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Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration: Development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle

Thursday, September 28, 2006 - 12:00am
Washington, DC

Opening Statement By Hon. Bart Gordon

Good afternoon. I’d like to join the Chairman in welcoming the witnesses to today’s hearing.

First, let me be clear about what this hearing is not.  It is not a hearing about whether or not the nation should build a Crew Exploration Vehicle.  It is not a hearing about whether or not the right contractor team won the CEV contract.  And it is not a hearing about whether or not the U.S. should return to the Moon.

Instead, this hearing is to examine whether or not NASA is pursuing the right acquisition strategy for the CEV, whether it has adequately planned for the challenges inherent in the program, and whether it has budgeted sufficient funds to complete the CEV.

The last question is particularly important, because if there is cost growth in the CEV program, it has the potential to do serious damage to NASA’s other programs as well as to other parts of the exploration initiative.

I don’t want to see that happen.  I want to see the CEV program succeed.  That is why I was very concerned when the GAO reported to Chairman Boehlert and me in late July that: "NASA’s current acquisition strategy for the CEV places the project at risk of significant cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls…"

Equally troubling were GAO’s findings on the issue of whether NASA’s overall exploration architecture cost estimates fit within the agency’s projected available budgets.  To again quote GAO: "…there are years when NASA does not have sufficient funding to implement the architecture.  Some yearly shortfalls exceed $1 billion, while in other years the funding available exceeds needed resources…"

And, "NASA preliminarily projects multibillion-dollar shortfalls for [NASA’s] Exploration System Mission Directorate in all fiscal years from 2014 to 2020."

In other words, we may be seeing another example of lofty goals being set without those proposing them identifying where the resources needed to achieve those goals will be coming from in future years.

I want to note, of course, that NASA "non-concurred" with the GAO’s findings and believes that it has a good plan for both the CEV acquisition and the overall exploration program.  I would caution, however, that those are words we have heard before.

I would remind my colleagues that some 18 months ago, NASA testified before this Committee about its plans for acquiring the CEV, indicating that it had a well-thought-out approach to the CEV program.

Let me offer a quote from NASA’s February 16, 2005 testimony: "[The CEV] will be developed in a 'spiral’ approach, wherein early demonstrations and prototypes are used to demonstrate capabilities, validate technologies, and mitigate risk, all along an evolutionary path toward a mature design.  The first spiral development planned will provide the capability to deliver humans to orbit in a CEV by 2014."

As you will recall, last year’s approach was going to maintain a competition between two contractor teams until 2008 when there would be a competitive "flyoff" prior to award of the CEV development contract.

NASA also assured the Congress last year that its CEV and CLV acquisition plan came with a budget that would meet its 2014 timetable.

It’s now 2006.  NASA has eliminated the spiral development approach, has decided not to maintain the competitive flyoff, and has added almost $7 billion to the CEV and CLV program relative to what last year’s five-year funding plan said would be needed.  And after all of that, NASA is indicating that the CEV still will not enter operational service until 2014 due to budgetary constraints.

My intent in reciting this history is not to embarrass NASA - it is simply to make the point that we have received assurances from this agency in the past that "everything is under control" and we have had other painful reminders in recent months of large-scale acquisition programs in other agencies under our jurisdiction going off course.  We cannot afford to have that happen again.

Today’s hearing will provide an opportunity for the Committee to hear from both GAO and NASA on these issues.  I look forward to their testimony.

Opening Statement By Hon. Mark Udall

Good afternoon. I’d like to join my colleagues in welcoming our witnesses to today’s hearing.  We have a lot of issues to cover today, so I will just make a few observations.

First, I am encouraged that the recent CEV contract award was by all accounts the result of a hard-fought competition between two high-quality contractor teams.

And I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Lockheed Martin team - which coincidentally is based in my home state of Colorado - on winning that competition.

Second, I want to echo the comments made by Ranking Member Gordon.  I am of course troubled by the issues raised by the GAO in its July 17th report, and I look forward to hearing from both GAO and NASA today about what has been done to address those issues.

Given the importance of the CEV program to the future of the nation’s human space flight activities, I think it’s imperative that this Committee engage in sustained, serious oversight of it, as well as the other parts of NASA’s exploration initiative, to ensure that they are carried out in an efficient and responsible manner.

I say this not because I have any concerns about the dedication and commitment of NASA and the contractor team to the success of the exploration program.

Rather, it’s because from my vantage point on the Armed Services Committee, I have seen that dedication and commitment are by themselves not sufficient to keep major systems acquisitions from sometimes running into trouble.

We all know of examples of important programs that have gotten off track and suffered significant cost growth and schedule delays.

As the GAO has pointed out on other occasions, "good intentions" aren’t enough.

There also needs to be a clear understanding of requirements, credible cost and schedule estimates, and a disciplined approach to program management.

We all want NASA’s CEV program to succeed.  I hope that today’s hearing can provide a forum for a constructive review of NASA’s plans, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.



1 - Dr. Scott Horowitz
Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Download the Witness Testimony

2 - Allen Li
Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management Government Accountability Office Government Accountability Office
Download the Witness Testimony

Witness Panel
NASA Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Dr. Scott Horowitz
Dr. Horowitz
Allen Li, Director, Acquisitions and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office
Mr. Li
For information on the witnesses, use the links at left
109th Congress