"What Is It Going to Cost?"

The Manned Space Flight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics held hearings on the FY 1964 program for the construction of launch facilities in May 1963. Only representatives of NASA Headquarters were present to defend LOC's program. In his formal questioning for the subcommittee, Lt. Col. Harold A. Gould, a technical consultant to the House committee, focused on costs.

"A total of $444 million had already been made available for LC-39 and support facilities," Gould observed. With 40% of LC-39 programmed for fiscal 1963 and 50% of it being programmed for fiscal 1964, Gould asked, "What is the total cost of this complex going to be?"

William E. Lilly, Director of Program Review and Resources Management of NASA 's Office of Manned Space Flight, estimated that the total complex would run "very close to a half billion dollars." He then furnished an "exact figure" of $481,576,000. Congressman Emilio Q. Daddario, the subcommittee's acting chairman and long-time watchdog of LOC's budget, disregarded Lilly's "exact figure" and converted the "close to a half billion dollars" statement to "over $500 million," a phrase he used repeatedly in pressing his questions. In 1962, Daddario reminded Lilly, his subcommittee had received an initial estimate closer to $400 million. In January 1963 while at Cape Canaveral, the subcommittee had heard an estimate of $432 million. "Now you give us an estimate of over $500 million," Daddario stated. He wanted to know why the current figure was "over $100 million beyond that originally estimated."41

Aided by Capt. John K. Holcomb, NASA's Assistant Director for Launch Operations, Lilly marshalled several answers, including the adoption of the crawler transfer system in lieu of the rail system, an increase in the size of the launch pad and the number of pads required, and NASA's turnkey procurement policy. Daddario saw most of these explanations as being more valid for FY 1963 than for FY 1964 estimates, and brushed them all aside. Lilly offered the further explanation that, in order to be able to present a firm estimate as soon as possible, NASA had stressed the need for advance design funds. Daddario showed little regard for what he called Lilly's "cloudy logic," pointing out the estimate had gone from $432 million to "over $500 million" within a matter of months.

"I can't really give you a definitive answer," Lilly confessed, "of why the difference between $400 million, $432 million, and $500 million." It helped matters little for Lilly to add: "Our estimate, of course, is always based on the best information that is available. I could not say that the $500 million will be the final figure." Holcomb added that as a result of having actual designs and firm design criteria, "now we know pretty much what we are planning to do." But Daddario would not be assuaged and asked whether every starting estimate given to the subcommittee was going to be 25% out of line.

Daddario said that he and other members of the subcommittee expected some changes from original estimates but were less concerned about the amount than the percentage of increase and the embarrassment of having to report this to the full House. Congressman Edward J. Patten suggested that a 12% increase would not be too far out of line, but when costs increased 20-30% "this committee finds itself then in an embarrassing position of explaining this increase to the other members of Congress. I doubt that they will take the explanation you have given us as being a proper one."

As a final thrust, Lilly said that he had some doubts that the $432 million figure given to the subcommittee at Cape Canaveral in January 1963 was the "officially approved estimate" of the Office of Manned Space Flight. Daddario parried by asking why, if a higher figure had been available in January, it "was not given to us at that time."42

Only slightly less tenacious was Florida Congressman Edward J. Gurney's questioning regarding the pace of committing and obligating FY 1963 funds.* NASA representatives told the subcommittee that as of 31 March 1963, NASA had committed only $38 million and obligated only $18.9 million for LC-39, out of the FY 1963 budget of $163.5 million. Gurney wanted to know why $217 million was needed for FY 1964 when "you haven't even been able to scratch the surface on last year yet," even though the fiscal year was nearly over.

The basic delay in obligations, Lilly explained, was the time required for design. Once the design was completed, the "big money" would go out for construction. "I think you will find that the money will move much faster from this point on," Lilly assured Gurney. NASA would obligate the remainder of FY 1963 funds for LC-39 by August 1963. NASA had laid out its plans for the obligation of funds month by month, and by the end of FY 1964 only $10 million of the combined FY 1963 and 1964 funds would remain unobligated.43

Testimony regarding LC-39 next centered on the number of pads and their cost. Colonel Gould asked Lilly to explain why the FY 1963 figures for LC-39 varied from those shown in the FY 1964 budget. Lilly answered that the revised figures were the result of a more comprehensive analysis of operational requirements and that NASA had adjusted figures for equipment, instrumentation, and support systems after completing engineering studies.44

Other information given to the subcommittee on the FY 1964 program indicated that NASA was still thinking of on-pad time in terms of "possibly one week"; that each mobile launcher (which Holcomb aptly described as "partly launch pad and partly umbilical") would cost about $12 million, compared with $1 million for the less complicated umbilical towers used on complexes 34 and 37; that five launchers were required in order to service four bays in the VAB and to provide time for refurbishing after each launch; that the cost for the design and engineering of LC-39 would be roughly $37.6 million; that about 35% of the items in the FY 1964 increment of facilities were under design as of May 1963; that the operational target date for bay 1 and pad 1 in LC-39 was 1 December 1965; that facility construction lead times for FY 1964 were 25 months; and that the estimated cost of the crawler roadway was $982,000 per kilometer, with almost 13 kilometers of roadway required from the VAB to three pads. At the subcommittee's request, Holcomb explained the implications of an operational capability date of 1 December 1965. It meant, Holcomb said, that the construction of the first bay and its initial outfitting had to be completed by the end of May. Between May and December, an extensive checkout of the complete facility was to be made. "When we say that we have an operational capability beginning in December, we mean at that point we are able to bring in the first flight article, put it on the [mobile launcher] in the building, and check it out for our first launch in early 1966."45

The House hearings made clear that many problems regarding launch facilities for the Apollo program still confronted NASA. Most of the projects for which LOC requested FY 1964 funding, as well as the projects for which LOC had obtained FY 1963 funds, had undergone such drastic revision, when individually updated beginning in late 1962, that a discussion of them in terms of fiscal year budgets became academic. Through reprogramming actions, NASA postponed some of the construction requirements originally proposed for FY 1963; others, proposed for subsequent years, were paid for with FY 1963 funds. As a result, the year in which construction was budgeted often bore little relationship to the year of actual construction. With the passage of time, the budget documents diminished in importance as a barometer of actual construction. Instead, such documents as program operating plans and the periodic reports of the Corps of Engineers became the real indicators of construction.

Extensive criticism of NASA marked the congressional discussion of the FY 1964 budget for the first time since the agency's creation in 1958. Most barbs flew at the moon program, as congressmen argued that the Soviets seemed to have lost interest in a moon race, or that certain contractors were moving too slowly. Many Republicans thought the moon program detracted from more important military objectives in space. A Senate GOP policy committee stated on 10 May: "To allow the Soviet Union to dominate the atmosphere 100 miles above the earth's surface, while we seek to put a man on the moon could be . . . a fatal error." General Eisenhower had, as President, denied the existence of a "space race." Now he stated on 12 June 1963 that "anybody who would spend $40 billion in a race to the moon for national prestige is nuts." At a hearing of the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee on 10 June, Dr. Phillip Abelson of the Carnegie Institution repeated the contention of many scientists that manned space exploration had limited scientific value. He thought its alleged importance utterly unrealistic. The rush to get to the moon, Abelson insisted, took scientific resources that the nation might use more wisely on other important objectives, and thus lessened our national security.46

In spite of this attack on the lunar program and several attempts to reduce the budget by amendment, the Senate by a voice vote and the House by a vote of 248 to 125 authorized $5.35 billion for NASA on 28 August 1963. During fiscal 1964, NASA was actually to spend $4.17 billion - a billion and a third less than either Agriculture or Health, Education, and Welfare. The NASA expenditure represented only slightly over 4% of the total national budget expenditures.47

Between authorization and appropriation, President Kennedy spoke before the United Nations General Assembly and suggested a joint U.S.-Soviet voyage to the moon. In spite of his assurances to Representative Albert Thomas of Texas, the chairman of the subcommittee considering NASA's budget, that to be able to deal from a position of strength the U.S. should continue the space program, not all members of Congress agreed. Senator Fulbright proposed a 10% cut for NASA in view of the needs of education and welfare - but lost. Senator Proxmire sought to strike out a $90 million addition made in committee, and this time won by the margin of 40-39.

As finally approved by both chambers on 10 December 1963, less than three weeks after President Kennedy's assassination, the bill appropriated $5.1 billion to NASA for fiscal 1964 and barred use of funds for joint lunar expeditions with any other country without congressional approval. President Johnson signed the bill on 19 December with reservations about the joint venture proviso. He thought it unnecessary and asserted it would impair our flexibility.

The manned lunar landing program had gotten through its most difficult Washington summer.

* Funds were committed when financial management certified that funds were available and would be reserved for a particular purpose. Funds were obligated when a contract was signed for specific work to be done. The former was internal to NASA, the latter was legally binding on the agency.

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