File photo: The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is depicted on a wall in New York on December 5, 2013. REUTERS / Carlo Allegri
Sources said the Justice Department has sent subpoenas to NASA, Boeing and Doug Lavaro, who led the agency’s marquee space travel program until they abruptly resigned in May, in a case of possible violation of federal procurement laws. As part of the grand jury investigation, sources said.
The investigation, which opened in June, has prosecutors focusing on communications between Levero and Boeing space executive Jim Chilton in late January during the blackout period for the Human Landing System competition, one of the sources said.
Representatives for Boeing and Lavaro declined to comment. NASA declined to comment on personnel matters and the status of any investigation, but said the agency was confident in its procurement procedures.
The investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Investigations by NASA Sentinels and earlier investigations have cast a shadow over one of NASA’s most ambitious efforts: sending humans back to the Moon from American Earth for the first time in nearly half a century.
In April, NASA sidelined Boeing – the industry with deep ties to space travel – and awarded Elon Musk a joint $ 1 billion contract to SpaceX, Amazon.com Inc.AMZN.O) Founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Leidos Inc. affiliate Dianetics, to build lunar landing vehicles that can carry astronauts to the moon by 2024.
Boeing was eliminated from the competition, with NASA explaining in April why.
In an investigation by NASA’s watchdog, two people said that the task of removing Reuters Boeing was on his contact with Lavaro.
Sources said NASA’s Office of the Inspector General found that Lovaro told Boeing during a blackout period that the company’s proposal was incomplete and discussed aspects of the bid that were missing.
After discussions with Lovaro, Boeing officials presented another version during the blackout period, raising legal concerns among agency procurement staff, one of the people said.
Lovaro abruptly resigned in May after less than a year at work, telling staff in an email seen by Reuters that he took some “risks” to meet NASA’s 2024 moon deadline.
“It is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I would have to bear the consequences alone,” Lovaro said, without explaining the mistake.
Joey Roulette in Washington and Eric M. in Seattle. Reporting by Johnson; Editing by Aurora Ellis