Alliant Techsystems Cries Foul as NASA Moves To Curb Constellation
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) says NASA is selectively applying a rarely used contracting rule in an effort to halt work on key elements of the agencyâ€™s Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new hardware optimized for lunar missions that the White House has proposed canceling next year.
NASA asserts the Constellation program is facing a potential $1 billion funding shortfall in the remaining four months of the current budget year because contractors have not accurately accounted for termination liability costs they could incur as a result of having to cancel orders, vacate leases and pink-slip employees if the program is shut down. But Magna, Utah-based ATK Aerospace, prime contractor on the first stage of the Ares 1 rocket â€” a key Constellation program element â€” says that historically, termination liability funds have not been included in contractor costs.
â€œNASA has chosen to create this funding shortfall by changing its decades-long management practice with respect to termination liability,â€ Brian Wagner, ATK director of congressional relations, said in a June 10 e-mail to lawmakers and staff. â€œATK was specifically instructed on numerous occasions throughout the history of both Shuttle and Ares contracts not to account for termination liability costs in any accounting we have made for NASA on these contracts.â€
ATK builds the giant solid-rocket motors for the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle, and variants of these motors would boost the Ares 1 and larger Ares 5 rockets.
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