Augustine: A Sanity Check

Augustine Review: October summit set to reveal NASA's forward path,

"The strategic direction of NASA is set to be announced in the first week of October, when new administrator Charlie Bolden and Human Space Flight Review panel chairman Norm Augustine conduct a NASA Executive Summit for all Senior Executive Service employees."

Keith's note: First of all some clarification: this article originally said that the meeting was 5-6 October and yet later in the article it also said it was to be held on 6-7 October. Then the article was changed to say 6-7 October. The earlier version is making the rounds via email. There is indeed an "2009 NASA Executive Summit" being held at the Reagan Building on 6-7 October, not on 5-6 October. Second of all Norm Augustine is not on the draft agenda and is not going to "conduct" any part of this meeting. Ed Crawley has been "invited" (but not confirmed) to speak. OSTP Director John Holdren has also been invited (but also not confirmed) to speak.

The Augustine Committee, operating under FACA constraints, only formally reports their "options" publicly and to the White House starting today - and all that will be delivered at that time is an executive summary of the committees findings - not the final report - and that is weeks away. It is hard to imagine that a detailed policy for NASA is going to be done without the full FACA committee's report in hand. Indeed, many would (rightfully) cry foul if this did happen since these reports often contain specific, lower level analyses, findings, recommendations, and minority opinions that must be addressed - things you do not see in an executive summary.

Also, Bolden will be on travel at the end of September and will not be back in the States until 3 October - a Saturday. Given busy times during travel, jet lag, and two calendar days before the summit, it is a little hard to imagine that Bolden can get his head filled with all that would go into the unveiling of a major strategic direction.

If there were to be any "strategic direction of NASA" announced at this meeting it is not going to be very detailed with only a few major decisions - at most. Were there to be a detailed plan that NASA was to go implement, this would mean that the White House now has to take that formal information from the Augustine Committee, finalize its plans for NASA, tweak whatever FY 2011 NASA budget guidance they have been working, and send their formal guidance to NASA. NASA would then have to integrate that guidance with whatever they have been working and come up with a plan. They would probably have to have a back and forth with the White House at least once on this, and then formulate a way to present it at this SES meeting. They would then need to brief Bolden on how to present it. All of this in 30 days. That would be an unprecedented pace of events for NASA - or this White House - and an unnecessarily hurried one at that - unless the White House has already made up their mind. Again, not adhering to the dance that goes with FACA committees is not a wise thing for the White House to be doing.

Stay tuned.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 8, 2009 1:20 PM.

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