Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. about reported delays to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle. The news comes despite congressional support above the Administration’s full budget requests and repeated Administration assurances that the exploration priorities are on schedule.
Chairman Smith: “I was alarmed to learn that the timeline for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle programs has shifted. This news is contrary to numerous assurances from the Administration that these programs are on schedule. The House Science, Space, & Technology Committee has repeatedly committed to supporting these programs at or above the Administration’s request for a 2017 launch date. Now we are being told that date has changed to November 2018. This also calls into question the commitment of the Administration that has consistently reduced the budgets for these vital programs.
“I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure these programs remain on schedule and on budget. I urge the Administration to once more renew its commitment to our nation’s space exploration programs.”
On Wednesday, NASA officials announced a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018. This comes as a change to previous plans for a flight in 2017. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also found that, “the agency’s current funding plan for SLS may be $400 million short of what the program needs to launch by 2017.” The president’s most recent budget request for FY2015 reduced these programs by over $330 million compared to the FY2014 appropriation enacted by Congress. Had Congress agreed to the Administration’s original requests, NASA delays could have been even longer.
In June, the House passed the Committee’s NASA Authorization Act with full support for SLS and Orion following personal assurances from Administrator Bolden that“this is the amount of money that we need to deliver SLS on the date and time that we said.”
The full letter can be found here.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy demanding additional information about the agency’s motivation for having detailed maps assembled showing waters and wetlands for all 50 states. The maps, which were created in 2013 shortly after EPA proposed its Waters of the U.S. rule, had never been made public. When confronted at a hearing, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe agreed to release the maps.
Chairman Smith: “These maps show the EPA’s plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country. Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps. But the EPA’s posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. It’s time to give Americans a chance to make up their own minds about the EPA’s intentions. While the Agency marches forward with a rule that could fundamentally re-define Americans’ private property rights, the EPA kept these maps hidden. So, today I will be posting the maps on the Committee’s website for public review.”
While the EPA has claimed the maps have not yet been used to regulate, they have failed to explain why the agency used taxpayer money to create them. The EPA paid a private contractor to make many of these maps, yet the details of the arrangement have not been disclosed. Serious questions remain regarding the EPA’s underlying motivations for creating such highly detailed maps that were created just days after the EPA announced its Waters of the U.S. rule.
The letter requests all documents and communications related to the EPA’s contract to create these maps and demands that these and any other previously undisclosed maps in the EPA’s possession be entered into the official rulemaking docket for public review and comment. The letter also requests EPA keep the public comment period open for at least 60 days to provide adequate opportunity for public review and comment.
The full letter can be found here.
The maps are posted here.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Today, Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), along with Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Ranking Member Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General (IG) Todd Zinser, after receiving multiple allegations about ongoing efforts within the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to identify and potentially retaliate against whistleblowers in that office. These allegations are particularly credible given IG Zinser’s history of engaging in and tolerating whistleblower retaliation as documented in a 1996 Office of Special Counsel (OSC) report.
Last month the Committee sent another bipartisan letter to IG Zinser that informed him the Committee was aware that he had personally engaged in whistleblower retaliation in 1996. Further, the Committee discovered that Mr. Zinser failed to divulge that information to the Senate during his 2007 confirmation process. In that case, the OSC determined that the “evidence” Mr. Zinser offered against the whistleblower was “unsupportable,” and it described his actions against the whistleblower as “draconian in nature” and “motivated by animus.”
In the July 2014 letter to IG Zinser, Committee Members wrote, “There is no reasonable explanation for this lack of disclosure during your confirmation hearing and it raises serious questions as to your public candor and honesty with Congress.”
Today’s letter sent to IG Zinser reads, in part, “It is our duty as Members of Congress to help ensure that federal employees are not retaliated against in their attempts to divulge waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement or unethical behavior by agency officials. However, we are deeply concerned that there has been a practice of retaliation against your employees that has continued unabated since the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued its last report in September 2013 into the prohibited personnel practices of your senior staff.” In last year’s case, the OSC found that two of Mr. Zinser’s most senior and trusted aides, his legal counsel and director of whistleblower protection, had coerced OIG staff to sign “gag orders” preventing them from carrying out their legal rights to inform Congress, the OSC or the media of mismanagement or other issues of concern in the IG’s office.
The Committee’s letter asks for a broad range of records related to these new allegations of attempts to identify and target potential whistleblowers for retaliation, and it informs the IG that the Committee expects to begin interviews with OIG staff to further investigate this matter next month. The letter also requests that the IG publicly post a separate and attached letter to OIG staff that informs them of their rights to provide information regarding allegations of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement or retaliation against them, directly to the Committee.
Whistleblower complaints to OSC by IG staff from well-managed offices are relatively unusual. During the last two years, however, six employees in the Commerce IG’s office have filed complaints of retaliation with the Office of Special Counsel. In that same period, the Department of Energy’s OIG, which is nearly twice as large as the Commerce IG’s office, has had zero complaints of retaliation filed with OSC. The Department of Health and Human Services OIG, which has a staff of more than 1,200 people--nearly seven times the size of the Commerce OIG--had a single alleged case of retaliation filed with OSC in the same time frame.
The full letter can be found here.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy criticizing the agency’s limited analysis of its climate regulations and requesting more comprehensive, independent analysis before the agency moves forward.
“For too long the EPA has hidden the truth from the American people. In order to regain public trust, the agency should rely on robust, objective and well-grounded technical analysis of its climate regulations. Flaws in recent EPA analyses amplify concerns about the real impacts of these regulations. Americans deserve an opportunity to see the facts.”
Last week the Government Accountability Office released a report highlighting a pattern of shoddy EPA analysis. It was revealed that EPA relied on decades old data and ignored important factors. The independent watchdog warned that “EPA cannot ensure that it’s [analysis] provide the public with a clear understanding of its decision making.”
In his letter, Chairman Smith wrote that “Credible analysis is critical to a well-informed debate concerning climate change and energy policy choices now before American people. EPA’s incomplete modeling disregards a number of technical, regulatory, and economic realities. Americans deserve the bottom line: what does it cost and what will we get for the money?”
The letter calls on EPA to provide comprehensive analysis that takes real-world contingencies into account rather than rely on models and science that are hidden from the public.
Chairman Smith simultaneously sent a letter to the non-partisan Energy Information Administration (EIA) to conduct independent analysis using the same underlying data and assumptions that EPA uses. The letter states that “tandem analysis by EPA and EIA would allow for a side-by-side comparison of results and provide a more comprehensive accounting of the possible impacts of the agency’s proposal.”
The letter requests the analysis be conducted by September 15, 2014.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after the independent experts who advise NASA criticized the President’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The NASA Advisory Council urged an independent cost and technical estimate of ARM before NASA moves forward with the proposal.
Chairman Smith: “Contrary to this administration’s rhetoric, the President’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has many skeptics within the scientific community. And the experts who advise NASA recently stepped up their criticism. The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA ‘runs the risk of squandering precious national resources’ if they move forward with ARM. One expert, Mr. Tom Young, went so far as to say that the ARM proposal ‘dumbed down NASA.’ For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA’s technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously.”Read More
Technology Needed to Secure America’s BorderRead More
Washington, D.C. - The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight today held a joint hearing on the technologies needed to better secure our nation’s borders.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Technology is a key component to securing our 2,000 mile Southern border. Customs and Border Protection and National Guard troops cannot be everywhere. Sensors deployed along the border can detect and track the “coyotes” who smuggle children—as well as illegal drugs and firearms—across the border. We need to get this technology in the hands of our immigration officers. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security has a poor track record when it comes to developing and fielding sensors and tactical communications infrastructure along the Southwest border.”
In 2002, the Homeland Security Act established the Directorate for Science and Technology (S&T) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The S&T Directorate manages and carries out science and technology research for our federal homeland security needs. It is responsible for developing new technologies that can help secure our nation’s border.
Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.): “From unmanned aerial vehicles, to tunnel detection, from anti-counterfeit standards to biometrics, there are existing and promising new technologies that can act as force multipliers for border patrol agents and the Coast Guard to augment their day to day work on border security related issues.”
A 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report notes that, “The Department of Homeland Security does not know the total amount its components invest in research and development.” While DHS has since provided a definition for R&D, GAO testified today that it has “not yet determined the most effective path to guide R&D across the department.” Further, a 2013 GAO report cites examples where projects were delayed and cancelled due to an inability to obtain data from DHS.
Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-Ga.): “The S&T Directorate needs to lay out a clear and comprehensive plan to manage research and development activities, and coordinate with other entities to ensure the deployment of effective state-of-the-art technology in a timely fashion. Absent a strategic technology roadmap, our citizens will remain vulnerable to the threats stemming from an unsecure border.”
The following witnesses testified today:Dr. K. Jack Riley, Vice President, RAND National Security Research Division; Director, RAND National Defense Research Institute;Mr. David C. Maurer, Director, Homeland Security and Justice, U.S. Government Accountability Office; andDr. Joseph D. Eyerman, Director, Health Security Program, RTI International; Director for Research and Management, Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, Duke University.
The Committee plans to hold a follow-on hearing in September with the Undersecretary of Science and Technology to inform upcoming legislation to reauthorize research and technology development projects at the DHS S&T Directorate.
For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology website.Read More
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