- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
- 3 African leaders cancel trip to U.S. over Ebola outbreak; Obama still plans summit
$350 million NASA project completed, then mothballed because of lack of need
Earmarked tower constructed for tests that were canceled in 2010
Question of the Day
NASA is supposed to build machines that launch into space, not structures that stay grounded on Earth and send spending into the stratosphere.
But that is exactly what is happening this year as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration completes the $350 million rocket-engine testing A-3 tower at its research facility in Mississippi. There is just one problem: The space exploration agency doesn’t want it.
“Because the Constellation Program was cancelled in 2010 the A-3’s unique testing capabilities will not be needed and the stand will be mothballed upon completion,” NASA’s internal watchdog, the inspector general, said this month.
Bloomberg News, which first reported the issue this week, called the structure “an example of how U.S. lawmakers thwart efforts to cut costs and eliminate government waste, even as they criticize agencies for failing to do so.”
For failing to heed government officials and forcing wasteful spending on taxpayers, Mr. Wicker wins this week’s Golden Hammer, a distinction given by The Washington Times for examples of fiscal waste, fraud and abuse.
Ironically, Congress says it has been operating under a self-imposed ban on earmarks — pet projects that funnel money back to lawmakers’ home districts, often at taxpayer expense. But recent examples show members are still finding ways around the self-imposed prohibition.
Mr. Wicker said the testing tower would help maintain the research center’s place at the forefront of U.S. space exploration.
“Stennis Space Center is the nation’s premier rocket engine testing facility,” a statement from the senator said. “It is a magnet for public and private research investment because of infrastructure projects like the A-3 test stand. In 2010, I authored an amendment to require the completion of that particular project, ensuring the Stennis facility is prepared for ever-changing technologies and demands.”
The Washington Times has reported on similar examples of Congress forcing unwanted spending on agencies and taxpayers. Last year, for example, Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, earned the Golden Hammer for forcing the Army to buy a half-billion dollars worth of Abrams tanks even though military leaders say they were not needed.
The A-3 testing tower will stand 300 feet and be able to withstand 1 million pounds of thrust, NASA says. The massive steel structure is designed to test how rocket engines operate at altitudes of up to 100,000 feet by creating a vacuum within the testing chamber to simulate the upper reaches of the atmosphere, said Rebecca Strecker, a spokeswoman for the Stennis facility.
The testing is a key component in evaluating how the propulsion systems will perform in outer space.
When construction on the structure began in May 2007, NASA was preparing to work on the Ares series of rockets that would propel Constellation spacecraft to the moon and eventually to Mars. Since the program was canceled in 2010, NASA says, there is little reason to operate the tower.
The problem is not uncommon for the space agency, investigators said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Phillip Swarts is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times, covering fiscal waste, fraud and political ethics. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and previously worked as an investigative reporter for the Washington Guardian. Phillip can be reached at email@example.com.
- U.S. chemical sites vulnerable to terrorists despite millions spent on security: Congress
- Insurgent-allied businesses in Afghanistan eligible for U.S. taxpayer aid
- Ex-Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg charged with terrorism
- Chicago shooting spree: 22 people shot in 12 hours
- Christians flee Mosul after ISIL threat: Convert to Islam or die
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Ted Cruz
Israel saves its enemies; Hamas endangers its friends
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- GOP leaders delay border bill, leave Obama in control
- Army's 3-D printed bombs to create 'a whole new universe' of lethal capabilities
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- U.S. troops told not to eat, drink in front of Muslims during Ramadan
- Catholic League slams Obama: 'Do Christian lives mean so little to you?'
- Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world