When Price Is No Object

Once the Department of Energy selected Texas as the preferred site for the Superconducting Supercollider, it wanted everybody to know exactly how it had gone about assessing the environmental aspects of its big decision. The resulting document, in four volumes, weighed 26 pounds; DOE sent out 17,000 copies, at a cost of $1.4 million. That extravagant first-class mailing piqued the interest of Congress, especially members from some of The seven states that had lost out to Texas, and led to a request for the General Accounting Office to investigate the matter. GAO’s conclusion is that DOE’s overriding concern was strict adherence to a federal law that requires an agency to convey its decisions to anyone expressing a view about the selection process, no matter how minor it may be. “Saving money was not a consideration,” says the GAO report, which notes that DOE could have...

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