Bipartisan Call for Investigation of NASA after “Reassignment” of Constellation Program Manager

Rockefeller, Hutchison Ask Inspector General to Look Into “Reassignment”

May 27, 2010

Feature Image: Capitol 1WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), today called for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Inspector General to launch an investigation into the sudden removal of the Constellation program manager.

The full text of the May 27 letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin from Senators Hutchison and Rockefeller is below.

The Honorable Paul K. Martin

Inspector General

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Office of Inspector General

300 E Street, SW

Washington, DC  20546

Dear Inspector General Martin:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced yesterday the removal and reassignment of Jeff Hanley, the Program Manager of NASA’s Constellation Program for the past five years.  We are writing to request that you conduct an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Hanley’s reassignment, and whether his removal as program manager was related to Mr. Hanley’s well-publicized efforts to preserve the Constellation Program, consistent with Congressional enactments, notwithstanding the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Budget request calling for elimination of the program.  Further, we ask that you examine whether this or other recent actions by NASA were intended or could reasonably have been expected to foreclose the ability of Congress to consider meaningful alternatives to the Administration’s FY 2011 Budget plan for NASA.

According to recent media reports, Mr. Hanley has supported continued testing of the Ares I rocket and other parts of the Constellation Program that are currently required by Congress.  Reports show that, until very recently, Mr. Hanley’s superiors at NASA were supportive of his actions regarding the Constellation Program.  As recently as May 16, 2010, Associate Administrator Douglas Cooke denied any conflict between Mr. Hanley and NASA leadership, and stressed the consistency between Mr. Hanley’s actions and the requirements of the law.[1]

Yet, on May 26, 2010, just five days after an internal NASA email purportedly directed Mr. Hanley to de-prioritize spending on items used exclusively for the program of record,[2] NASA announced that Mr. Hanley had been removed from his role as Constellation’s Program Manager and reassigned to be the Johnson Space Center Associate Director for Strategic Capabilities.  Administrator Bolden, in commenting on Mr. Hanley’s reassignment, said that Mr. Hanley “lost his job because he was ‘conflicted’ and had become a lightning rod for controversy.” [3]   Administrator Bolden is also quoted as saying:  “When you find that you are as attached to a program as Jeff is [to Constellation], then you become the focus of attention and not the program.”[4]

We find this explanation even more troubling given Administrator Bolden’s April 28, 2010, statements, in an address to employees at the Johnson Space Center, that attempts by NASA employees “to go to members of Congress, the media, and the American public with contradictory information about the road ahead and the need to move on beyond the Constellation Program is not helpful.”[5]

We understand the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is already examining whether NASA’s actions vis-à-vis its contractors have violated the provision in Public Law 111-117 prohibiting “the termination or elimination of any program, project or activity of the architecture for the Constellation program” without prior Congressional approval.  Accordingly, we anticipate that you may choose to coordinate any investigation regarding Constellation contractors with GAO.  Nevertheless, given NASA’s recent actions involving agency employees, we believe your office is the most appropriate one to investigate any potential misconduct.

As an initial step, we ask that you direct (through the NASA General Counsel’s Office as needed) the relevant offices within NASA to preserve relevant documents.  We also ask that, at your earliest convenience, you schedule a meeting with Committee staff to discuss the scope of your review and to obtain additional materials that have been shared with the Committee.  Please contact John Williams (202-224-XXXX) or Nick Rossi (202-224-XXXX) on our Committee staff to coordinate this meeting.


Jay Rockefeller                                   Kay Bailey Hutchison


[1] See Kenneth Chang, “Busy Schedule for Rocket Obama Wants Scrapped,” New York Times, May 16, 2010, available at: 

[2] We have not yet authenticated this email, a copy of which will be provided to you separately.

[3] See Mark K. Matthews and Robert Block, “NASA sacks chief of Constellation rocket program; ousting triggers protests,” Orlando Sentinel, May 26, 2010, available at:,0,7773602.story.

[4] Id.

[5] See Administrator Charles Bolden, “NASA All-Hands Address”, available at: