Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today expressed concern on the Senate floor over the budget language inserted by Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) that many think will cripple the new commercial manned space companies with high costs and extensive paperwork.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor June 18 and tapped the brakes on a powerful appropriator’s plan to subject NASA’s commercial crew program to strict federal accounting standards the agency waived when it solicited bids for crew transportation in November. Nelson, the chairman of the Senate Commerce science and space subcommittee, said NASA’s commercial crew program to fly astronauts to and from the international space station aboard commercially designed spacecraft needs “the right mix of oversight and innovation” to start ferrying crews by NASA’s target date of late 2017.
The senior senator from Florida was alluding to a directive Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, personally fought to include in a report appended to a spending bill now awaiting debate on the Senate floor, and which would if signed into law require NASA to either comply with section 15.403-4 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations, or risk a legal mandate to do so. Nelson said he wanted to work with Shelby “as the bill goes to the conference committee to make sure that we have the right mix of oversight and innovation in how NASA contracts for this competition.”
While Nelson was apparently very careful in how he stated his public criticism of Shelby, he also made it clear that he wants the language changed. As the article noted, this gives opponents of Shelby a powerful ally in the Senate. Expect the Shelby language to be significantly watered down.