SPACED OUT: Rep. Hill Awards Golden Fleece to NASA for Taxpayer-Funded Drug Review of Private Contractors

 — This week, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) named the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the latest recipient of his Golden Fleece Award for using taxpayer funds to conduct illegal drug workplace reviews of federal contractors. 

“The fact that federal contractors for NASA are violating workplace drug guidelines should be upsetting to all taxpayers. However, it is outrageous that instead of punishing those federal contractors, our government is giving them even more taxpayer dollars to clean up their act. Arkansans should not have to foot the bill when federal contractors break the rules they are legally obligated to follow. This is rewarding bad behavior with more money and sets a terrible precedent for future government contractors. Private companies, like SpaceX, should use their own money to fund workplace drug reviews or lose their contracts with the federal government.”

In a letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Congressman Hill wrote:

Dear Mr. Bridenstine,

I write today to inform you that your agency is the most recent recipient of my Golden Fleece Award. I am awarding this to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for poor use of taxpayer funds in its response to reports of illegal drug use among federal contractors.

Under the Drug-free Workplace Act (DFWA) of 1988, the use, possession, and distribution of illegal drugs is prohibited at federal contracting worksites. Additionally, employers are required to, in good faith, maintain a drug-free workplace. Further, regardless of whether a state has legalized marijuana, recreational marijuana possession and use is still illegal under federal law and violators may face prosecution.

According to an October 16, 2019 Politico article, following concerns over alleged illegal marijuana use by executives of the federal contractor SpaceX, NASA mandated an internal review of multiple contractors’ workplace environments and then provided $5 million in taxpayer funds to one of the contractors, SpaceX, to fund their review.

This is disturbing on a number of levels.

First, it is disturbing that NASA gave such an amount of funds to a company to do what they already are required to do under the DFWA as a federal contractor, namely establishing and administering a drug-free awareness program, when these funds could have been used to fund other priorities crucial to national security. Second, it is of concern that NASA made funds available to only one of multiple contractors, appearing to pick favorites, and I would invite you to investigate this further. 

In summary, the grant of $5 million to SpaceX was an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars, especially at a time when our nation is more than $22 trillion in debt. Our federal agencies must be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.

French Hill
Member of Congress

About the Golden Fleece Award
Every year, Congress appropriates trillions of dollars to fund the federal government, and every year the federal government wastes portions of these funds in unconscionable ways. In an attempt to increase accountability for every single government program, Congressman Hill decided to bring back the Golden Fleece Award.

Originally introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator from Wisconsin William Proxmire in March 1975, the Golden Fleece Award was a monthly bulletin on the most frivolous and wasteful uses of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars. The Golden Fleece Award became a staple in the U.S. Senate during this time, and Senator Robert Byrd once stated that the awards were “as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters.”

In reviving this idea, the Golden Fleece Award will again have the opportunity to serve as an important reminder to taxpayers about the need for necessary, commonsense reforms to our federal spending. 

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