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Letter from Rep. Rohrabacher to NASA OET AA Creedon regarding Alternate Access to Station funding

Status Report From: Rep. Rohrabacher
Posted: Monday, April 7, 2003

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives

March 14, 2003

Dr. Jeremiah Creedon
Associate Administrator for Aerospace Technology
National Aeronautics and Space administration

Dear. Dr. Creedon:

In my letter of November 15, 2002, to Administrator O'Keefe endorsing the President's FY2003 budget amendment restructuring NASA's Integrated Space Transportation Plan I stated that:

"I also believe NASA should continue its efforts in the Space Launch Initiative that enables procurement of commercial services for Space Station cargo and logistics missions."

By this of course, I was referring to the SLI-contained Alternate Access to Station (AAS) program. As you may know, I have long championed this effort to use the creativity of American entrepreneurs to help satisfy the important national requirement of complementary cargo delivery to the International Space Station. My NASA Authorization Act of 2000 specifically endorsed the establishment of the Alternate Access program and recent Appropriations reports have given AAS strong bipartisan support.

However, I have been concerned for some time about NASA's apparent inability to quickly and effectively implement AAS to achieve it stated goals. In particular I was puzzled by NASA's apparent use of the vast majority of funds appropriated for AAS over the past three years on "new technology" projects instead of enabling commercial ISS logistics services as soon as possible. These worries were the source of my subcommittee staff's ongoing questions to you and your staff about AAS ever since the ISTP restructuring.

I now understand that there has been some unfortunate confusion over what goals our staffs were discussing over the recent months. Therefore I am sending you this letter to make my agenda on this matter clear.

  1. I believe it was misguided for NASA to decide last fall to terminate AAS just as the program was finally building momentum to produce valuable results for the International Space Station.
  2. Furthermore, I believe that the Columbia tragedy and the resultant partial destaffing of ISS make this decision look shortsighted at best. Certainly the agency has robbed itself of an important response to my Ranking Member's repeated and appropriate calls for an ISS operations contingency plan.
  3. AAS is still an ongoing activity and I suspect that NASA has probably not already reprogrammed and obligated the $62.7 million originally requested for AAS in FY2003. Furthermore, I have yet to see an Operating Plan reflecting a change in the program. Therefore, I believe that you have it within your authority to accelerate the development of rather than preclude promising near-term AAS concepts.
  4. Finally, I look forward to seeing your specific plan of action to address my concerns before the upcoming April 2, 2003 learning on the Orbital Space Plane so that I can assure you of my continued proactive support on that project.

Sir, no one cheered louder than I when you came to D.C. last summer to replace Mr. Venneri, but I am concerned that NASA may repeat errors made under his watch. Please be confident that I stand ready to work with you to successfully implement a focused and expedited AAS program and a focused and expedited OSP initiative. Feel free to contact Ruben Van Mitchell or myself if you have any further questions on this matter.

Sincerely,
[signed]
Dana Rohrabacher
Member of Congress

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