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:
From: Anonymous (Goddard Space Flight Center) Question(s): After making the hard and much needed decision to stop moving the Lunar Precursor and Robotics Program office from Center to Center and bring it to HQ to more efficiently manage NASA's programs and projects under severely constrained budget conditions, how do you handle politicians trying to reverse such a decision? With the very aggressive schedule and limited resources of the LRO Project (and presumably the LCROSS Project), acclimating to a new Center program office structure every year or so is terribly unproductive and a strain on already limited project resources, especially when some Centers do not necessarily have the expertise in program management needed to manage such projects, resulting in even more strain on limited resources. One would think that those politicians who confirmed you as Administrator to make the hard decisions and trusted you to do so in the best interest of the Agency and the taxpayers would let you do your job.
Response: This is a very complicated matter, but I will do my best to shed some light on the issue, which is actually much broader than implied by your specific question about the lunar robotics program. But I think the answer is instructive, and worth the time required to explore the issue. What must first be understood is that the Congress cannot simply "trust" the NASA Administrator, or indeed any other Executive Branch agency head, to do his or her job. We must recognize that oversight of Executive Branch agencies is a Constitutional responsibility of the Congress. As a citizen, you may agree or disagree with the extent and nature of the activities which are carried out in furtherance of that oversight function, and such considerations may influence your voting choices, but Congressional oversight of our activities at NASA is integral to our system of government. NASA obviously complies with requirements placed on the agency through law. We also seek to reach resolution with Congress on guidance provided by the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives, while seeking the best accommodation we can to meet the Administration's goals for NASA.