Concern That Quayle Trying To Take Over Space Policy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A House subcommittee fears that a proposed new administration policy might give Vice President Quayle vast new powers over the nation’s space activities.
The new plan, which would change the way the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports to Congress, was seen as another round in the tug of war between the space agency and the National Space Council, which is headed by the vice president.
The longstanding power struggle resulted in the forced resignation recently of NASA Administrator Richard Truly, effective at the end of this month.
″The proposed directive describes a management chain leading to the chairman of the National Space Council instead of the (NASA) administrator or secretary of defense,″ the chairman of the subcommittee said in a protest letter to President Bush.
The latter two officials, said Rep. Howard Wolpe, D-Mich., would be required ″to appoint a subordinate official who is immediately vested with a direct channel of communication to the vice president.″
As a result the NASA and Pentagon heads ″may therefore be unable to keep themselves, let alone the Congress, fully and currently informed of activities within their agencies,″ Wolpe said.
NASA already has rejected the proposal as ″a simplified, one-size-fits-all approach″ to the complex task of managing the huge space program.
The space council circulated the plan to get comment but has not endorsed it, said Liz Prestridge, spokeswoman for the group. The council is formulating a new space policy for President Bush.
Wolpe, chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said the proposed policy directive ″effectively makes the vice president ... not the administrator of NASA or the secretary of the Department of Defense, responsible for reporting space program deficiencies to Congress.″
Wolpe warned that if the vice president assumes such responsibility, ″the Congress will surely summon him as a witness to testify at future hearings on problems in NASA and DOD space activities.″
Vice presidents have testified only rarely before congressional committees.
The space council said the plan was one of many that come in unsolicited and that it was among many concepts circulated for comment.
″It has neither been endorsed by the space council nor put forward as a proposed directive,″ said Ms. Prestridge. ″Any assertion that it has is absolutely false.″
The proposal was prepared by Lowell Wood, a senior manager at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco, and Mike Rendine of Orbital Sciences Corp. It is titled ″Proposed National Policy Directive: The National Space Enterprise Initiative.″
Wolpe warned the changes would violate the National Space Act of 1958, which splits responsibility for space activities between NASA and the Pentagon. The act puts control of activities and personnel in the hands of the NASA administrator.