Congressman Seeks GAO Investigation into SLS Contracting

California Rep. Tom McClintock is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate NASA’s plans to use existing contractors for the Space Launch System instead of competitive bidding.

“I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” McClintock wrote. “NASA is considering modifying and/or extending existing contracts for retired or cancelled programs resulting in one or more ‘de facto sole source awards.’ Some of those contracts were originally awarded on a sole source basis.

“I strongly believe that such a de facto sole source award would be a violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). GAO has stated: ‘Under the Competition in Contracting Act, 41 U.S.C. 253(c)(I), a sole source award may be made only when there is a single responsible source that can satisfy the government’s needs.’ I am aware of multiple potential contractors who have expressed intent to compete for any available SLS contacts, and who should have every opportunity to do so,” he added.

McClintock’s letter was immediately hailed by the Space Frontier Foundation and the Tea Party in Space, two groups that support commercial space efforts. Both groups urged GAO to issue a “stay” order that would halt work on the heavy-lift vehicle until an investigation is completed.

“Last year several Senators demanded a multi-billion earmark for a heavy lift rocket that NASA clearly can’t afford. Now NASA has capitulated, and has announced plans to heavily modify existing contracts for a failed rocket, to award billions without any competition,” said TPIS President Andrew Gasser. “The GAO should stop this anti-competitive plan before it goes any further.

“This SLS bailout earmark is Solyndra on steroids,” Gasser added. “Every thoughtful member of Congress should join Congressman McClintock in challenging the spending of $32 billion in taxpayer funds without free and open competition. Only brave actions like this will protect us from the evils of crony capitalism that is running rampant in Washington. NASA’s SLS strategy abandons everything that defines America’s system of government: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.”

SFF Chairman Bob Werb took aim at Texas Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison, who pushed a reluctant NASA to build SLS.

“The Senate’s monster rocket is looking worse every day. Not only is it unaffordable and unnecessary, but it looks like NASA’s plan to do the Congress’ bidding actually violates the law,” Werb said. “Senator Hutchison may be in a hurry to feed pork to a few big aerospace contractors, but that doesn’t allow our space agency to ignore laws designed to stop sole-source, no-bid contracts from wasting taxpayer money. Thank goodness Congressman McClintock threw a penalty flag on this outrage.

“Even if you wrongly assume that NASA needs a 130 metric ton launch system anytime soon, there are clearly multiple ways to achieve that and many are much cheaper than the Senate’s preferred path,” he added. “Simply modifying existing Shuttle or Constellation contracts to accelerate payments to the same companies to build SLS is a violation of the law.”