N A S A
…and the ‘War on Truth’
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
February 1, 2003
The space shuttle Columbia explodes in space. There were seven astronauts aboard, including the first Israeli to travel to space. There were no survivors. Terrorism is not suspected.
NASA will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cause, and hearings will be held on Capitol Hill….
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TELL US THE TRUTH, UNCLE SAM!
By John Barron, Reader’s Digest
Federal agencies and bureaucrats are increasingly engaged in a self-serving policy of official deceit-a shabby practice that debases the quality and character of our democratic process….
In recent years the government has tampered with the truth so frequently that the phrase “credibility gap” has gained common acceptance. Like most slogans, it is not always used fairly. Official pronouncements which turn out to be wrong sometimes are the consequence of bad judgment instead of dishonesty . . . Yet even after the most charitable allowances are made, the public record remains littered with official lies which no amount of explanation can erase or mitigate.
This war on truth is waged for fundamental purposes:
To Cover Incompetence.
By deceit, bureaucracies seek to hide bungling that would justify the censure or dismissal of their administrators. Consider what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tried to foist off on the public last year (1967).
NASA spends $11,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money annually and employs 300 press agents to glorify itself. It initially enjoyed immunity from independent scrutiny and criticism.
On the night of January 27, 1967, fire erupted in an Apollo space capsule at Cape Kennedy. Three brilliant young astronauts were suffocated, and our whole program to put a man on the moon was set back a year. NASA attempted to depict the tragedy as simply a bad-luck accident which could not possibly have been avoided.
Death was “instantaneous,” it announced. “There was a flash and that was it.” “We always have adhered to the highest standards of safety,” intoned a space boss. “And yet, in spite of meticulous attention to the smallest detail, this tragedy has occurred.”
Soon, these reassurances were shattered. New York Times and Washington Evening Star reporters learned from engineers who had heard tape recordings that the three deaths had been far from “instantaneous.” The astronauts pleaded for help and, as the Times disclosed, up to the very end “they were scrambling, clawing and pounding to open the sealed hatch.”
Rep. William F. Ryan (D., N.Y.) Unearthed proof out of NASA’s own files that, as a result of previous blazes, it had been warned repeatedly of the danger of fire in the capsule. Yet it made no provision for emergency escape.
Next, several Senators asked NASA officials if Maj. Gen. Samuel A. Phillips had not submitted a report devastatingly critical of the Apollo program. “I know of no unusual General Phillips report,” replied George E. Mueller, an associate administrator of NASA. The agency admitted that General Phillips had made some “notes.” But it belittled their importance, and NASA boss James E. Webb refused to let investigating committees see them.
Rep. Ryan obtained a copy of the Phillips report from a secret source. Instead of a few “notes,” it was a voluminous document full of charts and evidence. It found the principal Apollo contractor, North American Aviation, Inc., guilty of disastrous mismanagement and waste, and showed that the entire Apollo program was jeopardized by dangerously poor workmanship and skyrocketing costs.
Yet additional evidence demonstrated that NASA had done little to correct the conditions pinpointed by Phillips.
Now some Congressmen began to wonder. Had there been favoritism in awarding North American the $5 billion Apollo contract in the first place? A “Source Evaluation Board” of 190 scientists and business advisers had recommended a contractor after an exhaustive study. Had it been North American?
On April 17, the Senate Space Committee summoned Webb. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R., Maine) asked the direct question: “Was North American the first choice of the Source Evaluation Board?”
“Yes. It was the recommended company,” Webb said categorically.
Three weeks later, Senator Smith had the facts – and called Webb back to testify. She asked if it was not true that the experts actually had rated Martin Marietta Corp. above North American.
Webb at last admitted that North American was not picked by the experts.
He and his three assistants had rejected the expert recommendation on their own….
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February 21, 2003
NASA Engineer Warned of Shuttle Breach
NASA Safety Engineer Warned of Possible Shuttle Breach Days Before Columbia Broke Apart
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A NASA safety engineer warned days before Columbia broke apart that he feared the shuttle was at risk for a devastating breach near its left wheel, and he suggested people in the space agency weren’t adequately considering the threat.
“We can’t imagine why getting information is being treated like the plague,” the engineer wrote in one of a number of e-mails released Friday that describe greater concerns about Columbia’s safety in the days before its breakup.
Other documents NASA released show that Columbia may have been struck by as many as three large chunks of foam that smashed against delicate insulating tiles as it took off, not just the one previously acknowledged.
Robert Daugherty, an engineer at NASA’s Langley research facility in Hampton, Va., did not indicate that he believed the breach would cause Columbia to break apart during its fiery descent. “No way to know, of course,” he wrote.
But Daugherty warned in his e-mail on Jan. 29 about a possible breach near the seal of Columbia’s wheel compartment that could have been caused by damage to the shuttle’s thermal tiles there. He seemed mostly worried about the risks of pilots struggling to land Columbia with one or more tires damaged by extreme heat.
“It seems to me that if mission operations were to see both tire pressure indicators go to zero during entry, they would sure as hell want to know whether they should land with gear up, try to deploy the gear or go bailout,” Daugherty wrote.
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February 7, 2003
Many Contractors Do Federal Work
Space shuttle just one area of privatization
By Darlene Superville, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – NASA is the boss and brand name, but America’s shuttle program is largely a private enterprise, and so are many other operations of the federal government.
Increasingly, Washington is turning to contractors to do tasks both menial and major: testing soil, managing laboratories, supporting troops, running American Indian schools, opening tax returns and much more.
The privatization of government is sizable and spread across the bureaucracy.
Even the decision to send airport security back to the federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks has not dimmed the enthusiasm for contracting out federal services.
“It’s a sort of shadow work force,” said Jacqueline Simon of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Last year President Bush proposed making it easier to turn as many as 850,000 more federal jobs over to the private sector, part of a trend to have others share the government’s work-load while trimming the federal payroll and ostensibly getting better work at less cost. The government now employs more than 1.7 million civilians directly.
But the weekend disaster in which the Columbia shuttle disintegrated, killing all seven astronauts on board, is raising questions.
“I would wager that most Americans did not know, and probably still don’t know, that Boeing is more responsible for the launch of the space shuttle than NASA,“ said Paul Light, a Bookings Institute expert on the bureaucracy.
In 1966, NASA awarded a six-year contract worth $9 billion to United Space Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to manage the shuttle fleet. The contract was extended last year for two years.
Those contractors in turn use more that 120 subcontractors at the Johnson and Kennedy space centers, performing tasks such s trapping astronauts into their seats, laying ceramic tiles on the shuttle and positioning the solid rocket boosters for liftoff.
All government departments and agencies use outside firms to get some of their work done, and entire industries exist to compete for Defense, Energy and Transportation department contracts.
More than 54,000 companies held contracts worth more than $25,000 in 2001, the government said….
Light said Congress and the executive branch figured out long ago that government would look a lot smaller if jobs were awarded to private enterprises, whose employees don’t show up in the roster of civil-service workers. Indeed, the government does not even keep track of how many contractors work for it.
The Clinton administration’s “reinventing government” effort eliminated 377,000 civilian jobs, trimming the federal work force 17 percent over eight years. That helped President Clinton assert in 1996, “The era of big government is over.”…
He estimated the federal work force at 17 million, including postal workers, the armed services, civil-service workers, contractors, federal grant recipients and state and local government employees who implement various federal mandates….
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February 8, 2003
THE COLUMBIA DISASTER
Shuttle’s thermal tiles were always problematic
They are difficult to install, often break or fall off
By Rob Stein and Guy Gugliotta, The Washington Post
It took forever to glue on the thermal tiles that shielded the space shuttle from the extreme heat of re-entry – nearly two man-years of work for every flight – and the glue dried so rapidly that technicians had to mix a new batch after every couple of tiles.
But they came up with a solution: spit in the glue so it took longer to harden.
The trouble was that saliva weakened the bond between the tiles and the shuttle’s aluminum shell, making the tiles more likely to fall off during the stresses of space flight. When NASA officials found out about this home remedy they stopped it.
Spitting in the glue is just one example of the troubled history of one of the shuttle’s most crucial features – the 24,000 heat-resistant, ceramic tiles that cloak the spacecraft’s underside. A catastrophic failure of those tiles is a prime suspect in last Saturday’s disintegration of the shuttle Columbia and the deaths of the seven astronauts aboard it.
If it turns out the tiles failed – NASA says it has ruled out nothing in its investigation – Columbia’s obliteration would be the most tragic outcome in a long history of glitches and casualties in a system that never seemed precisely to answer the difficult problem it was called upon to solve.
From the first shuttle’s first flight in 1981 – when 16 tiles fell off and 148 were damaged, according to NASA documents – tile problems plagued the shuttle program.
NASA worried not only about how to make them more quickly and maintain them more easily, but, more important, how to keep them from falling off, getting knocked off or breaking off.
The answers were never fully found. But NASA always knew that the loss of a single tile could by itself doom the spacecraft.
In the beginning, the tiles appeared to be the best answer that science could devise for a problem that seemed nearly intractable in 1972. That was when President Richard Nixon announced plans to develop a reusable spaceship.
“In the old days, like with Apollo, you had a system that would actually melt away,” said Paul Fischbeck, an engineering and public policy professor at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, who studied the tile system for NASA. “But it could only be used once. Now they were trying to do a new system that could be used over and over. It’s a hard problem.”
Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. won the contract in 1973 with a lightweight silica formulation devised by materials engineer Robert Beasley.
“Think of it as rigidized fiberglass – pure silica fiberglass,” said Lee Jachter, former lead manufacturing engineer at Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, Calif., plant, which made the tiles….
The Beasley glass, finished with a black coating developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., filled the bill.
But there was also a pronounced downside.
“In terms of its ability to resist damage – its robustness – it leaves a lot to be desired,” said Donald Emero, who worked in various shuttle program management positions from 1974 to 1997.
Losing or damaging tiles during liftoff could exact a heavy price during re-entry, when heat on a pitted or naked hot spot “could create a little blowtorch effect,” Emero said.
“The aluminum structure would disappear.”
If the missing tile happens to lie over a fuel tank, “then that little blowtorch is focusing” on it, he continued.
“The pressure goes up, the temperature goes up, and, bang, it explodes.”…
COLUMBIA’S THERMAL TILES
More than 30,000 tiles weighing almost 10 tons covered the Columbia, protecting it from the heat caused by friction with air during launch and re-entry.
The tiles, made of heat-absorbing silica – essentially foam glass – are designed to protect the shuttle from temperatures up to 3,000 degrees….
For more on Lockheed Martin, GO TO > > > Tarnished Wings: The Greed at Lockheed
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Apollo 1: Sabotage, Murder and Cover-Up?
This 90-minute interview is an in-depth look inside the private lives of Betty and Scott Grissom. Since the death of Gus Grissom in 1967, the Apollo 1 spacecraft has largely remained forgotten — until now. The Grissoms speak out in this candid interview and revisit the astronaut’s youth, flying career, astronaut days and his untimely death.
Scott Grissom, a commercial airline captain, obtained access to Apollo 1 under the Freedom of Information Act. Hoping to determine whether the spacecraft could be salvaged for dignified public display, he accidentally discovered a mysterious fabricated metal plate as part of a critical switch assembly.
Scott got more than he bargained for when he found himself learning the very systems his father studied over 30 years ago. Scott now believes NASA knew his father died from an act of sabotage and deliberately covered it up in its race for the moon.
This interview was originally recorded and published by AirlinePilots.com, and is reproduced here with permission of Digital Television Network, Inc..
Apollo 1: Sabotage, Murder and Cover-Up? – http://www.apollo1.info
Apollo1.info is dedicated to re-opening the investigation into the deaths of the Apollo 1 primary crew. Scott Grissom, son of Gus Grissom, believes he has uncovered evidence of sabotage.
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December 17, 1998 – NASA NEWS RELEASE: 98-250:
Eight Alabama Researchers Receive NASA Biotechnology Grants
NASA has selected 48 researchers — eight of whom are from Huntsville and Birmingham — to receive grants (a.k.a. US taxpayer dollar give-a-ways) totaling approximately $33 million to conduct biotechnology research that may lead to new medical technologies.
As part of NASA’s Biotechnology Program, the 48 grant recipients will study protein crystallization and cell science. This research, managed by the Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., may result in improvements in structure-based drug design, tissue engineering and biosensor development.
NASA’s biotechnology research has contributed information to the understanding of many diseases, including AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory syncytial virus and hepatitis. NASA’s cell growth experiments have led to new research models in cellular and molecular biology and new tissues for transplant operations.
During NASA’s selection process, 165 research proposals were peer-reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia, government and industry.
Forty of the grants are to conduct ground-based research, while the remaining eight will work to refine and fly experiments in space aboard the International Space Station.
Currently being assembled in orbit by Space Shuttle crews, the Space Station will be an orbiting laboratory built, worked and lived on by 15 cooperating nations. The orbiting laboratory is scheduled to be completed by mid-2002. Microgravity experiments are scheduled to begin by mid-1999.
Thirty-four of NASA’s 48 Biotechnology grants are for new research efforts. The remaining 14 grants are for continuation of work currently being funded by NASA….
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January 26, 2001
15 years after Challenger disaster, NASA considering crew escape systems
By MARCIA DUNN, Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Fifteen years after Challenger disintegrated in the sky, NASA is considering a variety of escape systems – such as ejection seats or flyaway capsules – that could save the crew in another space shuttle accident.
It is the most extensive and expensive look at shuttle crew escape systems ever conducted by NASA. Engineers expect to wrap up the yearlong, $5 million study by spring. But ultimately, the space agency may decide not to add any such features.
NASA puts the odds of a catastrophic accident during launch – the most dangerous part of any shuttle mission – at 1 in 438. Shuttle flight No. 102 is coming up in a week and a half.
The leading contender among the safety features under consideration is the ejection seat – the same system used for the Gemini program and the first four shuttle flights. The Mercury and Apollo spacecraft had rocket-powered towers to fling the capsules away in an emergency. None of these was ever used, but in the Soviet Union, an escape rocket safely pulled two cosmonauts from a burning booster in 1983.
Ejection seats were no longer considered necessary once NASA declared the space shuttle operational, beginning with flight No. 5 in 1982.
“It was the Titanic syndrome: ‘Not even God can sink this ship,'” recalls former astronaut Bryan O’Connor, director of engineering at Futron Corp.
NASA’s attitude changed with flight No. 25 – the doomed launch of Challenger, which took place 15 years ago this Sunday, on Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members were killed, including teacher Christa McAuliffe. The cause: a gas leak in the right booster rocket.
In the explosion, the crew module separated from the fireball and plunged into the sea. But the crew members had no parachutes and no way to jettison the hatch. They were wearing flimsy blue jumpsuits.
O’Connor headed a panel that looked at crew escape systems after the disaster. When shuttle flights resumed in 1988, he and other astronauts ended up with parachutes; partially pressurized, bright orange suits with emergency oxygen and survival gear; a hatch that blows open and a pole for sliding out of the spacecraft.
The Challenger explosion happened 73 seconds after liftoff. The escape systems now under consideration could be used during the first three minutes of flight at an altitude of 150,000 feet or more, as well as during landing and even on the launch pad.
Any one of these systems might have saved the Challenger crew, says Kevin Templin, a project manager in the shuttle engineering office. Challenger’s crew module separated intact and went into a 2 1/2-minute free fall from 50,000 feet.
Military-style ejection seats probably would be the easiest system to implement. More extreme would be a crew cabin-turned-escape capsule that would be capable of parachuting onto either land or water.
There also is the extraction method, in which miniature rockets would pull astronauts from their seats. Although the lightest option, it could accommodate only five astronauts rather than the desired seven. The capsule could fit in everyone but would add 8,400 pounds to the shuttle and cut into payload weight. Ejection seats could accommodate six astronauts but would take up precious cabin space.
“Yes, I would feel better if I had some sort of escape system, but to do so at this stage in the design would make it worse, it would make life so much worse,” says Kenneth Cockrell, commander of the next shuttle flight. “The concepts that I’ve seen just take the crew compartment down to nothing.”
Each method requires explosives for blasting out of the shuttle, which introduces the danger of something backfiring.
Then there is the cost.
Elric McHenry, manager of space shuttle program development, estimates an ejection or extraction system would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A crew module capable of separating from the shuttle could cost $1 billion or more.
The conclusion may well be that none of these systems is cheap enough, light enough, practical enough and easy enough to implement.
A major factor is the international space station. If NASA hopes to finish building it in five years, then space shuttles cannot be grounded for major overhauls.
Another factor is the longevity of NASA’s four space shuttles. It wouldn’t make much sense, McHenry and others point out, to install expensive escape systems if the shuttles are not going to be around for long once the space station is built.
Besides, NASA concedes even the most elaborate escape system cannot guarantee crew survival.
In the end, the findings may be left for the designers of follow-on spaceships.
Retired NASA engineer Don Nelson says that would be unconscionable.
“They’re taking a very big gamble – when they don’t need to,” says Nelson, who has a book coming out titled “NASA … You Have a Problem.”
He proposes replacing shuttle pilots and flight displays with an automated launch and landing system, thereby saving enough weight to put a pop-out crew module in the payload bay.
Otherwise, he says, “you’re going to have to live with this vehicle and lose another crew someday. And we will. The warning signs are all there.”
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July 9, 2001
Money problems abound as NASA gears up for more construction
MARCIA DUNN, Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —- With robotic and computer problems finally under control, NASA is gearing up for another round of space station construction —- this time to install a front door for spacewalking astronauts.
After a month’s delay, space shuttle Atlantis is set to blast off Thursday with the $164 million air lock. The pressure chamber will complete a major phase of construction for the 2 1/2-year-old international space station and provide its residents with easier access to spacewalks.
Yet at a time when managers should be reveling in their success 240 miles up —- this will be the seventh shuttle flight to the station in less than a year —- mundane money problems abound.
This time, it’s not the Russian Space Agency.
With space station budget overruns topping $4 billion over the next five years, NASA is being forced to slash major projects —- and shrink space station Alpha andd its work force in orbit and on Earth.
This strategy to meet President Bush’s budget would limit the international space station to a crew of three, its current number, rather than the intended six or seven. That would drastically curtail research aboard a laboratory described by NASA as the most sophisticated one ever flown.
As it is, two space station residents spend virtually all their time keeping the place running while the third also devotes a good part of each day to operations. Science work is minimal.
Equipment problems have added to the crew’s load.
In April, command-and-control computers broke down in quick succession, snarling space station operations. The shoulder joint of the newly installed Canadian robot arm had to be nursed in May and June via software, delaying Atlantis’ upcoming flight.
A. Thomas Young, a retired Maryland aerospace executive who is heading an external review of NASA’s budget crunch, fears the space station research objectives could go into a “death spiral” if the proposed cuts are carried out.
“If you say, OK, we’ve only got a three-person crew, then it’s easy to say we don’t need all the science because the people can’t operate the science,” Young said late last week. “Then you don’t buy the hardware. Then if sometime in the future something changes and you’ve got the (full) crew size back, then you wouldn’t have the hardware.”
By scaling back on research and commercialization, and eliminating a U.S.-funded lifeboat and living quarters that would accommodate seven people, NASA hopes to cover all but $484 million of the budget shortfall through 2006. The space station overruns escalated to $4.8 billion in recent weeks, but settled around $4 billion after managers found an additional $800 million in savings.
Michael Hawes, deputy associate administrator for the space station, acknowledges that NASA’s problems become the European Space Agency’s problems, and the Japanese Space Agency’s problems, and the Canadian Space Agency’s problems. These countries were counting on a full-size crew in order to conduct their own research and fly their own astronauts. The Italians, in fact, are considering supplying the habitation module for NASA so more of their own people can fly.
NASA says it did not realize the magnitude of building and staffing the international space station until the launch of Russia’s service module one year ago this week.
The service module, essentially the crew quarters, went into orbit on July 12, 2000, following more than two years of delay caused by Russia’s economic crisis. The hiatus proved expensive for NASA; the agency had to conduct extra tests on its stockpiled space station parts and keep a vast work force in place for development longer than intended.
Some money, though, was poorly spent.
NASA’s inspector general office reported late last month that the space agency spent $97 million and 19 months on a propulsion module for the space station before determining the design was unacceptable.
The project was canceled in March.
The space station, estimated by some to cost $94 billion before it’s finished, is “the money pit of all government money pits,” retired NASA engineer Don Nelson says in his new book, “NASA New Millennium Problems and Solutions.”
“It is not being driven by a need for advancements in space or science,” Nelson writes.
“Its momentum is based on the gluttonous appetite of a government jobs program.”
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December 21, 2001
CUT BACK ON SPACE STATION, PANEL SAYS
by Marcia Dunn, Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The NASA Advisory Council is endorsing the idea of scaling back the international space station program, saying the huge cost overruns “cannot be excused and must not be ignored.”
Despite the technical successes in orbit, “the viability of the entire international human spaceflight enterprise is being undermined by a loss of confidence in NASA’s ability to exercise adequate management and cost discipline,” the council’s chairman Charles Kennel, wrote in a letter to NASA dated Wednesday.
The NASA Advisory Council is a standing body of experts that offers guidance to the space agency.
Last month, an independent task force on the space station’s budget problems suggested that NASA reduce the station work force and number of shuttle flights and reorganize station management to get costs under control.
The overruns are in the billions; NASA has yet to determine exactly how many billions….
No commitments to expand the space station should be made until NASA has regained public confidence, the council said….
The council also said NASA has failed to make its scientific priorities clear and should do so immediately….
For more on US Taxpayer-Money going into the Biotech Black Hole, GO TO > > > The Biotech Birds
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January 7, 2002
U.S. Grant Program Helps Small Indiana Firm Develop Hardware for NASA Flights
By Wayne Tompkins, The Courier-Journal
Space shuttle launches don’t garner the attention they used to, but for a Southern Indiana company, the orbital flights remain a valued platform for research.
Space Hardware Optimization Technology Inc. of Greenville, better known by its acronym, SHOT, has just retrieved from the latest shuttle mission its bevy of 36 Japanese quail eggs.
The eggs were sent into orbit to study the effects of space flight on embryonic skeletal development. SHOT made the incubator that carried the eggs into space and back.
SHOT is one of hundreds of companies benefitting from a federal grant program without which the quail eggs would never have gotten off the ground.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awards more than $1 billion a year to small and start-up businesses performing innovative, high-risk research and development, with the goal of bringing those products to market.
As a NASA contractor, SHOT has used the grants to design, build, test and integrate biological and medical research hardware for six shuttle missions and is developing payloads for the International Space Station. . . .
SBIR, enacted in 1982, works with 10 federal agencies, including NASA, to address a classic small-business problem: promising ideas but little money to develop them.
“NASA SBIRs have been very good to us,” said Mark Deuser, SHOT’s president. “Part of the reason … is because we understand our NASA customer, which is an important part of getting a grant.”
The company has received about $30 million in SBIR grants over 10 years – the company’s biggest source of money.
Eligible businesses must be U.S. owned and operated, be for profit, have fewer than 500 employees and employ a principal researcher.
What frustrates many small-business advocates is that few companies know of the program, especially in the Midwest. While Indiana firms received more than $4.3 million in grants in 2000, for example, that ranked the state only 33rd in the country. Kentucky placed 39th with about $2.7 million in SBIR grants.
Meanwhile, tech-savvy California and Massachusetts, with $215 million and $164 million in grants, respectively, greatly outpaced other states.
“So often, people don’t know that this stuff is available,” said Jerry Wheat, a business professor at Indiana University Southeast and faculty associate at the school’s Regional Economic Development Resource Center. . . .
Government announcements and solicitations for SBIR grants can be found at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Web site: www.sba.gov/SBIR .
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January 30, 2002
Andersen reportedly missed $644 million error in NASA audit
By PATTY REINERT
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Arthur Andersen, the auditor that has come under fire for failing to catch bankrupt Enron Corp.’s questionable accounting practices, overlooked a $644 million accounting error on a 1999 NASA audit, according to a federal report.
The report, released by the General Accounting Office last March, blamed Andersen for “excessive reliance on representations by NASA management” and said the firm did not do adequate auditing work to justify signing off on the space agency’s books.
“Their work did not meet professional standards,” Gregory Kutz, who wrote the report, said Tuesday.
“Auditing is really about independently validating the numbers, not just saying, `Management told us, and therefore it is so.’ ”
Andersen spokesman Patrick Dorton criticized the report, saying, “We strongly disagreed with the conclusions of the GAO report when it was issued and still disagree today.”
The report resurfaced this week as Andersen is being scrutinized for auditing Enron’s books at a time when the Houston energy trader was overstating its profits by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Several congressional committees are investigating the scandal, as are the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Labor Department and the Justice Department.
The White House, which has sought to distance itself from Enron’s massive campaign contributions to President Bush, last week ordered the General Services Administration to determine whether Andersen and Enron should be allowed to work for the federal government.
Kutz, director of the GAO’s financial management and assurance division, said the NASA accounting error was so obvious that a staff member on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics caught it by flipping through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s 1999 annual report and comparing it with the president’s 2000 budget.
The space agency had reported that it had $686 million left over from contracts in the previous fiscal year, up from zero the year before.
“They called NASA up and said, `How could this be right?’ and NASA said, `Oops, you’re right. Our audited financial statements are incorrect,’ ” Kutz said.
NASA said the actual amount was $42 million.
Kutz said the error appeared to be a genuine accounting mistake rather than some attempt to disguise or misrepresent the numbers. The real problem, he said, was that Andersen auditors did not understand the process NASA used to compile the accounting data, and they didn’t catch the error.
Andersen also could not produce the paperwork to show that it had conducted a proper audit, he said….
NASA’s Inspector General’s Office, which had a $3.3 million contract with Andersen to conduct its annual audits from fiscal years 1996 through 2000, sided with Andersen against the GAO.
But Kutz dismissed the explanation for the error. He also noted that Andersen is no longer serving as NASA’s auditor.
NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said NASA officials had been aware of the accounting error and were working to correct it when the House committee flagged the discrepancy.
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March 21, 2002
Panel: NASA Can’t Manage Funds
By Larry Wheeler, FLORIDA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Government and private auditors testified Wednesday that NASA has operated for years with an antiquated accounting system, making it almost impossible to track how billions of public dollars are spent.
Since 1990, the General Accounting Office, Congress’s investigative arm, warned lawmakers the space agency was headed for trouble without a modern financial management system.
Yet for five years, the Arthur Andersen accounting firm gave the agency a clean bill of health.
Last year, Price Waterhouse Coopers took over as NASA’s independent auditor and determined the agency could not accurately account for expenses, property, equipment and materials.
It took staffers on the House Science Committee to identify a $644 million misstatement in NASA’s 1999 budget statement.
The irony, Arthur Andersen has been indicted in connection with the Enron scandal, was not lost on those at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Is NASA the government’s Enron?” asked Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee on government efficiency, financial management and intergovernmental relations.
Half-joking, Horn asked whether there had been any document shredding at NASA.
“Not to my knowledge,” was the somber answer from Alan Lamoreaux, NASA Assistant Inspector General for Audits.
Patrick McNamee, a Price Waterhouse Coopers partner, declined to second-guess Arthur Andersen’s auditing practices.
Gregory Kutz, GAO director of financial management and assurance, testified Andersen’s work did not meet professional audit standards.
Paul Pastorek, NASA’s newly appointed general counsel, did not dispute the audit findings.
“It is undeniable. NASA has financial management problems,” Pastorek said.
NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe is determined to restore the agency’s credibility with Congress, auditors and the public by improving its financial management performance, Pastorek said.
The core of a $835 million new integrated management system could be in place by June 2003 with the final pieces in place by 2005, two years earlier than previously projected, Pastorek said.
Unlike other NASA hearings, which often draw standing-room only crowds, Wednesday’s hearing was sparsely attended, and for most of the session Horn was the only lawmaker present.
Throughout the 1990s, the space agency has been hounded by cost overruns and schedule delays as it developed the International Space Station, its most ambitious engineering project since the Apollo program.
The cost overruns are directly linked to the agency’s inability to accurately manage its finances, said Allen Li, a GAO director.
“If you don’t know what you have in the bank, you can’t predict how much money you will have or need for expenses in the future,” Li said.
Copyright © 2001 FLORIDA TODAY.
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May 13, 2002
WAGES OF SIN
By Christopher H. Schmitt, U.S. News & World Report
SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: Why lawbreakers still win government contracts
In the mid-1970s, Lockheed Aircraft Corp. was center stage in a scorching bribery scandal. Millions in secret payments were slipped to public officials and political parties around the globe, to curry favor and win government contracts.
Stung by the blowback, the company promised stringent reforms. Two decades later, Lockheed was again in the spotlight, pleading guilty to paying off an Egyptian official to win a deal for C-130 cargo planes. Once more, the company was contrite. Standing before a federal judge in 1995, a top executive pledged Lockheed’s “commitment to the highest ethical standards of conduct.”
In the years since, however, Lockheed’s troubles have only grown. The company has been named in at least 33 more cases covering overcharges on government contracts, improper technology transfer to China, falsifying results of nuclear safety tests, job discrimination, environmental pollution, and more.
These cases, some of which were in motion before the 1995 conviction, have produced at least $145.3 million in penalties, settlements, and restitution. And at least 13 more cases are pending.
Lockheed Martin, as the company is known today, says it has a vigorous ethics and compliance program. And, it turns out, says it has a vigorous ethics and compliance program. And, it turns out, that promise is good enough for the Pentagon. Last October, despite the company’s record, the federal government awarded Lockheed the richest military contract in history – a deal to build the nation’s next generation jet. The project, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, could be worth as much as $200 billion over several decades….
The military tops the government’s buying list – with contracts for $156.5 billion last year. Not surprisingly, some of the worst offenders are military contractors.
But while the government may be reluctant to move against its biggest suppliers, federal agencies don’t have the same qualms about cracking down on small firms. Officials maintain that federal rules are written evenhandedly, but they acknowledge that larger companies can naigate them more successfully.
Take James Verlander, a Houston-area researcher who in early 1990s got tangled up in Operation Lightning Strike, a federal sting operation targeting NASA suppliers. Federal agents drew Verlander and several others into a scheme revolving around a bogus medical device that supposedly could improve monitoring of space-station astronauts.
Threatened with a heavy prison sentence, he pleaded guilty to having accepted $2,000 as part of an effort to win approval and funding for the device, says his attorney, Charles Portz. Barred from government work ever since, Verlander suffered a nervous breakdown and has since become a medical technician.
By contrast, two big contractors that came under scrutiny in the affair – Martin Marietta and General Electric – settled their involvement by paying $1 million to defray the government’s expenses.
“They didn’t want to make arrests of the higher-up people because it would damage the space program,” says Portz, “so they busted a bunch of little people.”
Small fry get nailed more often because it’s more likely that senior executives were involved in any wrongdoing, say those familiar with the issue. And large contractors have more financial juice to make a case go away – to hire pricey legal talent, create compliance programs, or pay settlements.
“They’re pretty willing to settle it to stay in business,” says Jacques Ganaler, former undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, who is now a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland….
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Dale Brown’s Summary
I’ve lost everything but my freedom. And they are trying to take even that from me. Every other person that the FBI has stung in Operation Lightning Strike has been pressured into pleading guilty, and I am the only innocent victim that is standing up to the injustice brought on by the American government. The FBI and Federal prosecutors have not only proliferated gross injustice within NASA but have also devastated my life, my family, my companies, my reputation, and forced me to lose everything in bankruptcy.
My story reveals the shocking inadequacies of the undercover investigation of NASA. Undercover Federal Investigators stepped over the line of impropriety. They enjoyed the high-life on federal funding, including spending exorbitant amounts of money on custom-made suits, extravagant meals, Rolls Royce and Mercedes convertibles, luxurious limousines, sporty fishing yachts, and beautiful women-for-hire.
Repeatedly, the results of the investigation were threatened by these careless agents. They coerced and entrapped innocent victims, misconstrued informants’ testimonies, and leaked confidential information. Against my better judgment and under extreme duress, I was forced to work as the key undercover operative for the FBI in their bungled attempt to investigate criminal activity at NASA.
After using me in pursuit of their tainted objectives, the FBI and Federal Attorneys then even attempted to prosecute me for committing federal offenses I knew nothing about.
Since my earliest childhood memories I had wanted to be a part of the space program, and after graduating college, was ecstatic at the opportunity to go to work for a prestigious Houston-based aerospace contractor. Unfortunately, what I saw when I started was not the perfect, wonderful world of aerospace that I had imagined as a child, but a corrupt and difficult world. My hard work and enthusiasm soon turned to regret, when I lost my dream job for refusing to perform their illegal accounting tasks. Devastated by the extent of corruption plaguing NASA’s programs, my experience would prove only the first plummet on an extended emotional roller coaster ride.
I then resolved to succeed despite the corruption, and started my own engineering company with several promising partners. Within two years, through hard work and many all-night proposal efforts, we won several important contracts and had guided our firm to win a multi-million dollar Space Shuttle subcontract. Unfortunately, my dreams for success were dashed a second time when the Good Ol’ Boys in the industry conspired to steal my company. Financially destroyed, my spirits sunk to new lows and my resentment of corruption seethed.
After using the last of my rapidly-depleted savings to start legal proceedings and get back my stolen company, the opportunity arose to take partnership in a new, apparently well-financed company. I was willing to give the space industry one more go, but my luck slid from bad to worse. Congressional scrutiny after Challenger had prompted an FBI investigation of NASA contractor corruption. A myriad of federal agencies converged in Houston and were forced into awkward cooperation to uncover and prosecute the guilty, causing in-fighting, intentional mis-communication, and erratic investigative results.
Shortly after I began my new job, the nationally directed FBI strike-team, posing as rich investors, purchased half of my newest partner’s company to act as a “front”, and then hired me in a marketing role! Without my knowledge, I helped them deeply infiltrate the aerospace community at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Making presentations as Vice President of Marketing for the FBI’s front company, I assisted the strike team with setting up scores of stings on contractors, Washington political officials, top-level NASA managers, and even the astronaut corp. When my ‘white-knight’ boss finally revealed himself as the chief undercover agent in charge, I was horrified to discover my lead role in this convoluted FBI investigation.
For seventeen months, between August 1992 and December of 1993, against my better judgment and under extreme duress, I had to fight for control of my life. After unknowingly helping the Feds for months, I was then pressed into active service as the key operative for them in their bungled attempt to investigate criminal activity at NASA.
Although I vehemently objected to their cooperation demands for fear of ruining my reputation and jeopardizing my personal safety, the federal investigators unjustly threatened me with prison time for not turning in my managers several years earlier. They forced me undercover to gather evidence they could not obtain themselves, and then coerced me into abandoning my lawsuit for control of my first company, which had been stolen in the hostile takeover by the Good Ol’ Boys.
To my dismay, the FBI made me betray my trusted business partners, give away my cherished company and the multi-million dollar Shuttle contract, destroy my personal relationships, and jeopardize my own health and well-being.
Undercover agents working with me botched critical cases through inadequate understanding of the NASA contracting process. They also stepped over the line of impropriety. I personally witnessed how they enjoyed the high-life on federal funding, including spending exorbitant amounts of money on custom-made suits, extravagant meals, Rolls Royce and Mercedes convertibles, luxurious limousines, sporty fishing yachts, and beautiful women-for-hire.
Repeatedly, the results of the investigation were threatened by these careless agents. They coerced and entrapped innocent victims, lost vital evidence, misconstrued informants’ testimonies, and leaked confidential information. They lost evidence I had gathered, bragged about the case in public blowing my cover, and even threatened my impending marriage by attempting to convince my fiancée that I would soon become a convicted felon. Covert audio and video tapings I made of several of them demonstrates the agents’ surprisingly perverse personality traits, including capturing them participating in shocking sexual misconduct, then personally admitting to psychotic and aberrant behavior.
My extreme anguish, brought on by abuse at the hands of federal officials, as well as the completely disheartening corruption in America’s once pristine space program, climaxed in a high speed automobile chase and threats on my life for turning informant. In a tragic ending to my once promising future as an aerospace executive, I contemplated suicide rather than confront the system which had repeatedly struck me down.
Not only did the Feds completely miss the majority of the real criminals in their poorly managed investigation, they also severely damaged the fragile reputation of the space agency and utterly destroyed the lives and careers of scores of innocent people like myself who have worked for decades dedicated to NASA and human advancement into the heavens. Within this chaotic environment, my idealistic aerospace career and even my life were twisted, first from promise and inspiration, towards disorganization, and ultimately, devastation.
My true personal story as a business administrator caught up in NASA’s turmoil, reveals a trail of contractor deception and moral abandon. I helplessly watched the institution that I revered as a child become mired in corruption, duplicity, greed, and fraud.
The mental anguish and moral dilemmas I endured through these tragic circumstances led me to question the right of government to manipulate an individual’s life, yet strengthened my convictions that the sweeping reformation of the U.S. Space Program is critical for securing America’s future prosperity and world leadership.
This is my sincere attempt to do final battle with the corruption shackling America’s space program and the injustices of the bungled federal investigation of our most cherished national asset. By taking the story to the citizens of the world, perhaps I will find more sturdy ground from which to shape the future of humankind.
Dale Brown’s Summary (www.ezez.com/hss/ols/Dale_Brown_Summary.html)
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From … and the truth shall set you free, by David Icke:
George W. Bush was not heading an independent CIA, but an element within the so-called ‘Inner Fed’ of the secret government which consists of the CIA, NSA, FBI, NASA, and the Federal Reserve.
Much of the funding for this cartel of manipulation comes from its involvement in the hard drugs trade….
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February 3, 2003
Report: NASA Removed Advisers Who Warned on Safety
NEW YORK (Reuters) – After an expert panel warned that its space shuttles were facing safety troubles if the agency’s budget was not raised, NASA removed five of the panel’s nine members and two consultants in what some of them said was a move to suppress their criticism, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The incident was recalled after the space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas on Saturday, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
Retired Adm. Bernard Kauderer, was so upset at the firings that he quit NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, a group of experts charged with monitoring safety at the space agency, the newspaper said.
NASA conceded the individuals were forced out, but told the Times it changed the charter of the group so that new members who were younger and more skilled could be added. “It had nothing to do with shooting the messenger,” a NASA spokeswoman told the newspaper.
NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe said he was surprised by the report and that each member of the panel head served out his full term.
“There’s no abnormality I’m aware of, but I’ll certainly look into it and see if we can satisfy ourselves that there’s no other intrusion involved,” he told CNN.
The panel’s most recent report, which came out last March and included analyzes by the six departed members, warned that work on long-term shuttle safety “had deteriorated,” the article said. Tight budgets, the panel report said, were forcing an emphasis on short-term planning and adding to a backlog of planned improvements.
“I have never been as worried for space shuttle safety as I am right now,” Dr. Richard D. Blomberg, the panel’s chairman, told Congress in April. “All of my instincts suggest that the current approach is planting the seeds for future danger,” the Times reported.
His worry was “not for the present flight or the next or perhaps the one after that.” He added, “One of the roots of my concern is that nobody will know for sure when the safety margin has been eroded too far,” the newspaper said.
Members of Congress who heard testimony from the panel last spring told the Times that they would re-examine whether budget constraints had undermined safety, but several said they doubted it.
O’Keefe said Blomberg “was concerned about the future process at that time, of exactly what would be the upgrades as well as the safety modifications necessary. We took those ideas aboard.”
President Bush will propose a nearly $470 million boost in NASA’s budget for fiscal 2004, an administration official said on Sunday, promising investigators would look into whether past cutbacks played any part in the Columbia disaster.
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For more of the ‘War on Truth’
A Connecticut Yankee in King Kamehameha’s Court
An Octopus Named Wackenhut
Birds on the Power Lines
Birds that Drink from Cesspools
The Blackstone Group
Dirty Gold in Goldman Sachs
Dirty Money, Dirty Politics & Bishop Estate
Down the Rabbit-Hole
Nests in the Pentagon
Songs of the Drug Vultures
Stealing Your Nest Eggs
Tarnished Wings: The Greed at Lockheed
The American Red Double-Cross
The Eagle Awakes
The Eagle Hooded
The Indonesian Connection
The Kissinger of Death
The Nests of Osama bin Laden
The Nuclear Nests
The Secret Nests
The Sinking of the Ehime Maru
The Stephen Friedman Flock
The Story of Enron
The Strange Saga of BCCI
The United Defense Industries Matrix
Thorns in the Rose Garden
Uncle Sam’s Gullible Guinea Pigs
What Price Waterhouse?
Who’s Guarding the Hen House?
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Last Update February 21, 2003 by The Catbird