9/21/13. NASA spends $24 million a year on unneeded facilities.
From the article: “An in-house study last year estimated that NASA has up to 865 “unneeded” facilities, collectively costing more than $24 million in annual upkeep, he said.”
“When NASA began planning for a return visit to the moon several years ago, the agency naturally started building the necessary infrastructure to get there.
That included a $350 million test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to accommodate special testing requirements for rockets being built as part of what was called the Constellation Program.
The test stand was only two-thirds complete when President Obama canceled Constellation in 2010. Directed by Congress to finish the project anyway, NASA spent another $57 million on it. When it’s completed this month, the test stand will sit idle indefinitely until a new use is found, but will still cost taxpayers $900,000 a year to maintain.
The A-3 test stand will join a growing list of unused or underutilized structures costing the space agency tens of millions of dollars to maintain each year, according to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. An in-house study last year estimated that NASA has up to 865 “unneeded” facilities, collectively costing more than $24 million in annual upkeep, he said.
An audit the inspector general’s office released in February identified another 33 facilities, including wind tunnels, thermal vacuum chambers and other launch infrastructure, that NASA wasn’t fully utilizing or that had no identifiable future mission. Taxpayers spent $43 million in 2011 to maintain those facilities.
Martin told a House, Science, Space and Technology subcommittee Friday that NASA’s attempts to determine what it needs to get rid of haven’t gotten far mainly due to “fluctuating and uncertain requirements.”
Over the past six years, NASA’s goal in human exploration of space has transitioned from the space shuttle program to the Constellation Program to the Space Launch System that targets a Mars mission by the 2030s.
“Changes to national space policy initiated by the president and Congress have increased the difficulty of determining which facilities NASA needs,” Martin told lawmakers. “Because decisions about whether to retain specific facilities depends heavily upon the missions NASA undertakes, frequent changes to these missions complicate the agency’s efforts to manage its infrastructure.”
The issue is especially problematic for NASA, where more than 80% of facilities are at least 40 years old and beyond their design life. In addition, the estimated cost of NASA’s backlog of deferred maintenance projects stood at $2.3 billion in 2012.
Even when the agency sees a chance to make money off its surplus property, it’s not easy.
Members of Congress are raising concerns about NASA’s plan to lease the historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which costs the agency $1.2 million a year to maintain. The pad, which supported the Apollo and shuttle programs, is no longer being used. Agency officials said they will demolish the pad unless they find a tenant.
NASA officials were close to leasing the pad to SpaceX, an aerospace company that was the first to fly cargo to the International Space Station, until another company, Blue Origin, submitted a competing bid to take over pad 39A and operate it as a multi-user facility.
Earlier this month, Blue Origin filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, effectively delaying any action on a lease until possibly Dec. 12, the GAO’s deadline to rule on the matter.
The dispute between the two companies has spilled into Congress, with some members urging NASA to open the pad to multiple users and others backing the agency’s handling of the issue.
On Friday, two panel members — Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama and Democrat Ami Bera of California — said NASA should opt for a multi-user lease.
“I have reservations about the potential adverse effect on our space program of one of our primary launch pads being taken over by one user,” Brooks said. “In my judgment, (it) would tend to both stifle competition and reduce the ability of 39A to be used as a backup by other private users or by NASA itself.”