WASHINGTON — Sen. David Vitter announced Monday he plans to block, for now, the nomination for undersecretary of the Department of Energy because of project delays at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
President Barack Obama nominated NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson for the undersecretary position.
Vitter, R-La., contends she is directly responsible for delayed, job-creating contracts at Michoud.
The Michoud facility has tried to reinvent itself since the end of the space shuttle program and has contracted more with commercial and government contractors to use the site.
NASA is using Michoud for constructing components of its Space Launch System, a 70-ton heavy-lift rocket, and the Orion module, which would hold a small crew of astronauts.
The space program hopes its next mission will take astronauts to Mars.
Vitter contended Monday that contracting delays related to the projects have postponed the creation of hundreds of jobs at Michoud.
“Under the Obama administration, NASA has been stalling on a job-creating project at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans for no apparent reason,” Vitter stated in his announcement. “Ms. Robinson needs to answer questions about why they’ve delayed the project, and other questions about NASA’s operations before she leaves her job overseeing their finances.”
Vitter is asking Robinson for a “thorough” self-review of her job performance, as well as for more details on timelines and the allocations of funds.
Vitter also expressed concerns that the “sequester” budget cuts remaining in effect may disproportionately hurt the Orion and Space Launch System projects. “Are you intentionally trying to kill SLS and Orion?” Vitter wrote.
The Louisiana senator also asked her several questions about her possible use of private emails to conduct work communications, as well as the use of private emails by other NASA leaders.