lawmakers thwart efforts to cut costs and eliminate government waste, even as they criticize agencies for failing to do so. Attempts to close military bases, mail-processing plants and other NASA facilities also have been fought by congressional members whose districts benefit from the operations.

Although the article singles out Mississippi's senators, it overlooks Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), whose district includes Stennis where the stand is located. Palazzo chairs the House Subcommittee on Space, which “has legislative jurisdiction and general oversight and investigative authority on all matters relating to astronautical and aeronautical research and development,” according to its web site.

Elsewhere at Stennis, NASA's Office of the Inspector General issued a report on January 8 criticizing the selection of the B-2 stand for Space Launch System. Click here to download the report.

To quote from the report summary:

Similar to conclusions we reached 5 years ago in our review of the Agency’s decision where to test the J-2X engine, we found that NASA failed to follow its internal policies or its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with [the Department of Defense] when it selected the B-2 test stand for SLS core stage testing. Moreover, we found that NASA did not adequately support its decision to refurbish the B-2 given that refurbishing the B-2 stand would be more costly and take longer than the two other options. We also found that by selecting the B-2 NASA may not have chosen the most efficient and cost-effective test site. In addition, although the [Space Launch System] Program spent considerable time and money studying the B-2 option, NASA gave the [Rocket Propulsion Test] and [National Rocket Propulsion Testing Alliance] Boards minimal time to assess the cost, schedule, and risks of the other test stand options. In addition, driven by the time needed to refurbish the test stand to begin core stage testing in accordance with the SLS Program’s development schedule, NASA officials selected the B-2 even though SLS Program managers had not yet fully defined the requirements for core stage testing, thereby accepting risks that may negatively affect the Program’s cost and schedule.

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