Sen. Allen's Visit to LaRC

Editor's note: The following summary of Sen. Allen's visit to LaRC on Friday was submitted by a NASA Watch reader:

"Here is a fairly brief synopsis of what happened today at NASA Langley Research Center. First it should be noted that there was never any official notification by NASA management to LaRC employees that Senator Allen was going to visit LaRC, meet with senior management, and then have a press conference outside of the main LaRC gate. The only indication was a sign inside of LaRC, which read "Welcome Senator Allen" or something very close to that. Fortunately, NASA WATCH, apparently based on tips from NASA employees (not sure how they knew unless they are some of the few in the know for these kinds of things), posted the news that Senator Allen was coming to LaRC for a press conference.

Later it was found that Senator Allen was coming to meet with LaRC managers and then talk to and take questions from anyone who wished to take the time to go outside the main gate. This had been planned for at least several days. One would think that LaRC management would encourage employees to take an hour or so out of their day to listen to Senator Allen speak about aeronautics funding, its importance to the country, the critical nature of having a well trained and capable workforce at LaRC, and the work he is doing to try and restore funding for aeronautics R&D (and LaRC) in the Senate. Such a show of support for the Senator would not violate any laws and with all the waste in time and effort going on at LaRC these days with teams, planning, proposal writing, etc. one can strongly argue that it would have been a much better use of time and potentially very educational for all involved. Perhaps Bridges and other managers are on just too short of a leash from NASA HQ and OMB to stray from the party line and support such an action by employees.

Through NASA WATCH, word of mouth, and e-mails within LaRC, it seems likely that at least a few hundred LaRC employees got the word and people began to trickle out the front gate around 2pm. By around 2:30 pm there were roughly 40-50 people although it seemed that at least 5-10 were public affairs and security personnel assigned to do something. It never seemed obvious what role these people had in this event other than to stand around. Senator Allen appeared around 3:30 pm which means many of these people waited for 60 - 90 minutes in the fairly warm sun.

Those that took the time to attend heard a fairly good speech by Senator Allen on the importance of aeronautics to the country, Gov't R&D Centers to aeronautics and aerospace technology development, and how it can encourage young people to enter the aerospace field, and so forth. He also commented on the fact that the Europeans have caught up and in some areas surpassed the US in aerospace technical and economic achievement and that the Europeans, unlike the US, have a well publicized plan for achieving and maintaining superiority in aeronautical and aerospace technology and industries. Allen mentioned the aeronautics report due out from the NIA but did not mention why it was being held up in the Senate as was recently stated by the AIAA. He also spoke well about the researchers and engineers (and technicians later when he was reminded about them) who perform the R&D at LaRC and similar Centers. One person in the crowd did have a camcorder and seemed to tape the entire event. Perhaps he will send out a few clips of the event to others.

Senator Allen was then followed by three fairly good speeches by the mayor of Newport News, the vice mayor of Hampton, and the mayor of Poquoson. All three stated the importance of LaRC to the community and to the nations economy.

Senator Allen then took several questions from a reporter for the Daily Press and a few of the LaRC employees. The questions mostly centered on LaRC employment issues for FY06 and beyond, related funding issues, and Allen's effort to get adequate funding for LaRC and GRC in the FY06 budget. Senator Allen was running behind schedule so was unable to answer all the questions people wished to ask him but was gracious enough to shake a few hands of LaRC employees before he left. Overall it seemed that Senator Allen is expending a sincere effort and likely some political capital in trying to help LaRC and aeronautics R&D in this country. Considering how LaRC management handled this event, the same cannot be said for them.

In summary, thank goodness for the 40-50 hardy LaRC employees for taking the time and effort to go outside the LaRC gate and wait for over an hour so Senator Allen had someone to speak to other than LaRC PA staff and a few reporters. Certainly no credit for this can be given to LaRC management and a good deal of the credit goes to NASA WATCH for getting the word out and various LaRC employees for taking the time and perhaps even some risk in telling others at work of Senator Allen's press conference.

Is LaRC management really interested in LaRC again becoming a productive aeronautics R&D Center? It hardly seems so. It seems hard to tell what LaRC management has in mind for its future. The transformation planning is now being performed behind closed doors and team members have had to sign nondisclosure agreements. Talented employees are leaving in disgust or fear of the unknown, being strongly encouraged to leave or retire, or in the case of contractors, simply being fired. Many employees are hoping that Dr. Griffin, with his deep experience in technical fields and various technical organizations, will once again put real R&D work at the top of the priority list for places like LaRC instead of reorganizations, planning, proposal writing, etc. that seems to be LaRC's primary activities and products."

-- LaRC employee.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 23, 2005 12:33 AM.

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