Editor's note: I just find it curious that Mike Griffin can get so thin skined as to refer to my question's tone as being "pejorative" and then be snide and insulting in response when I declined to "remove that tone" - and then turn around and say - using a pejorative term - that his employee "screwed up" a moment later. Gee Mike, I know I'm not a pleasant person to interact with, but isn't there a more professional way you could have characterized Jeff Hanley's actions?
Mike Griffin speaks and takes questions at the Space Transportation Association Breakfast, 22 January 2008, Washington DC
Cowing: Last week I asked a question of ESMD Public Affairs about whether the Ares 1-Y flight had been delayed. They replied "NASA has not announced a 12 month postponement of any Ares or Orion test flights and has no plans to do so". Yet several days before that. Jeff Hanley, the Constellation program manager, wrote a memo that said exactly that - that he had internal plans and changes and that the Ares 1-Y had been shifted by one year. Now, are you going to be shifting the launch of Ares 1-Y and if not, why is your Constellation Program Manager announcing this to more than 80 people within the agency?
Griffin: Well, if you could take the pejorative tone out of your voice I'll actually try and answer your question.
Cowing: No ... I'm not going to remove it.
Griffin: You're not going to remove the pejorative tone from your voice?
Cowing: No sir.
Griffin: I guess you're not capable of it. Um .. I'll answer your question.
Um, actually, Jeff screwed up.
We normally like our program managers, when they are ready to announce a delay or a re-phasing of the program (because it is not actually a delay), to coordinate all that with everybody that needs to know. And, uh, Jeff was in a bit of a hurry, because we have contract negotiations with Lockheed - and we have budget posture hearings for - moi - coming up in a couple of weeks and we did not want to be announcing any re-phasing of our test program the day after our budget posture hearing as opposed to the week before.
So, what we like to do in keeping with the spirit of openness that I was just talking about earlier, is there are certain times in the year when everybody who is in this business knows that it is really a good idea to get your cards out on the table. And right before I do a budget posture hearing is one of them.
So, Jeff and the guys have been doing what a great program manager does. He is taking his budget and he is trying to figure out how to rephrase his intermediate milestones in order to deal with his budget and to preserve our end goal with the greatest possible efficacy.
So what's our end goal? Our end goal is to produce a CEV - Ares - Orion combination which can service space station at the earliest possible date.
I don't actually care - Jeff doesn't actually care - Rick Gilbrech doesn't actually care what the intermediate milestone dates are. They serve the end goal - they don't drive it, So, Jeff has been looking for quite some months - and everyone inside the program has known this - it was a topic of discussion at our review in November - inside the program Jeff has been looking at how he can best re-phase his internal milestones such that we preserve with maximum confidence the desired end state. The outcome is more important than the process - by a whole lot. And so I think that's been done magnificently.
The only issue is that Headquarters got notified of it by the same email that the rest of the folks did!
And so, for that, you know, if one of our program managers is going to make a mistake, or if I am going to, this is the kind of mistake I'd rather make than something more serious. So, we looked at it and said well, you know, maybe we want to think about all that before we slip intermediate milestones and make sure we're all on board with how that's being done and its kind of hard to reverse that process.You know once you announce those kinds of intermediate milestone dates then vendors, suppliers, ground systems folks, all begin re-phasing their internal planning to new dates and we don't want to back them up and have them start over. I mean, just the most logical kind of stuff.
So, I would not want anybody to think that there's anything - I just wouldn't want anyone to think that here is anything serious here.
Now, you can think that I am trying to game you. Although I think by this time - whatever tools I have in my quiver - arrows I have in my quiver - gaming people isn't one of them. So I am telling you the straight truth. We, you know, its just a process ... we need to look at it. We probably will be making changes in our intermediate milestones in order to best preserve - with maximum confidence - the end state for the availability of the Ares- Orion But that's the goal.