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Joint Congressional Hearing Results in Second Charter Amendment for Gehman Board Columbia Accident Briefing

Glenn Mahone/Bob Jacobs
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

Feb. 12, 2003

RELEASE: 03-069

Based on the recommendations from congressional leaders at today's joint hearing into the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today issued a second amendment to the charter of the Space Shuttle Accident Investigation Board. The independent panel is led by Admiral Hal Gehman and is known as the Gehman Board.

The changes to the charter removes any requirement, either real or perceived, that asks Admiral Gehman to coordinate or await approval from NASA for any dimension of the panel's investigation.

Administrator Sean O'Keefe appeared before a joint committee hearing co-chaired by U.S. Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and U.S. Representative Sherwood Boehlert, who chairs the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

At the hearing, Rep. Boehlert said, "The words of the charter simply do not guarantee the independence and latitude that both the Administrator and the Admiral have sincerely promised. The charter's words need to match everyone's intent now to avoid any problems later. I also continue to believe that several more members should be added to the Board to ensure that it has the appropriate breadth of experience and expertise."

As a result of the recommendations, the Gehman Board charter was amended a second time. "I want to thank Rep. Boehlert and the rest of the congressional leadership for their insight and concern. There should be no doubt as to the independent nature of this investigative body," added Administrator O'Keefe. "NASA will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of the Gehman Board as it works to identify the cause of this horrific accident."

A copy of the amended charter and the complete text of Administrator O'Keefe's opening statement are available on the Internet at

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