The Orlando Sentinal and other publications reported recently that NASA, at the very highest levels, is not cooperating with President-Elect Obama's NASA Transition Team. There was reportedly a very public, unfriendly exchange at a book publication event at NASA HQ between Administrator Mike Griffin and Transition Team Leader Lori Garver.
There seems to have been enough eyewitnesses to this and other incidents, that it would be fair to conclude that something bad is happening. What's going on at NASA? It's hard to know for sure, but it sure smells like a combination of desperation and frustration. No matter what one's opinion happens to be, the fact is that there will be a new President in just a few weeks and his transition team for space is going to be advising him on everything that should be done with NASA.
If Mike is afraid that the Constellation Program is about to be canceled or radically altered, the best course of action would be to calmly make his arguments to the Transition Team, to try to persuade them that his course is best. They are the ones who will be calling the shots. There are rumors that Ms. Garver herself may be in line to become the next NASA Administrator.
It may be a losing strategy for Mike to simply try to persuade, but it's going to be a lot better than confrontation.
And, who is Ms. Garver? She was the NASA Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans when Dan Goldin was NASA Administrator. Not many of us in the space business had really heard of her until after she had left NASA in 2001, when she publicly campaigned for contributions in an unsuccessful attempt to become what she called the "First Soccer Mom" to fly in space. She had hoped to use the money to buy a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
She may not have technical credentials, but she doesn't necessarily need any, so long as she takes the advice of qualified specialists. What she does have, is political clout and savvy, especially with the incoming Administration.
One thing is for sure. Change is coming to NASA. Best for everyone if all play nicely.
Devon Island Expedition
Thursday, December 11, 2008
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It's unfortunate that there is some level of confrontation in this part of the transition. You hit the nail on the head with your comment on the political clout that Ms. Garver has. She might get the job with just that, but there should be a higher standard than just "political clout". I still think that Mike Griffin is the best person for the job, but he's only hurting his case by being arguementative and brash. Mike doesn't realize that he no longer holds the cards, and that a little "kissing up" is in order. While I voted for the incoming president, I am concerned about his vision for space or lack thereof. With his pick of Leon Panetta for CIA chief (a pick that I'm thrilled very pleased with), he has shown that he is willing to place someone at an agency which may or may not be postively received. We need a goal of going to the moon and mars as something to shoot for. I just fear that under the incoming president, that NASA may be in its last days.
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