The National Science Foundation (NSF) suffered the first political fallout yesterday from its oversight of the troubled National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) under construction.
The science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved by voice vote a measure that would set new rules on how NSF builds and operates large new scientific facilities like NEON. Republican legislators who are championing the bill (HR 5049) say it’s needed to curb abuses in a system that led to an $80 million projected cost overrun for NEON and forced NSF to fire the contractor on the $433 million project.
“The committee seeks to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on mismanagement and questionable costs,” said the committee’s chairman, Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), in his opening statement yesterday. “This bill will achieve that goal. It addresses gaps in project oversight and management through solutions identified by the NSF inspector general, auditors, an outside review panel, and the committee’s own work.”