Why Did NASA's Administrator Refuse To Answer a Simple Budget Question - At A Budget Briefing?


NASA held a press briefing today regarding the FY 2013 budget. What's rather troubling is how little budget information NASA Administrator Bolden Charlie Bolden actually discussed and how many substantive questions he dodged during this briefing.

The most blatant example was when Bolden was asked if he could list the projects and missions that were cut in order to pay for James Webb Space Telescope overruns.

Note the following exchange from today's press conference:

"QUESTIONER (Orlando Sentinel): Mark Mathews with the Orlando Sentinel.

Could one of you guys just list every single program that was affected by the cost overruns of James Webb that either had their budgets reduced or cut outright?

ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: Could we do that? Do you want to say that again?

QUESTIONER (Orlando Sentinel): List all the programs that were saw their budgets completely cut or reduced as a result of the overruns of James Webb. We know about the two European Mars missions, but what else in addition to those saw their budgets cut or reduced?

ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: Mark, I think you know as well as I do, these are very difficult fiscal times. I think if you listened to any of the budget rollouts that came prior to this one, everyone is reducing their budgets. That is the only thing we can do. So I don't agree with the premise that you levy in the first place.

We are having to make tough decisions because these are tough economic times. You look at our education program; that had nothing to do at all with anything. You know, we are really looking for smarter ways to do business. Leland put together an education design team that has told us new ways to get measurable data. That is what I talked about in my comments. I want to be able to measure and give you metrics data that says we are being successful in the things we are doing, and you are going to find that we do things a little bit differently than you are accustomed to.

QUESTIONER (Orlando Sentinel): Right, I understand that, but James Webb, the cost of the programs are larger than what's expected. There has to be some other program that eats that money in order to pay for it. I mean, it's simple math.

ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: We are embarked on an ambitious program of exploration. We are trying to meet the premises or the agreements that the President made with the Congress after their bipartisan vote on the Authorization Act and then the appropriations for this year, and we are trying to do things that create jobs for America and create new technology, and that's what we're doing."

Either Mr. Bolden doesn't know the answers or won't admit that he does. It is hard to imagine that he knows so little about this topic. Bolden's Chief Financial Officer, Beth Robinson, was sitting right next to him. He did not ask her to respond - nor she did not bother to volunteer an answer either.

Now THAT is troubling.

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