Posted by brandoniswrite on September 30, 2011
WASHINGTON — A California congressman is asking a federal watchdog agency to investigate whether NASA’s plans to build a big new rocket violates government rules on competition, as the Space Launch System relies heavily on existing agreements with shuttle and other manufacturers.
In a letter dated Sept. 22, U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., requests that the Government Accountability Office examine the decision to build much of the Space Launch System with pieces from the shuttle and the now-defunct Constellation moon program — and the contracts that go with them.
“I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS. Instead, NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more ‘de facto sole source awards,’” he wrote in the letter. (Available here: McClintock to GAO 22Sep11 )
Last year, Congress and the White House agreed on to build a new rocket and crew capsule from the old programs on the premise it would save NASA time and money. Earlier this month, NASA announced a rocket design that largely hews to this vision: little competition is expected, although it enables future competition for the rocket’s strap-on boosters.
It remains to be seen whether McClintock’s GAO request is successful. One possible outcome is some delay in implementing SLS work, although in recent months NASA officials have been busy doing contract and legal paperwork so to protect the agency from protests.
As of Tuesday at noon, a GAO official said the agency had yet to see the letter.
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