tv Today in Washington CSPAN September 13, 2012 6:00am-9:00am EDT
not. when we further examined this, it looked like gsa circumvent the rule -- circumvented the rule by giving multiple of towards smaller than $10,000, rather than one time awards that were $10,000 or more. so my first question is, do you believe that giving multiple towards that eventually totaled $10,000 in fiscal year circumvents the opm approval process? >> i certainly don't believe it's in the spirit of what was intended by the opm approval process. i would want to point out there is one exception, a pretty significant one. ses performance awards in excess of $10,000 do not require opm approval. so putting aside that, which is a pretty sizable group of that number, but also another area that we have identified as being
in need of some substantial review and that's why we cut the scs bonus budget eyed 85%. but in our top to bottom review we also identified that there are 15 different award categories within gsa that people are eligible for. and because we didn't have a clue transparency and accountability straight down to the field level in a finance office, energy when capitol office it was possible for people to get one of these awards at some level within the organization. so i'm not in anyway going to try to explain or defend what happened before. i am going to say goinforward we are building structures that will prevent that from happening. and we are cutting back the budget because we are reminding folks that their initial compensation is really what's there, their salary compensation is what's there to thank them for doing what is work. the report should be for very
special and excellent to resurface, and it should be easily explained and completely justified. >> well, you're correct that there's and exemption board, ses, but i will tell you that our initial analysis is that that 159 employees is not just ses employees. i think you would agree with that. >> i do. >> but let's go to an ses employee. how good the region a public buildings administrator receive a bonus of more than, well, almost $55,000? which appears to have been awarded for planning the western regions conference. how could that happen? >> i don't know the specifics of that particular individual. i do know that there are a number of individuals who one
the governmentwide rank awards. that is a statutory award that requires third party review of the submission. and those rewards are quite substantial. they are from 20-35% of pay. so you have an ses employed, the top end of the ses range is $179,000, you can get some pretty sizable awards if you win one of those very, very significant and special awards. i think in the case of the individual you're speaking about, they won one of those rental boards. but i don't know or understand what the justification of that particular one. >> and wouldn't trouble you that anyone who was involved in planning the western region conference that was so extravagant, it was such a waste of taxpayer dollars, received any kind of bonus?
>> that's why we think with to really take a good hard look at the performance isn't within the organization and recognized one of the ways we should judge performance is not just meeting numbers, but also providing leadership in providing accountability. a step in that direction that we're taking is we want to institute 360-degree review process for all leaders within the organization so that they can be assessed not simply by their superiors but also by their tears and by their employees so that we can get a sense of what places where we need to develop further the leadership skills of our employees. >> i want to also point out if a recommended award is in excess of $25,000, which many of these awards were that we have reviewed, that the director of opm reviews the nomination, and
the president's approval is actually required. my point is that it's not as if you are not systems in place to try to put a check on excessive awards to individuals who have not warranted that kind of recognition. but it sure looks to me like a gsa ignored those checks and circumvented the safeguards in order to give extraordinary awards to many, many employees. and in many, not all, and i want to be clear on that, but in many cases the awards did not seem to have been justified. would you agree with that based on your use of our? >> based on our review i think our actions speak to our analysis. the fact that we cut the budget
for these awards by 85% and said, back to our folks, this is going to be something you get for really special exemplary, extremely justifiable acts that frankly the test is going to be cannot explain it at a senate hearing. >> that's always a good task. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thanks, senator collins. senator johnson, good morning? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing. i've always felt that this is in light of day and having to confront these things probably a pretty good benchmark. senator collins, it's interesting as i was being briefed for this, kind of looking to some of the materials, the thing that just jumped out at me was drumsticks. cost $30,000. have you seen the video by any chance? idea that yesterday and
inspector general, i appreciate the fact your staff has agreed to let us released that. although we're not talking billions of dollars are, i think those anecdotal examples of just outrageous thing by the federal government is extremely important. it is important to note this is just one conference. the drum sticks occurred at an awards ceremony in 2010 were $30,000 was also spent on picture frames which were apparently handed out to the participants. so again i appreciate that and look forward to that video being released because i think the american people need to see that type of abuse. mr. tangherlini, you've canceled 47 conferences. can you tell me what the purpose of those conferences were and why would they ever scheduled in the first place? >> well, that was part of the reason why we canceled and because every conference now has to come through with an explanation, has to detail what
the benefits to the taxpayer is, and what the results will get out of it. and in some cases, a valuable conference, the governor's conference, there were so many laws in the way that we referred it to the inspector general for additional analysis. we had our legal team look at it. and while we thought that there was value to the conference, we didn't think we could explain or justify the mechanism by which the conference was put together. other conferences, frankly, just didn't feel so sufficient justification for us to use taxpayer money to send people to. >> can you describe some of those things were about? my guess would be those been going on for decades. they are going on today in other agencies. i just want to get an explanation. what are some of these government conference is all about? >> i think the primary focus is to bring people together and improve their training opportunities, to exchange ideas, to build connections and
relations. and so there's nothing in principle wrong with the conference. the question is, are there other ways to do it? on the other means of making those connections? are there other events such as our annual expo event where people could do it instead? and so that's really been our task is to really push back on the organization and say listen, it's very important that we recognize the limitation where facing with these resources. and it's important that we look at different ways for us to get whatever via the other going to get out of that event. >> the conferences are allowed to go forward, what are those about? >> those are about training, and those are about connections between vendors, particularly small businesses, and the agencies they serve. they are things like the expo conference, which we brought together thousands of vendors. we brought together thousands of government contracting officers. we provided hundreds of hours of
training. we made sure though that when people got there they recognize that they were going to a government training conference, and he was going to look every bit the way that sounds. and that meant that he was going to be focused and the mission oriented. and people did have business to do there, they needed to, a., not, or b., leave when they were done. >> both of you gentlemen have worked for other government departments, correct? you with the department of treasury and you with the department of justice? >> yes. >> without asking you to rat them out but i guess i'm asking you to rat them out, is there similar type of process in terms of having 50, 60 conferences a year? i will start with you, mr. tangherlini. >> i came from the treasury department but i know from the secretary down we took very strictly our stewardship of taxpayer resources. so certainly in the three years i was there i never saw anything like that. >> mr. milner? >> neither have i.
i did not see that at department of justice speaks a gsa is the only one kind of holding conferences? we are -- >> they would have conferences. usually training, and will be at the national advocacy center in north carolina and they would train trial attorneys, those types of conferences. and they would have a heavy agenda, substance. >> what would those things typically cost? was the typical budget for those things hundreds of thousands of dollars to? >> i would doubt that very much. >> speaking of budgets, in my briefing materials i have listed gsa's budget as about a quarter of a billion dollars, which and fortune in our government is a rounding error. that's not your fault budget, greg? >> now. spin what is the full amount including northeast? >> a gsa budget, the best number to use is about $23 billion.
there are about another $40 billion as the chairman point out that flows through our vehicles but not directly to gsa. >> as a businessperson when you see some department that's really out of control, either eliminated or drastically cut its budget. i'm highly skeptical when you see the comments going back decades about how out of control this agency has been that we're going to be able to do it as phenomenal as you may be in terms of managerial abilities, be able to get this under control. i really do believe me in many cases agencies just have to be cut. but percent at entrance of budget to the gsa? would that be the best way? >> i would be concerned about doing any kind of the across the board cut. i mean, i think the really important thing is to look at the mission that the gsa -- >> haven't people been doing that for decades and summit not being able to get control over it? >> i think part of the concern
is on the federal facility side when you make sure we're not cutting the budget so badly that we can take care of the facilities. the big issue here is are we applying the resources that we've been given in a way that they're meant to be applied? are we applying them to rebuilding buildings? are we applying them to providing the most efficient acquisition services? if you have a ton of thousand dollars to spend on a conference that could have gone into building better heating or ventilation system for for a government that saves taxpayer money by reducing energy, that's incredibly unfortunate and that's -- >> just real quick, i know the subject or i just want to get your response. i sent a letter on april 30 about the u.s. green building council's leed program, the 2012 programs departure. i'm highly concerned about products not being able to be utilized in government buildings anymore that will cost jobs. are you working actively on the? are we going to put a stop to utilization of that?
>> we are looking at those standards and want to make sure that there's a fair, open process for the standards. i don't know where we are in responding yet to the rulemaking saw want to be careful, but i don't upset that the complicated legal process but i will say we've heard many of those concerns and others and to try and reflect them in the way we handle the. >> i'll into this letter and to direct and would really like to work with your staff to get some answers. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator johnson. senator mccaskill. >> good morning. it's good to be here this morning and i want to start first with mr. miller. mr. miller, i have a very vivid memory of the two of us sitting in an office in a gsa building in kansas city, going over one of your audits. and as a former auditor, you said something steamy in that
meeting that went in my hard drive, and that was that she believed that there have been people, and this was back way before the conference was ever saw the light of day in las vegas. this was all about what i found in terms of a public relations contract that had been given out in kansas city without a bid that seemed to be terribly wasteful, and, frankly, without much result. and i remember you communicating to me in that meeting that you, as a wise and auditor in government, were so prized, and, frankly, deeply concerned over some of the responses you had gotten to some of your audit findings. and that's when i began to realize that there was a really rotten problem at the very top of gsa. i also have a vivid recollection of talking to the head of public buildings on my cell phone but i even remember where i was standing when i was complaining to him that he was not taking
aggressive action against the woman who have misled this committee at a hearing about that contract, and that you documented that she had misled this committee. and i remember talking to him and saying, what are you going to do? and he basically said, nobody reads that stuff. and that was the moment that i understood how big a problem we had. at gsa. because he was just dismissing the auditors finding. tig's finding. and then i found that later they had given her a bonus. she had made a huge mistake in judgment. she violated procurement or she was a regional boss, and she had misled this committee and you have documented that. and they gave her a bonus.
so, i just want to compliment you for your doggedness. i want to compliment you for what you do. i am hopeful that we can get our inspector general improvement act passed to it is being held right now. it is on the floor being held and where going to try to call out the secret hold your because the more we empower the ig, the more we make sure that you're doing your job, the more likely it is that we're going to be up to clean up messes like this. now, mr. tangherlini, i think you're trying they're hard. i have great respect for the bold moves you make. and if anybody doesn't think you have made is bold, they don't understand the as yet service and the federal government if they don't understand that when you cut the bonus budget by 85%, that's an earthquake in ses world. and there's a lot of nodding heads in the because a lot of people in this room understand the calcify power of ses in the federal government. and that's one of the question i'm going to ask you about and i
know there's arguments on both sides, but in a very tricky move between the transitions of administration, the ses ngsa basically took the political appointments from these different areas in the country and removed all of their power, when no one was watching between the bush administration and the clinton administration. they took the regional political appointments that are the eyes and ears of congress and at this agency, and they basically put them out to past year and took away all of their power. and i ask both of you, and nobody ever said anything, no one ever realized this happened until all of the sudden we knew people were put in place they found they had an office with nobody reporting to them. they had no authority to do anything, so this woman in gsa in kansas city basically didn't have to listen to the regional administrators haven't been appointed to the political
process whatsoever. no power. so is that a good idea? and why did no one ever said anything about that? because all it did was in fact muscle of the classified middle management of this agency, what i think of the the extent to congressional oversight spent i will take the first avenue at it. i actually agree with you there was substantial problems with the way that organizational changes have been made, and that's why i have been everything i can to reverse them and clarify the role of the regional administrator. some of those changes are going to require some additional work on what is the long-term role of the regional administrator, how does the region that within the organization. there are bigger questions but enemies and i don't want regional administrators out there who feel that they are not empowered to call out waste or abuse or concerns, and say that they don't have power to resolve
them. and so we've done a couple things. we've given them the head of contracting authority so that they are the ones who get to determine whether things can be bought. they work closely with our senior procurement executive to determine who has warts, and, frankly, who doesn't have them anymore. to obligate the federal government. every weekly phone call with them with the regional administrators with her deputy administrator. if there's any concerns, if there's any problems, if someone is not listening to them, i've told them if they can't resolve, bring it to the deputy administrator, bring it to me, call me, e-mail me. because if someone doesn't think the report to their regional administrator i certainly hope they don't think they don't report me. that's what we've been trying to make sure we're clarity of role and responsibility in the organization. >> i understand the regional administrator in kansas city tried impact the situation. he was called to washington and asked to sign a loyalty oath. which was frankly shocking to me
that that would occur. he was trying to point out some of the problem, and he was called. i was then, began kind of a mission, to see if we couldn't rattle top gages ngsa. i'm glad that las vegas came along because that toppled the entire structure which needed to go. and this time and on and i became more and more fully with some decisions that were being made, i was more and more rprise at judgment calls that were being made. inspector general, do you have any comments on this calcification and middle management at gsa that really begin to pull the curtains on aggressive oversight by removing the power of the regional administrators of any kind of supervisory authority whatsoever? >> well, senator, i think we found two data points.
one with kansas city where there was an out of control regional commissioner, and many problems that you uncovered in your hearings. and another data point obvious is the western region's where we had a regional commissioner again that was out of control. so that that structure was not working. ultimately, how an agency organizes itself and how it chooses to manage itself is an agency function, and it's not really the job of the inspector general to tell them how to organize themselves. i feel like it's a bit out of my lane. >> i want the chairman to know that this happened, and it was almost as if they waited in the confusion of the transfer of administration, knowing that no one would be paying close attention, and they moved quickly and cleanly to change the supervisory authority of the
appointment that congress has a role in. and i think the reason congress has a role in those appointments is it augments and enhances the oversight capacity of congress, and clearly, even though i am also for i will tell you i'm a big fan of the acting commissioner. i think he is taken really aggressive steps that are hard to do in government to clean this mess up, and i don't think we can claiming the horse when the horse is trying very hard to clean up everything. i do think it is something wanted take a look at as to exactly when how this happened because you know, i think it's really problematic that they had enough nerve to do this when no one was looking. >> thanks, senator, because i agree with you, and we will take a further look at it. thanks for bringing that to like. i've got a few more questions, so we will go to another round.
i wanted to talk with you about purchase cart abuse, which has been a long standing concern of our committee and that is whether agencies generally exercise proper controls over purchase cards which are government charge card given to employees for making small procurements. overall, it needs to be said, you said that these purchase cards saves the government money because it helps eliminate paperwork. numbers are really remarkable, and it shows how large the government has become. federal employees spend over $30 billion annually using these purchase of charge card, and this generates -- pleasure to say -- approximately $2 billion in rebates to agencies from the credit card companies. but obviously we've got to guard against abuses by those who use
the charge card for illegal or fraudulent purposes. i will add here, shamelessly but i think constructively, that it is my strong hope that before congress adjourned this session that we get final passage to a bill sponsored by senators collins, grassley and myself which is s-300, to require agencies to adopt better and who controls over the charge cards, the purchase cards. gsa, as you well know, mr. tangherlini, is the agency that negotiates the contracts with a major credit card companies for the charge cards that federal employees use. so obviously we would hope that gsa would see itself as having a special responsibility for being a good steward of charge cards, and that's why it was insulted injury when we learn that in region nine, the deputy was arrested in 2010, and pleaded
guilty for embezzling taxpayer money for personal use on items such as luxury hotels, meals, and spot treatments. so my question is this. one of the things that was interesting to me that i learn in your responses to the question that senator collins and i posed in our letters was that urban very few disciplinary actions at gsa for purchase card abuse in the last five years. only one action in 2007, one in 2008, and none at all for years 2009-2011. maybe that's because there's no purchase card abuse. on the other hand, when we see some of the other irresponsible behavior you've got to wonder. and i therefore wanted to ask you going forward, are you either looking into whether
there have been abuses that should lead to this country and -- led to different action are you taking proactive steps to make sure there are now, to the best of your ability, abuse of these purchase credit card? >> the answer to both questions is yes. on the retrospective work we will work closely with inspector general as we go through and look at particularly these conferences and other spending. and spending in areas where we saw a pattern of abuse and to one reconcile past purchase card or travel card to see if we can find anything there. but going forward i think it's important that we create the same kind of systems and oversight that make it impossible for people to hide behind the organizational complexity. and raises our visibility into how people are spending taxpayer money within gsa. so we're doing a couple of things, one, we reduce the number of purchase cards within
the organization by nearly 15% which is simply taking back a bunch of the cards but the other thing we're going to do starting in the next fiscal year is we're going to buy set of analytical tools so that we can really look at the purchase card volume through gsa and try to find patterns and try to discern information but this is something that the credit card companies, the purchase card companies provide as an extra service and we're going to avail ourselves to it so we get better data, better transportation more visibility so we can actually see what's going on in the field. >> okay, i appreciate that. mr. miller, and you want to comment on that, on the use of purchase cards? >> we have ongoing reviews of purchase cards, and since 2000 we've recovered $1.9 million in purchase card cases. i highlighted that in my opening statement. we continue to analyze them. our office analyze the data and makes referrals to our office for investigations and we can't
have criminal investigations going regarding abuse of purchase cards. >> okay, that's important. so it doesn't really seem accurate or adequate that there are only two disciplinary actions in the last five years at the agency, for improper use of purchase cards. do you agree? >> i can't dispute that figure. i don't have information about disciplinary action taken against holders of purchase cards. i do note in one case that is ongoing, the purchase card authority was reduced. so that did occur. now, of course, criminal prosecution is not a discipline action. the person a should be fired as a result. >> is that one going on right now speak with criminal investigation? i believe we have more than one.
>> and outside the western region or is that -- >> yes. at least one of them is outside. we have others going, too. i think, yeah, they are all outside of the western region. we also have criminal investigation in region nine as well. >> that's important, and certainly says, administrator tangherlini, to curb the possibility of purchase card fraud by employees of gsa is totally justified. so i thank you for that. let's see, i want to just pick up on a couple of questions that senator mccaskill was asking about the gsa regions. because obviously we've talked about how important is to get the regions under control from central, or headquarters operation.
but i think there are other questions to ask about the regions as well, and i will start with you, with a broader question, mr. tangherlini. gsa now has 11 regions, the national capital region, and 10 other offices, and i wanted to ask you whether you've thought about the baseline question of whether this is too many regions? whether gsa really means -- needs that many regions. >> that has been the first question we asked in each one of the top to bottom discussions we had each of the regions but by the 11th time i will point out they got much better at answering it. but the fact is that what we do have such retail component to it, if you will, we actually managed over 9000, close to 10,000 individual facilities, and those have leases or government owned, they have specific local needs and if specific local requirements. we do contracting work with
agencies that are spread throughout the entire country, and so there are specific needs that those agencies have. the big question went to ask ourselves now is how do we structure those regions, and do we need redundant and duplicative systems in those regions, and how do we overcome some of the challenges that is facing the organization since the peace in 1955? the ability to transparency and visibility into what's happening at the local level, and making sure that there's consistency in the way the services are delivered. one of the things that was very striking to me, and really supported then our decision to move forward with consolidating our i.t. function is that we have 11 different building management systems. each in -- region has its own i.t. system for managing building operations. buildings, yes, they are different, each one is different but there's not that kind of variation. and so as a result we don't have
as much visibility into the way these buildings are operated, the expenditures. we make bryant and his team's job even harder. and as a result we don't have the best control in management and oversight of our resources. so we need to untangle that web of reporting of transparency, and then i think we have to ask ourselves the bigger question, the question that hasn't really been asked since we were founded in the late '40s, early '50s, what is the best way for us to cover the map, if you will, into the services. >> so your answer today is that you are considering the question of whether the 11 regions are appropriate or too many? >> i think that's fair to say, that that's a broader discussion want to have as part of the budget process. we want to continue to have it within the organization. in the meanwhile, though that is not a reason for us not to make
sure that the regional administrators don't have the power and resources and the accountability they need to oversee those functions. and it's a big country, lots of buildings, lots of transactions. so we are going to need some regional infrastructure. what does it look like and how does it work, i think is reasonable for us to keep asking those questions. >> so i'm just going to ask centered columns for patients. one more question on this subject, which senator mccaskill touched on in way, too. but to ask and then i'll ask mr. miller, do you think we need a political appointee over each region? or should this rather be a simple serviceperson? >> mr. chairman, that is i think really out of my lane to opine on that. obviously, there's a sense in which a regional administrators are the eyes and ears of the senate. because they have a great deal
of input into the political appointment. on the other hand, i've always been a career employee so i have a great deal of faith in career employees, to. it really is not up to me to make this sort of a call. i have seen abuses each way. >> sure. mr. tangherlini, you want to step into that? >> i was actually hoping he would answer it for me. since you didn't i have to keep going. i think that's also one of the baseline questions with ask ourselves, so how do we structure ourselves and then how to make sure that you have the right level of accountability in the organization. your senator mccaskill make a very good point about the need, that you don't install a group of folks who sit there for so long that they don't feel that they don't report to anyone. that having been said, you know, it's hard on a continual political replacement cycle to find that many high quality
people to consistently do those jobs. that's the balance we have to strike. we have the budget process, these questions are being asked. we do have a constitutional event happening in november that will allow was then to rejigger, so i think it's the right time to be asking those questions. >> very good, thank you. senator collins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm going to pick up where you left off because mr. tangherlini and i have exactly the discussions that you just did when we were talking on the phone. i think this is a difficult issue. how do you ensure accountability and appropriate authority, and to whom should it be vested. i served as regional administrator of the small business administration for new
england in the final year of the first president bush's administration. i loved the job. i felt we made a real difference at a time when new england was going through a lot of bank failures. but i also heard from the employees i was privileged to work with about previous regional administrators and some previous administrations, who, how shall i say it? did not take the job as diligently as i did. so i think this is a difficult call because these are short-term political appointees. some of them are terrific, believe in public service, excellent managers, have terrific skills. some of them, frankly, are being rewarded for helping the president be elected. and it may not have the skill
sets that are necessary. i don't know the answer to this question, i truly don't from and i think it's something we need to talk more about. clearly there's an absence of authority and accountability. that must be solved. but i don't know how to solve it because it depends so much on the person who was appointed. >> i feel the need to put in a plug for the regional administrators would have. we have a great team. they are committed come engaged, involved. i think one of the big problems that hasn't been resolved since that fortune article from 1955, which i also read and was amused to see how many similarities there were, is we really haven't built a strong accountability and transparency system. the real visibility down to the field level of work. and so what happens is we have kind of bureaucratic cloud cover that prevents us from releasing
what's going in, on in those organizations. and because we don't have a commonality of the systems, it's very hard for us to compare the data. the chairman pointed out the fact that we simply couldn't say how much we spent on conferences because we didn't collect the data in that way and we didn't have a central repository for recording that kind of expenditure. we need to have that and that's what we think will help us maybe sell some of the problems that we have been able to solve up to this point. >> staying with the theme of accountability, mr. miller, you mentioned the recoveries for improper use of purchase cards. and i think you said there'd been recoveries of $1.9 million, which is a considerable amount. is there an effort underway to get cards recover from the improper expenditures related to the private parties at the
western region that were charged to the taxpayer? understand there was a $100 birthday cake that an employee spouse allegedly impersonated a gsa employee in order to get into certain events, that per diem meal charges were submitted even the meals were provided as part of the conference. >> that's when the first conversations i had with dan. dan and i talked about it. i will let and tell you how he is actually submitted bills to these employees. >> with the assistance of the inspector general and their team i was asked for to review the expenditures that were actually have submitted bills to a number of employees. we have received reimbursement from a number of employees who were involved in some of those questionable activities.
we've withheld final payments of severance or other benefits for some of the employees who are no longer with gsa. and in one case we received were impressed me from a contractor that had provided an eligible expenses, ineligible expenses on their voucher to us. so working very closely with the inspector general i will commit to you that if there's 1 dollar we can get back, i'm going to go and try and get it. >> i'm glad to hear that. that's part of accountability that also serves as deterrence, and it doesn't substitute for disciplinary action that should be taken, but it should be part of the attempts to make the taxpayers hold. and i'm pleased that you being aggressive on the. i also want to follow up on the chairman's question about purchase cards. you mentioned that you reduced the number of people who want access to purchase powers, and i
think that that's a step in the right direction. i'm wondering if you also consider putting a limit on how much can be charged to purchase card? for example, our investigation reveals that an employee used a single purchase card for purchases totaling over $1 million during a seven-month period, and it appears to include some purchases from a vendor that was paid $104,000 when the purchase orders appear to only authorized $55,000. but this raises a bigger issue in my mind, and that is, do we really want a single employee to be able to charge in excess of a million dollars over just seven
months? >> well, i think the question is what kind of controls are in place and what kind of regional authorizations are required. if they are a buyer in the are using the purchase card for how they're set up to be used as the chairman pointed out, to save considerably on the amount of paperwork and the amount of the back shop work, you could have a position where it's perfectly reasonable or fine for someone to spend that kind of money. the question is, is there a oversight? are the controls? or other people signing off or do they have the singular ability to spend that kind of money? if it's the latter, that's deeply concerning. >> and i would mention that many of the purchases were related to that one day federal acquisition service awards ceremony that has been so troubling to us as well. >> i would just like to add to that that it was actually our review, working with the
inspector general and at the request of congress, our conferences, that led me to refer the issue to the inspector general, that particular conference. because we saw enough problems with it that we really wanted additional insight as to whether there was something more than just problematic, something more than, you know, inappropriate about it, whether there was anything actually illegal. >> final question for mr. miller. i worked on capitol hill when the competition in contracting act was passed, and as i read through the material, i saw a notable disregard for the requirements to seek out competition in the ward of federal contracting. by gsa in order to ensure that we're getting the lowest price and the best quality. this to me is extraordinary
because gsa supposed to set the standard by gsa has, as you said, is supposed to be the model. the infamous conference was held was a sole-source contract, despite the fact that they were clearly many hotels that would have been happy to bid on that conference. could you talk to us a bit about the violations of the competition requirement that you found so far is parts of your audit? >> senator, you're exactly right. there are many violations, unfortunately, of the competition in contracting act to we've uncovered a number of those violations can connect with recovery act projects, and have testified on those violations in other committees. we have submitted a proposal that would require gsa to report a violation of competition in
contracting act to the oversight committees, much like -- because currently we identified the violations but there is no remedy. and so we do have plenty of audits that have that, as a funny that they did not have adequate competition. they violated the act, and, unfortunately, it's not isolated. it occurs a lot. >> thank you. in many ways, those are the hidden costs, because we don't know how much would have been saved if the service or goods have been put out to a bid. and we will probably never know how much additional loss of taxpayer money was involved. so i do think that's important, and i like your suggestion of the report to congress that something, i think we will follow up on, with you.
thank you both for your testimony again. i want to thank you both for taking on this task in such a serious manner. we do have to get this straightened out. there's nothing that erodes the confidence of taxpayers more than reading of these scandalous examples of wasted dollars, at a time when the public is struggling to put food on the table. thank you. >> thanks, center college the obvious i couldn't agree with you more, and mr. miller and ig, i thank you for being a real steward of public trust, and by your work. well, in some sense, making the public angry, but also putting the agency under pressure to get better your human nature being what it is, probably at this time the prospect of a epeat of
the outrageous behavior at the las vegas conference and the other things that were happening in western region nine are slight. in other words, people are understand that gsa is under the lights now. but what i appreciate that both of you are doing, and i thank you, particularly as acting administrator, mr. tangherlini, is that this is the moment to try to put into place systems that will stop a repetition of the infuriating behavior of gsa employees. when the memory of what happened in the western region nine is gone, which is another part of unfortunate human nature, in history and/or stations that repeats itself. so i think you're well on the way of doing that. it does require constant
oversight. and and strong leadership. strong leadership by the agency, in the agency, and constant oversight by congress and i know members on this committee will continue to do that. i have other questions which i will not ask at this time, but i'm sure other committee members do as well. i will say the record of this hearing will remain open for 15 days for additional questions and statements by yourself and others, if you would like. with that i thank you again very much, and adjourned the hearing. >> thank you. >> [inaudible conversations]
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>> the chief scientist for nasa's curiosity rover mission since the mobile laboratory is probably a few hundred meters away him a spot on mars that was formed in water. john grotzinger testified in a hearing that also looked at the future of nasa's manned space program. this is just over two hours. >> get some of the introductions done so that when she arrives that we would be able to get right into the meat of the hearing. i want to thank everybody for being here in what is going to be an extraordinary hearing. it's interesting that today is the 50th anniversary of president kennedy's speech at rice university where he said, we choose to go to the moon.
and that bold challenge would be met within seven years. and when neil stepped down at lunar landing ladder at the surface, it was one of the countries proudest and most riveting moments. it was an event the reminded us how triumphs can unite people of our nation and, indeed, i happened to be a lieutenant at the time abroad, and i saw that unification of the people of planet earth at that time. and we reflected on such triumph earlier this summer when
curiosity landed on mars, and we reflected on the ingenuity and talent that is required for those extraordinary achievements a few weeks ago, wind, sadly, -- when, sadly, we heard of neil armstrong's passing. and so tomorrow morning at the national cathedral the country will bid farewell to one of our most cherished heroes. and it's with his spirit in our hearts, and president kennedy's vision in our minds, that we look today at nasa's overall exploration program. the whole world was captivated by the harrowing landing of the rover. i have seen it.
it's as big as a volkswagen, and we continue to be fascinated by the amazing high-definition images that we are getting back from the rover's landing site. we are fortunate today to have members of curiosity's team here to kick off our hearing with a mission update. we will hear from doctor john grotzinger, the associate administrator for nasa's science mission directorate. doctor fuk li, the director for the mars director at nasa's jpl, doctor john grotzinger, professor of geology at caltech, and a project scientist for the curiosity nation. and after that update when going to move on to our witness panel we will be examining the
progress of nasa's exploration program under the nasa authorization bill that was passed in 2010. particularly as relates to a future human mission to mars. so our witnesses include doctor steven squyres, by colin smith professor of astronomy at cornell and chairman of the nasa advisory council. dr. charles kennel, chair of the national academy of space studies board and director and distinguished professor, emeritus at scripps institution of oceanography at the university of california at san diego. and mr. jim maser, president of pratt and whitney rocketdyne, a company that does a lot of things, i did also specializes
in rocket propulsion technologies. and so i want to welcome all of you here today. would you all, dr. grunsfeld, which you like to introduce your team? >> certainly. i will introduce to my left dr. li, and he will work from there. but i just want to make a quick opening comment. first of all, thank you very much, senator nelson, for inviting us here because this is a spectacular result that we have a successful landing of curiosity on the surface of mars. my hopes and dreams for this mission were that even just the seven minutes of terribly after successful landing would be a significant for kids today as neil armstrong landed on the moon, of america's landing on the moon was for me. that led me into science and study math and eventually to become an astronaut, and now an associate administrator at nasa. those famous words of president
kennedy said, we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. and in the cause of science we challenge our teams to do things that are not only a little bit hard, but things that many would say are impossibly hard. i think that's what brings out the best and scientists, engineers, technicians and people who are excited about exploration. and i think there is no more qualified team, no more team has more about exploration right now and the team that is driving rover on the surface of mars, the curiosity rover. and with that i would like to introduce dr. fuk li who is the head of mars curiosity at jet propulsion lab. >> before i turn to senator hutchison, why don't you, dr. li, introduce some of your team that is here in the audience? >> thank you. there are two additional members of the curiosity rover team who are with us besides john and i.
rob is the chief engineer for the project and he was responsible for resolving a lot of technical problems. and this is beth. when we tried to talk to the rover and ask it to do, she is always involved. 's been so she is the driver? [laughter] thank you. let me turn to my colleague, and before i do, let me say that this may well be the last science and space hearing for senator hutchinson. because, unfortunately, she has chosen to retire after a very long and distinguished public service record. i can tell you that i mourned the fact that she is retiring,
because k. and i have demonstrated how you passed legislation when it should not be partisan. and where there was no daylight between the two of us, and thus in the midst of what was to mold back in 2010, we were able to pass the nasa authorization bill unanimously out of the senate, first unanimously out of this committee, and then with a three quarters vote out of the house of representatives at 11:00 at night on the last night of the session. and so i cannot say enough good things about kay about her leadership and her passion about america's space program. so with that, let me turn to you, senator hutchinson. ..
make we can eke out one more hearing. but we have been a wonderful partnership in assuring that nasa is not undercut so severely that we can't keep our preeminence. and if you would just give me one moment, i want to say that this also is the 50th anniversary of president kennedy's speech at rice university where he laid out the wonderful vision. and i would just like to take one little quote from there. he said: but why, some say, the moon? why choose this as our goal, and they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? why 35 years ago fly the atlantic? why does rice play texas in football? [laughter] and then he goes on to say: we choose to go to the moon, we
choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. and that inspiration that president kennedy gave us must be continued, and that is -- it has been my goal, and i hope that, um, as we are looking toward that next step beyond low-earth orbit on to other parts of our space including mars that you will help us fashion that vision. and so thank you, mr. chairman, thank you for all you do in this regard, and, um, i will, i will end by saying that tomorrow we're going to honor the first man who stepped on the moon, and, um, i know we both plan to be there because neil armstrong stood up last year when he, too, was worried that we might be
sacrificing the future for the present. and as shy as he was about publicity, he took a stand, and that, i think, made a huge difference. in the course that we have been able to take. so with that, i want to hear from our witnesses. thank you. >> good. dr. li? >> thank you, mr. chairman, for this chance to talk to you and give you a short update on where we are can curiosity. before we do that, i'd like to say my deep gratitude for your support that has allowed us to develop, fly and land this rover a little more than a month ago. the support we have gotten in the past decade and we're getting now has created three significant capabilities in the nation. the first is a set of strong mars scientists. many of these scientists are working in universities across the nation, and many of them are working with john in the
day-to-day operation of the curiosity rover, telling it what to do and what to do -- where to go and what to do. the second is to put us in a preeminent position for the technological know how, how to land on a different planet. the rover in '97 was about 20 pounds to today's curiosity is about a thousand pounds, the size of a small car. this increasing capability is really unique to america. finally, it also put us at the forefront of advanced robotic technologies to allow us to operate a reeve millions of miles away from earth in a martian environment that is cold, sometimes we don't know what it is, and sometimes it's unfriendly to us. so with that, i'd like to go back to the landing night and show a video that is about two minutes long and show you the landing event. we were, clearly, very excited and wanted to share that excitement one more time. when curiosity went into the
martian atmosphere, it was enclosed in a capsule to protect it. it moved at about 13,000 miles per hour. the kinetic energy of that capsule is roughly equal to several hundred formula one race cars going at 200 miles an hour. the protective shield slowed the capsule down, and this video starts the next day when we started deploying cameras. i'm going to start the video. >> we should pressure deploy around mach 1.7. >> pressure's deployed. [applause] >> finally we were over half of -- >> separated, we're on the ground. we're down to 90 meters per second at an altitude of 6.5 kilometers and setting. standing by for -- [inaudible] we are at power flight. [cheers and applause]
the trail for human foot prints on mars. this is an amazing achievement. >> today on mars history was made on earth. the successful landing of curiosity marks what is really an unprecedented technological tour de force. it will stand as an american point of pride far into the future. [applause] ♪ >> so with that, i'd like to turn the time over to dr -- [inaudible] he is a professor of geology at cal tech and is the project science team for this mission, and early results have shown, to me, they show a lot of promise for future exciting science discovery that can only be made when we're on the surface of mars and interacting the material on mars. john? >> thank you very much.
thank you very much, senator nelson and senator hutchison for this chance to present some initial science and fun textures. i guess i just press this one. so here is our landing site. you see it way out in space, and you can see a lot of big craters around there, but the one we chose to go to has a mountain in the muddle, mount sharp as it's nobody named -- known named after a geologist. and if you go in closer, you can see now mount sharp. the area represented by the crater is a little bit larger than the area of the state of connecticut and a little bit smaller than the state of new jersey. so it's an enormous area that we have potentially for exploration, but our goal, you can see the landing ellipse just right here, and then that's the spot that we landed on. and our goal is to do some exploration around in this area for the next month or two and then begin the long trek that will eventually take us into the foothills and up the flanks of
mount sharp where we belief there's evidence for water that has once interacted there and would be the very target we're looking for. to give you a sense of how bold this goal is, you can see mount rainer there which is smaller than mount sharp. mount sharp, its elevation is greater than my mountain in the greater 48 states, and you can see it's just a tad lower than the highest mountain in the u.s., mcmckinley -- mount mckinley there. this is looking after we landed, one of our first color images that really gives a sense of how dramatic the land landscape is. this is looking towards the crater rim, and we love this photo because those of us who teach geology out in the west often take students to death valley area. and you look out across toward the mountains, you see a little l.a. smog come anything there, and it seems like a very comfortable place for us, and we
love this landing site. um, here's kind of a fun outreach instrument. we have a laser onboard that the public has really enjoyed. they've looked forward to this a lot. it allows us to reach out maybe 10 feet away and accident zap ad it tells you whether or not the right rock to spend doing some more detailed work. and, in fact, when we do that, this is what you see. there's a little scale bar here on the right, just a couple millimeters, and the dot you see here is less than a millimeter. if you felt the laser, if it actually zapped you, it might tickle you a bit. so that's what actually happens. but what the rest of the world thinks is happening is this. [laughter] they're just having a great time. the people on the internet, they just love this mission, and they're really enjoying it. this, to me, is really one of our great moments. this is our first foot prints on mars. you look back to the upper right, this is where the rover landed. these are the one, two, three,
four marks made by the thrusters as they impinged on the surface and blew the soil away. and here you see wheel tread marks where they begin. and it tells us about our future on this mission and where we landed successfully. we're now driving away from that place, it might be the last time we ever see it that well we get further away, but we will never forget this image. here we are now looking towards mount sharp which is our ultimate destination. it's a 360-degree panorama, and you can see the same one, two, three, four blast marks there. and the elevation change from this point up to the top of mount sharp that's blown up here is on the order of three and a half miles high. so it's a tremendous goal that we're trying the strive towards here in exploring at least the base of that mountain. and when you get up close, this is another one of the images. it's my favorite. i believe it's probably the
team's favorite image. if you look at the foothills which are about 6 miles away, there's a little black rock right here which is blown up in this box here. that rock is, essentially, the size of the rover. when we get there one day, we're not going to look back towards it. we imagine our future, what will happen as we blaze a trail going up these valleys and going around the corner? the team is just filled with wonder, and the people that are following the mission are filled with wonder as we look towards this spectacular area. and finally, i want to finish with an image that's just two days old. we have 17 cameras on this mission, and one of them reaches out from the end of the arm and can look back towards the rover, and the principal investigator who built that camera put a penny on the rover because geologists do this all the time on earth. we need a scale, we pull it out of our pocket, we rest it gently on the rock and take a picture of it. that's standard practice for us. but this emblem for us has so
much depth to it. it's the great thing this country has achieved through your support to be able to have this mission succeed and even be able to see this image. and so i, on behalf of the 406 scientists and all of the engineers, probably a thousand people currently working on this project, want to thank you for the support. and the last thing i want to point out is something that history will take note of, is that the year here is 1909. the penny was embedded with the anticipation that we would launch in 2009. and we were not able to. and we hit a lot of obstacles along the way. and we needed support. and it came from you, and it came from nasa, and we are ever so grateful for that because we got with where we want -- got where we wanted to be. so thank you. >> tell us about when you put the packages together and you send it up there, how many minutes do you, do you say it takes to transmit to mars?
>> right now it takes about 15 minutes to go one way from earth to mars and from mars back. >> tell us about how you go about planning what that package of instructions is going to tell the rover to do. >> okay. maybe, john, you can describe one day in the life of the rover. >> okay. one day in the life of the rover starts with us working on mars time, and because mars has a slightly different orbit, it's 24 hours, 39 minutes. we have to adjust every day. so the science team gets jet lagged every day by another 40 minutes. we get up, the first thing we do is we see the data that arrives from the spacecraft back down to earth. science team looks at the data the, engineers look at the data. we quickly assess what it is that's there, and then we see if that matches our plans from the previous day about what we'd hike to do next. then we -- like to do next. then we go ahead, and it results
in probably about two hours of tactical decision making where we come up with a list of observations that we would like the rover to be commanded to do. then we go through another meeting where those observations are confirmed to actually fit within the block of time, energy and data that's available as the three resources that restrict our behave. behavior. and then we go through a process where those activists are all vetted amongst another group of engineers that come on a second shift. and then eventually another, you know, six hours later or so these are all confirmed, vetted, cleared and then somebody pushes the button that radiates the command sequence up to the rover. >> and in your exploration to determine if there was water there, what is the process by which you do that? are you looking for chemical composition of the soil and rocks? >> it's a mixture of both
analytical chemistry and also observations with the cameras. and through this we're able to merge these observations together much like was done on mer with spirit and opportunity. but now when we find something that looks like it was a rock or soil that formed in an ache we crouse environment, we can dig much deeper into it to understand whether or not that environment could also have supported life had life ever existed on the planet. >> just to follow up on -- we always hear that the most important thing that we could find is that there might be evidence of water which then might lead to some thought that there was some kind of life. my question is sort of on the same line as senator nelson.
if you found something that appeared that it might have been formed with a water or act wous atmosphere, would you then be able to -- what all can you tell? be can you tell how long ago it was, can you tell -- is there anything in that that would also indicate life or not or what the, where the water would have come from or any -- what else can you learn if you think there is a water component? >> what we would be able to do is with our increased capability on msl is we really get a sense for, um, how, what kind of environment it was specifically that the water was present in. the was it there for a long period of time? we'll be able to do that a little bit better than we have in the past.
but mostly we get a really good chemical assessment of how not only the water was present, but whether or not the environment can preserve organic compounds which is very important for us as a science community because when you stop short and ask the question about can you ever hope to someday find evidence for life on mars, you first have to look for the calling cards. traces, if you will. we call them chemo fossils, little bits of chemical evidence that suggest this is the kind of place you should go back to and look in more detail. and our hope is if we find such bits of chemical evidence, this would be the kind of place you'd want to go back to and do sample. you're going to want to go to progressively higher levels in your analysis. it's just the way we do it on earth. you never know kind of which rock to look at, but you zoom in
on it, and it is an iterative process until you bring something back to the lab and finally know that you found something really significant. >> will you be able to tell how long ago it became extinct or the water went away? from the -- >> yeah. we have the benefit of the apollo astronauts who brought rocks back from the moon that calibrated the dater rate -- crater rate, so we kind of apply that to mars. so we have a rough sense of how old these rocks are at gayle crater, they're probably in excess of three and four billion years old. the harder question is to really ask if we see evidence for water, how long was that water around for. but we do have an instrument that if things go in our direction -- it's a long shot -- we might actually be able to date the rock that's there and get a sense for how old that water was there. >> how fast -- you're talking
about an area bigger than connecticut. how fast can the curiosity move so that it can cover the amount of land that you're trying to cover in the time that you have? >> this is a great opportunity for me to talk about, just mention briefly how important the mars program is. because it's an iterative process with orbiters operating with rovers, we have orbiters make maps of where we think the good stuff is. is so when we picked our landing site, we picked the landing site, and then we're able to move the ellipse down there, and we moved it very close to a place that from orbit looked really good. and i'm conservative by nature as a sign at this time, and i'd like -- scientist, and i'd like to wait a little longer, but i think we're a few hundred meters away from a place that we feel pretty comfortable was formed in
water, and after we explore that for a while, we're going the take that long drive -- and it could take, you know, half a year or nine months to get to the base of mount sharp, but then we have another series of opportunities there. so i think we've got an exploration portfolio with many different options in there, and we've just had the, a little bit of serendipity. it wasn't total luck that we wound up in this very special place, but i think we're going to be strong right out of the gates here. >> and just last question, is there a time limb -- limit in which the rover will be effective and the computers all work, or do you do you have a fy unlimited amount of time? >> well, we tested the spacecraft to drifer a two-year -- deliver a two-year mission, and in comparison mer was built to go nine months, sorry, three months. and we're going after eight-and-a-half years. after two years the warranty wears off according to the manufacturer, but we're looking
forward to a real long mission after that, too, the i hope. >> oh, good. so it could be years that you would be roverring around -- roving around. >> we hope so. >> good. thank you. >> as a matter of fact, curiosity can greet the human crew when they land. [laughter] do you have any opinion as we try to develop the technologies and the life support systems that would take us to mars in the 2030s? do we need a sample return mission first? >> john, do you want to take that? >> just your opinion. >> my opinion. [laughter] >> your opinion. >> i think the architecture or that the mars sample return has laid out in the decadal survey that we as a community fully embrace is the right step to take to get us on the way to putting humans on mars.
you must have this capability to land something on the surface of mars and get it back off again, and if the technology demonstration for that human step is to bring back some rocks from a carefully-chosen place, we will be all the richer for it. >> okay. well, we want to thank you. this is an exciting update. congratulations again on making the country proud. and seeing you all jump up and down was a delightful sight. thank you on behalf of a grateful nation. let's call up the second panel. [inaudible conversations]
>> we have dr. steven squyres who is the professor of astronomy at cornell, dr. charles kennel, chair of the space studies board of the national academies and mr. jim maser, president of pratt and whitney rocketdyne. so, dr. squyres, we'll start with you. >> all right. well, senator nelson, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear here today. my name is steve squyres, and my title is gold and smith professor of astrongny at cornell -- astronomy at cornell university. a central focus of the nasa authorization act of 2010 was the development of two crucial and highly-capable elements of a deep space exploration system.
the space launch system and the o rye oncrew vehicle. nasa's development of both is well underway, passing successful test firings of sos's cryogenic upper stage and the delivery of the first orion command module to kennedy space center. what will these vehicles be used for? president obama has called for sending humans to an it's royce by 2025. these are grand goals, and they're broadly consistent with the goals that were expressed in the 2010 authorization act. i see two possible areas of concern. one is that a pay as you go approach can result in slow progress if funding lemes are not -- levels are not adequate. none has had a flight rate as hoe as one -- low as one that is currently projected. it could be challenging to keep mission ready.
another is that the sos/orion combination, of course, was never intended to carry out missions beyond low-earth orbit by itself. for example, an asteroid mission requires hardware that's a capable of providing crew support in deep space for many months. but there's no funding, and nasa's budget cannot develop such vehicles. nasa's budget today is insufficient to carry out the administration's plan on the stated schedule. sos and orion will be highly capable, and their development is progressing very well. but they're only part of the picture. without the means to develop or acquire the missing pieces of the puzzle, a decade from now nasa will be unable to do much more than duplicate the success of a apolo's 8's orbit of the moon. i agree with, quote: a long-term objective of space should be --
in fact, in my view it should be the long-term objective for human exploration of space. i also believe robotic missions should serve as precursors to critically lay the scientific foundation on which human exploration will be built. in a recent survey that i chaired, the highest priority flagship mission identified was a mars rover that would initiate a campaign to return samples from the surface of mars. unfortunately, nasa's been unable to follow this recommendation because of deep proposed cuts in the fy-13 budget for planetary exploration. the mission would have been carried out in partnership with the european space agency, but that partnership has not come to fruition because of these cuts. the scientific information to mars -- investigation to mars is in jeopardy. the nasa authorization act of 2010 provided the agency with a clear set of goals and
priorities. the administration has also articulated its own vision, and these two sets of guidance are not dramatically different, but together they call for more than the agency can do with the budget that it currently has. a mismatch between objectives and resources is the reason that a crucial piece is missing from our development of a robust capability for human exploration in deep space. it's also the reason we've seen deep cut toss a program to explore the various body to which we hope humans will one day be sent. now, this mismatch could be corrected by making painful choice, eliminating what nasa does -- [inaudible] that would require a newer and much more narrowly focused consensus on priorities for nasa. much more attractively, the agency's budget could be increased, although i realize that may be difficult in a constrained budget environment. one other possible approach would be to broaden nasa's capabilities by forging strong international partnerships as has been done so successfully
for the international space station. right now there's no real plan for international participation in nasa's future human exploration, and hope for future robotic mars missions has been set aside at least temporarily. but it could hold potential for bridging the gap between what nasa's being asked to do and what it budget allows it to do. thank you. >> dr. kennel? >> okay. is this on? yes. thank you, thank you, mr. chairman and senator hutchison, for the invitation to testify. i have some longer remarks i'd like to submit for the record. some -- my topic today is leadership. oh, let me start with who i am because i have a comment i'd like to make. i'm charlie kennel, i'm chairman of the space studies board, professor and director emeritus at the scripps institution of
oceanography, and i'm proud to say that my predecessor as director, roger ri vel, was on the platform at rice university when president kennedy made his inspiring speech. i must say that scripps cannot accept the incredible challenge for playing rice in football, however. [laughter] nonetheless, i think curiosity teaches us that when you set a goal that is extremely difficult to achieve, nasa will beat the odds. so i'm going to talk about goal setting, clarity of goals and leadership in space. and i'm going to spend most of my time reviewing what our space studies board has done, but i'm, of course, going to base a lot of my personal remarks on my experience, 12 years on the nasa advisory council, associate administrator and on the
augustteenth commission. in human space flight, i believe the international space station guarantees our leadership for a decade, especially if u.s. utilization is strengthened. and there your miraculous act asked the national research council and our committee on physics and biology in space to lay out a program for space science utilization in our most recent decadal survey, and i've promised to report -- i'm pleased to report some promising developments that nasa has created a new and independent office for physics and biology in space. um, they are beginning to work very hard to reconstitute a decision -- a discipline that was basically destroyed by earlier budget cuts, and they're making progress on a nongovernmental organization user interface organization. and so i think we can see good progress in that area. but the question before us now is what will constitute human
space flight leadership beyond the coming decade, and as steve has indicated, there are many factors there, and he's reported on the important direction that you gave to the program moving forward. one piece of direction you gave also to us, and you asked the national research council to undertake a study of the goals and core capabilities and future directions of space flight beyond, beyond the decade. now, this is a very complicated study. scientific and technological, sociological, national security, international relations, even philosophical issues come into what should the goals of human space flight be over the long term. what kind of goals can we set as a country that will keep nasa and the country coming back to making and attending to the achievements that it intends to
make? even though there are budget fluctuations, policy and administrative changes, where are the long-lasting goals that can serve the program through mid century? i'm pleased to say that a distinguished committee, you'll be impressed, is about to be announced. we've worked very hard to develop stage holder -- stakeholder and public consultation plans, and in my belief this is the most potentially innovative study that i've been involved with. it is also the case that since so many factors besides science and technology going into setting into this goal that we're going to draw on the full resources of the national research council in many different areas beyond those that the space studies board and the aeronautics and space engineering board oversee. but we will be principal supporters of that. now, in this year we just -- i'm now going to move on to leadership in space science, and i will end with some remarks on
mars. just this year we completed a round of decadal surveys and a mid decadal survey that looks over all of the subjects of space science that nasa deals with, and i think that this, these recent decadals are going to be the best picture of contemporary state of american space science that you're going to get in the near future. and, of course, there are many, many, many things that were discussed in this careful detail -- in careful detail. the commitment was consulted, dozen bs of white papers came in and so forth, but from all of that i'm just going to extract the leadership elements, the ones that inspire people to work beyond their capabilities and to beat the odds. so, first, here are some of the things we need to do for leadership in astrophysics. stay the course with the james webb space telescope.
despite all the difficulties, it is still a leadership instrument in astronomy and astrophysics. the scientific rationale for it has developed considerably since 2000 when it was first proposed. it can now do extra solar planets with a good capability, and if we abandon it now, we risk abandoning world leadership in the entire subject of astrophysics just as the event with the superconducting supercollider did, unfortunately, for american high energy physics. next, we have to capitalize on american leadership in the dark energy area. and we need to find a way to get the science done that was proposed by the first priority new mission in our most recent decadal survey, the white field infrared space telescope. the implementation is less important than achieving the goals of maintaining leadership in dark energy science where we
started and, also, to continue the work in xo planets that it was able to do. in the next area, next two areas i'm going to treat together. they've, in some ways, very different, but they have something in common. one is solar terrestrial physics and the other is earth science. and the many issues that they have separate, they have one in common, and that is that the goals that they set for themselves depend in serious ways on interagency coordination. which is where i believe this committee can play a serious role. in heel yo atmospheric physics, it's on the verge of an exciting capability, the ability to predict space weather and the impacts on spacecraft and ground systems from solar storms. it's on the merge of becoming an operationally useful subject.
at the same time, earth science, our most recent report suggests that earth science is on the verge of defaulting on the science and applications obligations it has thus far successfully carried. because as we look forward into the future, the number of spacecraft devoted to this area, it looks like it's going to diminish dramatically. and in both cases there needs to be collaboration between nasa, noaa, the u.s. geological surveys and other agencies in order to set the goals for these programs and congressional and administrative leadership is required to settle these roles and missions. now, you've heard this many times. you've got coordination fatigue. how many times have you heard this? but there may be one area where the science community can help you out as you try to figure out the roles and missions of the agencies whose coordination is
essential to these, the success of these projects. perhaps we, scientists and technologists and users, could identify key variables and standards of measuring those variables that need to be sustained over the long term as part of a national commitment. and at that point maybe the agencies will see more clearly what their role is. but they need to look at these variables not only from their measurement in space, but what requirements will be placed on the ground systems to analyze the data, what standards we would use for exchanging data and how we decide to reserve the data in long-term archives. so now, as promised, i come back to planetary science. there's very much more to planetary science than mars, but i'm going to focus my remarks on that for the moment.
it's leadership science in its essence. even landing on a planet is something that most people cannot do, most countries cannot do it. and as the senator mentioned, we believe that with good luck our energy source will last, and curiosity's going to return unmatched science for as much as a decade. scientific community will continue to be very busy. but we didn't expect to have to come before you and say this, but the future direction for mars beyond that which we once thought was fairly clear and secure has suddenly become unclear. and this is because of the recent cancellation of two missions that were designed in consonance with a strategy for research that was put into place 15 years ago of which curiosity is the most recent and most spectacular project, a strategy in which the various assets that we devote to mars work with one another and reinforce so that the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts. and you could see it during that landing because they had to move one of the orbiting spacecraft over the landing point to take a picture of the landing which became so spectacular on the net. now, from my point of view as a scientist, those missions were canceled without a clear explanation that's based in science. and visions and voyages, the decadal study that steve chaired for us, provided a similar guiding principle for the next few decades just as the strategy of follow the water led to the secrets of missions -- sequence of missions that right now is ending in curiosity. the guiding principle for the next series of missions is sample return. and there's a, and the -- it's a
guiding principle. don't, if you're going to spend big money on mars, don't spend it on things that diffuse our focus. spend it on the ultimate goal, sample return. now, why is sample return important? because when you bring it back, you can bring the full potential of thousands of laboratories around the world to bear on understanding the place where the astronauts are going to land or the characteristics of it. and we also see from the lunar science institute that 50 years from now those samples will still be used for new science that nobody thought of at the time. i'd like to make a point. sample return is no more a call on present resources than is the goal of a mars human landing. both of them are long-range goals, and they -- but they focus the use of resources that we do have on a goal that will eventually add up.
so to my way of thought the unb clear goal, the destruction of a -- the suspension of a clear goal that was guiding our thinking and making our estimates -- efforts synergistic is the most serious outcome. it can be repaired. perhaps the process of repair is underway right now, but i cannot predict. at the present time, nasa is conducting a serious study of how the human space flight enterprise in the mars science community can collaborate. now, what's really important from all of this from my point of view is that there be a clear set of goals for collaboration which enhances the leadership of both areas and not just identify a few nice-to-haves where we can work together. it is essential to harmonize two
essential goals; sample return -- underthe environment on mars, understand the environment on mars -- two essential goals and landing on mars that are only partially synergistic in implementation. and it's important to get the alignment of these goals right, because in the past the relationships between human science, human space flight and the science enterprises has been fraught with difficulty and confusion because of unclear goals. and again, congressional leadership is essential to nasa leadership in this area. and we think that ssb, we hope to be able to help by taking a look at the nasa report as it comes out and looking at it from the point of view of long-range planning and science just as the nasa advisory council suggested we do. so at the end of the day, i
would think that my whole talk has been devoted to the need for consistency of vision and goals as essential to achieving leadership in space. is and the -- you know this, the science and technology community can weather budgetary ups and downs, even policy change, cancellations, this and that, but wholesale changes in direction are another matter altogether, and i hope that we have time, i think, to repair the situation. and that's my remarks. thank you very much. >> thank you, dr. kennel. mr. maser. >> senator nelson, senator hutchison, thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important topic. i'd like to start by recognizing senator hutchison for her decades of public service. you've been a fearless and long time champion in particular of education reform which i think, first and most critical element to preserving the future of our space program going forward.
and you've been a true leader for the state of texas and for the nation, i wish to thank you for your dedicated service and wish you well on your retirement. for the purpose of today's discussion, i want to highlight these major themes and concerns. first, the need to create an enduring vision, one that will focus on increasing scope and reach of presence through continuous and incremental steps. the need for consistent, clearly-articulated budget that allows the the execution of an enduring vision. recognize that it is nasa's job to define how to execute an enduring vision within the budget they've been given and, finally, to reinforce that the congress and the administration have decided that sls is the beyond-earth orbit vehicle of choice that will lead to exploration and the fulfillment of this vision, that will push the boundaries of innovation. it is my belief that what the 2010 nasa authorization act did when it laid out the need to move forward with the space
launch vehicle and to rye oncrew capsule. for some time now, nasa's seemingly suffered from the lack of an overarching and enduring vision for leadership. the administration canceled constellation, then established new priorities and directions such as landing on an asteroid and funding commercial space capability continue cysting -- consisting of multiple providers without clearly identifying command beyond the -- demand beyond the u.s. government itself. this was done with what appears to be limited coordination and consent from congress. congress has been compelled to be prescriptive in its legislative language with regard to nasa's specific systems, architectures and requirements to insure at least some level of stability for the industrial base and preservation of unique and critical skills. i believe in order for any of the discourse we're talking about today to be relevant, we must have an enduring, stable vision for nasa that's set by the president in alignment with
congress and budgets in a consistent manner that enables execution over time frames that extend beyond a single administration or congressional election cycle. when our nation first embarked upon space exploration and leadership, the expectation was that we would continuously expand our scope and reach of presence over time, both robotically and with humans. as jay barber ri said in his recent five-part commentary: we must have an affordable science-driven med of learning moving steadily outward. i believe we must have clear methods and destinations and then identify the capabilities that already exist or need to be completed in order to complete. it is that simple. there is no one right solution. someone must choose, and we as a nation have created nasa to do just that. as such, nasa's determined they need a heavy lift launch capability and space launch system is the answer to that
need. the augustine commission made the following statement: the committee reviewed the issue of whether exploration beyond low-earth orbit will require a superheavy lift launch vehicle and concluded that it will. regardless of the exact mission architecture that is ultimately pursued or the exact heavy mass requirement, the heavy lift launch capability that the sls will provide is fundamental to execution and must be pursue with the the utmost priority and speed. nasa's entire exploration architecture is dependent upon its capabilities asen enabler. and now that an architecture has been established, it is imperative it receive national funding and in no way follows the fate of the constellation program. what nasa cannot afford to do is continue the trend of canceled programs and seemingly random changes of directions and priorities. these fits and starts have cost this nation considerable effort, time and money with tremendous disruption, loss of critical skills and little return or
progress. clearly, sls will be most capable u.s. launch vehicle, and with to rye onspace -- the orion space program will benefit science missions. it leverages and builds upon past experience and technology. this is the time to insure we get beyond earth orbit as fast and safely as possible. once we do that, we can resume true exploration in the innovations and inventions necessary to push the boundaries to explore and live on other bodies. ..
just simply continuous progress. the enormously successful landing of the mars curiosity is a perfect illustration of another step in the incremental development exploration as well as a complementary precursor robotic missions of space declaration. i would discuss that the programs are not simply intended to return scientific data. they lead to technology and can be used and built here on earth and most notably they inspire our nation and future generations to come. finally, like many other people today on the 50th anniversary i have a quote from john f. kennedy that i use often and it's a little bit longer than the version you use which is to go to the men in this decade and do the other things not because
they are easy but because they are hard, because that will serve to organize and measure the best of our energy skills and i say that because i am not for the days of the past and i don't want to relive the glory days but because president kennedy said doing the hard things drives the use of our energy and skills which in turn creates the need a motivation to stand our boundaries. nasa's job is to do the hard stuff constantly pushing the boundaries that requires technological advancement. we grow as a nation because it takes the best of our people and capabilities to push the limits of creativity and abilities leading to true motivation in true inspiration. as such innovation and inspiration cannot be goals of what we strive for but rather the results. justice curiosities missions bond innovation sustain human innovation will challenge is to future innovations that we can't even predict but know from experience will keep us in a leadership position not only in
space but here on earth. thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today and i look forward to any questions you have. >> well, thank you all. alright, we are developing a rocket called the space launch system. we are developing a human capsule called orion. all of this is happening while the average american thinks that the space program is over, because they have attached the visible evidences of the space program naturally to the space shuttle over the course of three decades, and when the space shuttle was shut down, that naturally leads people to the
conclusion that it's over and now we are ramping up this whole new system to get us out of low earth orbit. when apollo was developed, other than the goal of getting to the moon and back, it was also then utilized for other things. a thaw in the cold war and the rendezvous and docking of a soviet spacecraft and an american spacecraft, which was the forerunner to bringing all of this cooperation that we now share with russia on the international space station. so, my question to you all is, as we develop the sls and orion, what do you see as the full
potential of that system? mr. maser let's start with you. what would be some examples of the types of mission that the sls and orion would make possible? >> well, first and foremost is getting back beyond our lower orbit again. we haven't been there in a very long time and this will enable us to do that first and foremost and start to dry out and test all the new technologies that have developed and evolved since we have last been there and also to leverage at least some of -- and you guys can speak to a better than i could, some of the human science that has been going on in the space station as we get out beyond extended period of time in the radiation environment and other environments. i think initially that is what it first enables. there are a number of missions and by now asteroids have been brought up as a potential one.
we have identified one yet and it looks like it's going to be a hard one to get too so i think we need some fallback plans and i know there were some discussions going on about other interesting points where there is gravitational equilibrium between various bodies where we could spend extended durations of time in space, longer than we have ever spent via four beyond lower orbit and learn more about how the human body reacts. i personally believe thou to get its full fruition a lot of what doctors choirs talked about is eventually we are going to need a lander and eventually i think we need a series of missions that are in colman taleek more difficult so you can see the general pattern here that i think makes a lot of sense is you have robotic missions and then you learn to live off the planet whether it's in space for her period of time. eventually on the main story period of time and once you have learned how to live off the planet somewhere that is not too far away then you can start moving to places further way
that have been doing robotic exploration but it never ends and i think that was a point i was trying to make in my comments. your comments about we don't need anymore missions. it's not about one giant mission and then you wonder what's next. you always know what's next and you're always working on it and it's stable and predictable and everybody knows what technology we need to achieve that. >> just like we did in apollo which was an incremental mission starting with mercury, gemini, apollo in an environment that we didn't know anything about. >> exactly. >> and then we went there. let me ask dr. kennel, give me some examples of the types of science missions that that would be enabled by either crude or unmanned launches of the space launch system. >> beyond low earth orbit? >> yes. >> there are several. we have already had some precursor missions for example,
robotic sample returns from asteroids which will give you some idea of the chemistry. there are lots of good asteroids. there is a distant but important security goal that can be achieved by approaching an asteroid with a system of significant mass. it's known for example that from time to time asteroids have hit the earth. one, 65 million years ago that destroyed the environment for the dinosaurs and if we are going to live for a long time as a civilization we have to worry about birth crossing asteroids and it turns out you can predict maybe 10 or 20 passages before they actually hit the earth when they are going to and send a spacecraft there. if you don't even have to nudge it. mutual gravity will move it out of orbit and the proof of principle would be very useful when you could get that while you are doing some science.
i think that the main argument for human beings has always been very good geologists. they can take a look at what they see and tell you in ways that an automated laboratory canned and so i think that the picture that i would have, and this is not in anybody's decadal report, for example go to mars. if you want to go there, go there. you might as well set a tough goal of sample return because that tests all the technologies for both landing and takeoff. take off. sample return gives you deep scientific knowledge. you might even have a couple of them to characterize but most survival knowledge where you are going to land and then you go. >> congratulations to the curiosity crew that indeed you are part of the foreru