Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:
Anonymous (Langley Research Center): Along with many of my colleagues, I was quite surprised when you canceled the OneNASA initiative along with the statement (to the effect) that its objectives had been satisfied. Reviewing any of the original mission statements for OneNASA, there would appear to be a pretty clear 'disconnect' between the two statements. Admiring the extremely clear and logical thinking (and articulation) you've demonstrated in every speaking forum, I'm wondering if you might expand a bit more on your rationale for this cancellation. Similar to some questions already posted in this forum, I know there was a sincere hope among many of my colleagues at several centers, that we might strive toward eliminating the 'ten stove pipes' in terms of attitudes and practices.
It was hoped that the OneNASA initiative would recognize that, though each center's mission may be unique, the centers are much more similar and should have more similar practices than they have differences. What is troubling is that this lack of mechanisms for sharing of information and best practices, coupled with the tolerance of a very prevalent attitude of 'Well, that's the way we do it here', is costing NASA millions of dollars that might be saved while streamlining the agency. I can think of countless examples in which each center spends a lot of resources (hence, dollars) re-inventing the wheel in being 'center-unique' - e.g. common administrative & operational procedures, facilities management, project management, even personnel policies, etc. While you've made it clear that you don't believe a top-heavy Headquarters is a solution to much of anything, wouldn't it seem that continued emphasis of the OneNASA concept might have more strongly encouraged peer-to-peer sharing and merging of best practices? Thanks for your time!
Response: I'm sorry that you were surprised; if you knew me better, you would know of my intense dislike of catch-phrases, buzz words, and similar things. The goals of the OneNASA initiative were quite laudable. Certainly the elimination of mission- or center-centric thinking in favor of Agency-level thinking is a goal I have championed since taking office. I will undoubtedly be pushing it the day I leave. But such goals must be pursued by those with responsibility for money and programs (i.e., Mission Directors), or by those with responsibility for institutions and people (i.e., Center Directors). A separate OneNASA initiative, outside any line of command, does not seem to me to be a path to success. I prefer to populate our Mission Directorates, Mission Support offices, and Centers with people who, I believe, possess a big-picture view of NASA and will make management choices based on that view. I believe we have made some progress toward my goal of Agency, as opposed to stovepiped,thinking. I believe that we will make more. But if it is tohappen, it must do so while being driven by people with true managerial responsibility - the Mission Directorate AAs, Mission Support AAs, and Center Directors.