Taxpayers pony up $1.4M a day for cancelled program

Wednesday Waste | March 30, 2011

Taxpayers are paying $1.4 million a day for a NASA program the agency doesn’t even want. Congress and the White House decided to cancel the program last October but because of the erratic way Congress has budgeted for this fiscal year, taxpayers remain on the hook for millions. With the passage of the most recent continuing resolution (CR), which funds the government through April 8th, the government failed to remove a funding provision for NASA’s Constellation moon program.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

It all started last summer, when Congress failed to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Instead, it approved a continuation of the 2010 budget — and has kept extending it while struggling to reach agreement on a spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year.

In January, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin urged “immediate action” to stop the spending on Constellation, much of which goes to Utah-based solid-rocket manufacturer ATK. Martin said it would cost an estimated $215 million through the end of February.

Since then, though, Congress has passed two “continuing resolutions” — each with the Shelby language.

This so-called “Shelby provision” — named for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who inserted it into the 2010 budget — is expected to cost NASA roughly $29 million during the three-week budget extension through April 8. It has already cost the agency nearly $250 million since Oct. 1.

More than two months ago, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., vowed to cut the language: “Given that every dime counts in our space program right now, we can’t afford to be wasting money,” Nelson said Jan. 13. He repeated the promise during a NASA hearing last week.

But the language is still there. Asked why, a Nelson spokesman blamed “partisan politics.”


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