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CONGRESS HAS PROBE FOR NASA SHUTTLE MOVE QUESTIONED.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Congress' auditing arm will look into NASA's decision to move space shuttle work from Palmdale to Florida, specifically looking at whether the agency used reasonable assumptions and analysis in the decision-making process.

At the request of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the General Accounting Office will look at whether reasonable assumptions were used in making the decision, if the cost analysis was reasonable, whether security was considered in placing all the shuttles in one spot, if adequately trained personnel were identified in Florida for the work and whether NASA can provide adequate documentation of its analysis.

``We are aware of the GAO review and we fully support it,'' said NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown. ``We feel it (the Florida move) was a prudent decision.''

The GAO indicated that the audit would take about two months, said Boxer spokesman David Sandretti.

In seeking the GAO audit, Boxer questioned the merits of the Florida move, arguing that the lack of a trained work force and facilities makes the decision suspect.

Boxer made the request for the audit in a letter to David Walker, comptroller general of the United States.

``NASA officials claim to have completed a detailed comparative analysis, including a cost assessment, of performing the OMM (orbiter major modification) work in California versus in Florida, and to have based the decision to relocate this work on this analysis,'' Boxer wrote. ``I find it hard to believe, however, that any impartial analysis could result in a decision to relocate the OMM work to Florida. Why? Because Palmdale, Calif., has both a highly skilled aerospace work force experienced in OMMs and the facilities at which to perform them. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida currently has neither.''

NASA officials said the decision, announced in February, was made after evaluating such factors as cost, the impact to the shuttle flight schedule, the availability of experienced workers and the use of NASA facilities.

``While both KSC and Palmdale could support the OMM, managers determined keeping both active to support four orbiters is no longer practical or feasible given the current shuttle manifest and budget environment,'' a NASA statement announcing the move said.

NASA believes it can save as much as $30 million on an orbiter modification project.

Since the inception of the space shuttle program, Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale served as the site of the construction of all of the space shuttles and as the site of all but one of the major orbiter modification efforts.

The NASA decision was a blow both economically and symbolically to the Antelope Valley.

Boeing, which performs the modifications under a NASA contract, trimmed about 200 jobs from its Palmdale work force as a result of the decision.

The decision also took away one of the symbols most closely identified with the Antelope Valley. With the exception of an occasional landing at Edwards Air Force Base, space shuttles will no longer be seen in the Antelope Valley.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 13, 2002
Words:494
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