U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) expressed his disappointment that NASA officials ignored a fundamental rule: Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
"NASA in its history has been trying to find a balance between achievement and safety," Gingrey said during the Science Committee's NASA hearing Wednesday. "I'm concerned that there is and has been too much complacency at NASA and not enough emphasis on Murphy's Law and being prepared for anything and everything to go wrong."
Adm. Harold Gehman, who headed the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, responded that Gingrey had hit on the "building block and fundamental finding of the CAIB Report." Gehman said NASA systematically invested in staying on schedule, not reducing risk.
Gingrey also encouraged NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to have an independent board approve any "waivers" in the shuttle program's requirements. The shuttle program managers had too much authority in the past to write their own waivers, the CAIB asserted.
"It now appears that NASA plans to have the Shuttle program review its own waivers before returning to flight," Gingrey said to O'Keefe. "Shouldn't NASA wait to conduct this important job until it puts in place the independent Technical Engineering Authority? If not, shouldn't NASA put in place some other group within NASA -- a tiger team, perhaps -- that can independently check the Shuttle Program's work reviewing the waivers?"
"Requirements were viewed as goals, objectives, things that were advisory and to be strived for, but not a requirement," O'Keefe responded. "The discipline was not there. We have to reverse that mindset."
Gingrey is the only member of theGeorgia delegation on the House Science Committee.