Congressional Letter To NASA About Aircraft Consolidation

September 6, 1996

The Honorable Daniel S. Goldin
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Administrator Goldin:

We are writing once again to express our concern over NASA's plan to consolidate aircraft at the Dryden Flight Research Center. Our specific concern relates to NASA's apparent insistence on proceeding with aircraft consolidation despite analysis showing consolidation to be neither cost effective nor programmatically sound.

As you know, on August 12 the office of the Inspector General released a final report on aircraft consolidation. The report estimates nonrecurring costs of $11.3 million and annual savings of $218,049, resulting in a payback of 52 years. Furthermore, the report estimates that NASA will never recover its financial investment if the cost of money (the discount rate) is factored into this analysis. Consequently, the report clearly recommends that "NASA should reevaluate its decision to implement the current aircraft consolidation plan because it is not cost effective."

Additionally, the report considers the adverse impact of aircraft consolidation on program research. As the report explains, Dryden is primarily a flight research center. Generally, aircraft at Dryden are used as actual test subjects for aerodynamic configurations and direct flight control hardware. However, the majority of the aircraft scheduled to transfer to Dryden are a very different type of aircraft. These aircraft are airborne science aircraft or "flying laboratories that carry experiment instrumentation and researchers and have developed unique relationships with the centers in which they are located. The Inspector General predicts that the productivity of research would suffer from the geographic separation of these research aircraft from the scientists who use them. Unfortunately, as the Inspector General states "NASA has approached consolidation simply as the relocation of aircraft and ignored the decades of synergies built up between science researchers, aircraft, and institutional assets." Clearly, separating science aircraft from the people who use them will have significant adverse programmatic affects.

Finally, we are disturbed by NASA's apparent unwillingness to reconsider its plan to consolidate aircraft at Dryden despite the Inspector General's analysis. The Inspector General's draft of this report, submitted to NASA Headquarters on June 4, recommended that NASA reevaluate its decision to implement the current aircraft consolidation plan. This reevaluation was never done. Similarly, the Inspector General's final report states that "no effort had been made by management to evaluate and weigh the range of alternatives" available to NASA. For example, NASA officials failed to consider an alternative consolidation plan first described by the NASA Comptroller and later endorsed by the Inspector General in a March 8 report. This alternative plan, which would leave a number of aircraft at their present locations, promised greater annual net recurring savings than the current consolidation plan. It is important to note that, like the NASA Comptroller and the Inspector General, the United States Congress encouraged NASA to explore this alternative consolidation option in committee report language that accompanied Public Law 104-134. Unfortunately, NASA did not do so.

We urge NASA to reconsider its plan to consolidate aircraft at Dryden Flight Center, particularly in light of the Senate's adoption of an amendment to the FY'97 VA-HUD appropriations bill that explicitly prohibits the use of funds for such purposes. Further, we request specific information explaining how NASA will use the Inspector General's most recent findings to ensure that its final decision regarding aircraft consolidation will be both cost effective and programmatically sound.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter


Signed By: John W. Warner, Herbert H. Bateman, Dianne Feinstein, A. G. Eshoo,
Barbara Boxer, Tom Lantos, Martin R. Hoke, Steven C LaTourette, Wayne T. Gilchrest,
Stony H. Buyer, Robert C. Scott and Zoe Lofgren (all Members of Congress)

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 6, 1996 5:33 PM.

NASA Staff Meeting Minutes 3 September 1996 was the previous entry in this blog.

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