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Letter from NASA Administrator Bolden to Sen. Hutchison Regarding Congressional Document Request

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2011

image National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Office of the Administrator
Washington, DC 20546-0001
June 23, 2011

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Hutchison:

This is in response to your letter of June 22, 2011, signed jointly with Chairman Rockefeller, regarding the Committee's request for various documents and records concerning NASA's implementation of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and asserting that NASA has refused to provide the documents. NASA's initial response of June 3 included three documents that the Committee specifically identified, a list of all contracts modified since passage of the Authorization Act, several hundred pages of contract documents, and lists of NASA officials as requested. As your previous letter also requests, NASA is continuing its preexisting bimonthly briefings to your staff (most recently on June 17) and my staff is in regular phone contact with your staff concerning our ongoing search for and review of documents and e-mails related to sections 302, 303 and 304 of the Act. I want to make clear that we are still gathering and reviewing documents responsive to your request and, to the extent NASA has confidentiality interests in the requested information, are working with Committee staff to accommodate the Committee's interests. We have not intended to convey a refusal to provide information to the Committee, and instead seek to continue to work to fulfill your requests consistent with our obligations.

NASA remains committed to the faithful execution of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and the FY 2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. Our efforts are directed to implement the law as quickly and efficiently as our resources and capabilities allow. It is incumbent on the Agency to analyze technical options, schedules, procurement issues, and resource requirements in support of the goals and direction in the Act. The Agency must take these steps now in order to ensure development and acquisition of the capabilities called for in the law quickly and within resource constraints.

As NASA has previously reported to the Committee, the Agency has selected Reference Design Vehicle Designs for both the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and the Space Launch System (SLS) consistent with the direction in P.L. 111-267, which have provided a baseline from which we are developing schedule, costs and requirements, and acquisition plans. After careful analysis by NASA's senior management team, I made a decision that the MPCV requirements are consistent with the architecture and existing Orion contract and have directed that the current MPCV contract execution continue. NASA is working expeditiously to complete assessments of SLS designs and a final integrated plan for MPCV and SLS for submittal to the Committee by early this summer. Following that report, NASA will finalize development plans and acquisition decisions through the normal Agency process in midto late-summer. The development of the SLS and MPCV and supporting capabilities must be planned by developing an integrated budget and schedule to understand how these programs collectively fit within budget profiles and to determine when preliminary flight dates are possible.

NASA will continue to search for documents responsive to your request. We will keep the Committee and its staff apprised of our progress on a regular basis. Among the documents we have located thus far is a collection of 19 preliminary drafts of NASA's initial report pursuant to section 309 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, including four drafts that were exchanged between NASA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) pursuant to the requirements provided in OMB Circular A-11. NASA has substantial confidentiality interests in this internal, predecisional material, which is generally kept confidential because its release could chill robust and candid deliberations, inhibiting the vigorous analysis and debate that should lie at the core of NASA's decision- making processes. However, NASA recognizes the Committee's legitimate and important interest in gathering information in aid of its constitutional function. To accommodate that interest, we propose to make the collection of draft reports available immediately for the Committee or its staff to review and take notes at NASA Headquarters, or at Committee offices at a mutually convenient time. Your staff may contact Mr. Karl Stehmer at 202-358-1 948 to make arrangements for this review.

We appreciate your continued support and respect the central importance of your oversight responsibilities as NASA works to implement the NASA Authorization Act of 201 0. We will make every effort to accommodate the Committee's needs consistent with our obligations and we look forward to executing the balanced, vigorous space program authorized by the Act.

Sincerely,

Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Administrator

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