Gordon, Miller, Udall Direct NASA to Halt any Destruction of Records Relating to the NAOMS Project
October 22, 2007
Dr. Michael Griffin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
300 E St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
Dear Administrator Griffin,
Recently, the Committee had launched an investigation into aviation safety programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Early last week, Committee investigative staff had a telephone conversation with NASA staff concerning a survey of airline pilots about safety incidents conducted under the National Aviation System Operational Monitoring Service (NAOMS). The Committee followed up with a letter requesting certain documents and other information. Therefore, we were surprised to read in the media today that, after that phone conference, NASA officials had directed the lead contractor at Ames Research Center for the NAOMS survey to archive all its materials on this project, return the archived material to NASA and then purge it from their computers and files (“NASA Sits on Air Safety Survey,” Associated Press, Oct. 22, 2007).
By this letter, we are directing NASA to halt any destruction of records relating to the NAOMS project, whether in the possession of the agency or its contractors, and as defined in the attached Appendix. Destruction of documents requested as part of a Congressional inquiry is a violation of criminal federal law. 18 U.S.C. 1505.
As I am sure you know, this is not the first time this year that we have written regarding a report that NASA was involved in the destruction of materials. In that prior instance, your own General Counsel destroyed video records of your appearance before the staff of the Inspector General. The evidence of misconduct was so clear that the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee sent a bipartisan referral letter to the Department of Justice seeking the prosecution of your General Counsel.
We want to prevent any repeat performance with data and records generated as part of the NAOMS process. In a September 5 letter denying a press request under the Freedom of Information Act for the data generated through NAOMS interviews with commercial pilots, Associate Administrator Thomas Luedtke indicated that the data would not be released because it is “sensitive and safety-related, [and] could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey.” Given the inference from that response that at NASA commercial interests appear to trump the public’s right to aviation safety data, we are worried that the integrity of the data from NAOMS may be at risk. We expect to receive your immediate commitment that the relevant NASA contractors and subcontractors will be given clear, unequivocal guidance not to purge their records. Further, we expect your commitment that the records in NASA’s possession will not be destroyed or otherwise compromised.