Congress: August 2012 Archives

Letter from Rep. Wolf to NASA Regarding Attendance at the International Astronautical Congress

"In your June 15 response to me, you wrote, "As the NASA Administrator, I take my responsibility and accountability for use of taxpayer dollars in this area very seriously..." and you outlined your process for reviewing NASA-sponsored conferences exceeding $20,000 and non-NASA-sponsored conferences exceeding $100,000. That is why I was concerned to learn from the Web site NASAWatch.com that, "[sjources report that 50 or more NASA employees will be attending the IAC (International Astronautical Congress) meeting from 1-5 October in tourist-friendly Naples, Italy."

NASA's Delegation to the IAC, earlier post

Keith's note: Sources report that 50 or more NASA employees will be attending the IAC (International Astronautical Congress) meeting from 1-5 October in tourist-friendly Naples, Italy. Attention is paid on the official website to things to see outside the event that have nothing to do with the intent of the meeting. Registration is between 730-900 euros ($900 - $1,100). Add in airfare and hotel and you are looking at $3,000 per person - or around $150,000 for NASA's participation. Of course you know that lots of the NASA attendees will add on extra days and bring a spouse for a mini-vacation.

The number of actual presenters from "NASA" seems to be rather small. I checked 30 sessions at random and I did not find a single presenter who is listed as being from "NASA". There must be NASA speakers, right? I wonder how many attendees will file a trip report (an interesting FOIA topic)? Of course, professional meetings are important - no doubt about it - and more real work often gets done in the hallways and bars than in the sessions. I think Congress is overly sanctimonious and often goes overboard about most routine Federal agency meeting costs (there are glaring exceptions of course) when they allow their own members to go on luxury junkets around the world.

But given that there are several recent large meetings at NASA with questionable costs currently under investigation, you'd think that NASA would at least have a few more people listed as actually presenting at the meeting. So ... how many of these 50+ NASA attendees are presenting? Oh yes, there seem to be a fair number of speakers representing CNSA and other Chinese government entitites. I am certain that Rep. Wolf will want a detailed list of every interaction.

Let's bring logic to NASA's budget process, Editorial, Houston Chronicle

"Culberson's and Wolf's bill would model NASA's budget process after that used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Doing so would make the agency less political and more professional. It calls for the president to appoint the NASA director to a 10-year term and would make the budget cycle multiyear rather than annual. The notion has Coats' endorsement. He notes that if they were able to plan out four or five years "it would be amazing what we could do with our team."

Keith's note:For a while this page at NASA.gov had Space Biology Program Awards Space Biology Research Grants awards listed by congressional district. Then they took it offline. NASA has not explained why this information was removed - nor why it was online in the first place. Why did NASA check to see which congressional district got which grant? Not exactly "transparent" or "open".


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