Congressman Objects To Increased Quayle Role In Space Program
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of a House subcommittee on space is protesting a policy proposal that he says would put Vice President Dan Quayle, not the head of NASA, in charge of the nation’s space program.
Rep. Howard Wolpe, D-Mich., wrote President Bush that a 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.″
But the National Space Council, which Quayle heads, said it only circulated the proposal for comment and has not endorsed it.
NASA already has rejected the proposal as ″a simplified, one-size-fits- all″ approach to a highly complex business.
The proposal was released Jan. 31. Less than two weeks later, a longstanding power struggle between the space agency and the Space Council culminated in the forced resignation of NASA administrator Richard Truly, effective at the end of this month.
Wolpe, chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, 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 proposal was one of many that come to the council unsolicited and that it was among many concepts circulated for comment to an interagency group as it formulates a new national space policy for the president.
″It has neither been endorsed by the Space Council nor put forward as a proposed directive,″ said Liz Prestridge, spokeswoman for the council. ″Any assertion that it has is absolutely false.″
The document that aroused Wolpe’s concern is a series of briefing charts prepared by Lowell Wood, a senior manager at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco, and Mike Rendine of the Orbital Sciences Corporation. They are entitled ″Proposed National Policy Directive: The National Space Enterprise Initiative.″
Wolpe claims the changes would violate the National Space Act of 1958 which assigns responsibility for civilian space activities to NASA and for military space activities to Defense. It also would violate a section of the law that gives the NASA administrator control of activities and personnel.
The proposal, he said, sets up a chain of command for ″irremediable program deviations″ leading to the vice president who then becomes responsible for notifying Congress.
In his evaluation, NASA administrator Richard Truly said the Space Council’s reporting to the Congress on individual programs would erode his fundamental accountability for space programs.
″It would be extremely disruptive to an orderly program management process,″ he said.