- Press Release
- August 12, 2022
Rep. Ralph Hall’s Opening Statement; NASA’s Organizational and Management Challenges in the Wake of the Columbia Disaster
Good morning. I want to join the Chairman in welcoming Admiral Bowman, Admiral Sullivan, Mr. Johnson, and Ms. Grubbe to testify for us today. Admiral Gehman, welcome back to our Committee. We again look forward to your comments.
As we continue to address the recommendations of the Gehman Panel, we now come to one of the most important areas – organizational changes. The CAIB report devotes an entire chapter to organizational causes of the accident. In it, CAIB makes three specific recommendations. Those recommendations are based on their investigation of organizations having success with setting up highly regarded safety procedures.
Three of the organizations represented by our witnesses are specifically named by the CAIB as examples of organizations “highly adept in dealing with inordinately high risk by designing hardware and management systems that prevent seemingly inconsequential failure from leading to major disasters.” We want to hear in your own words what characteristics of your approaches to safety that are important for NASA to adopt.
After the Apollo fire in 1968, Congress set up the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. For one reason or another, NASA has ignored many fine ASAP recommendations, including a crew escape vehicle. Recently the entire Panel resigned. I think it is important for us to understand why they resigned and what a path forward needs to be.
Some say that a new ASAP might monitor NASA’s compliance with the CAIB recommendations after return to flight. I disagree. I think an independent group is needed for this oversight. I have introduced H.R. 3219 that directs the NASA Administrator to work with the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering to set up such a group. It would report yearly to Congress for five years following the launch of the next shuttle. I hope my colleagues on the Committee will support this bill.
I am not opposed to ASAP. It has done excellent work in the past, among which is their work on crew escape. I am gratified to see in the just released CAIB report appendices that “crew survival under the environmental circumstances seen in this mishap could be possible given the appropriate level of physiological and environmental protection.” I encourage NASA to make every effort to give the Shuttle crews a chance at saving themselves in the face of danger.
Well, I will not take any more time to discuss these issues in my opening statement. I know we all want to hear from the witnesses, and I will continue this discussion during the question period.
I look forward to your testimony, and I yield back the balance of my time.