Union Letter To Dan Goldin About Award Nomination for NASA RIF Watch Editor

September 19, 1996
Mr. Daniel Goldin
NASA Headquarters
300 E Street SW
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Mr.Goldin:

The 1996 Headquarters Honor Awards ceremony scheduled on September 25, 1996, is to recognize achievement both by Headquarters employees as well as special service by individuals or groups of non-Governmental employees. The awards involve no monetary incentives, and are administered and conducted by the Headquarters Honor Awards Committee, a permanently established group of employees representing a cross-section of Headquarters operations. Nominees are peer-reviewed by the committee, following established procedures and internal rules, and recommendations are provided to appropriate Headquarters management levels for concurrence. Barring extraordinary circumstances, concurrence is the usual outcome.

This year, the nominees for the Special Service Award category included Mr.Keith Cowing, President, Reston Communications. Mr. Cowing, a former NASA employee, was cited for using his talents and capabilities to provide NASA employees with unfiltered and timely public information on a homepage (the NASA RIF Watch) he created and maintains on the Internet. This world wide web site contains topical information, including Congressional matters, NASA public documents, and articles and stories appearing in the national and local press, which is of high importance to the average NASA worker. The homepage brings together in one easily-accessible place a significant amount of data in the public domain relevant to the future direction and structure of Headquarters, as well as NASA overall.

Much of the data found on the NASA RIF Watch has been provided to Mr. Cowing by NASA employees, indicating that workers are eager to share their knowledge with their colleagues and to uphold the dignity of their fellow workers through self-enlightenment. Mr.Cowing has provided NASA employees with an important service that contributes to maintaining a bond of trust. This very efficient, volunteer service has been guided by a commitment and a concern for the welfare of the NASA employees, and exemplifies the criteria for this award category, that is, significant contributions to either the mission of Headquarters or to the welfare of Headquarters employees by non-Government employees.

The awards committee, while acknowledging the possible controversial nature of this nomination, provided a very favorable peer review. Mr.Cowing was included in the group of 10 individuals and teams recommended for the Special Service Award. Unfortunately, in a management decision by Mr.Michael D.Christensen, Associate Administrator for Headquarters Operations, the recommendation that Mr.Cowing receive an award was turned down, without clear justification for this action.

The arbitrary rejection of Mr.Cowing for an award is another disturbing example of the difficulty encountered in awards programs that rely on peer reviews to recognize achievement. The difficulty lies in the fact that all involved in the peer-review process are subject to direction by management. This reversal by management without just cause, such as legal or investigative issues, demeans the spirit and intent of these awards programs.

Without substantial documented justification for this action by Mr.Christensen, it is essential that Mr.Cowing receive an award for his exemplary service in providing highly relevant information to rank and file NASA employees during these uncertain and troubled times. To do anything less is to make a mockery of empowering employees for this, or any, peer-reviewed awards process.


Donald D. Teague

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 19, 1996 5:30 PM.

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