Is CASIS Fixing Its Management Problems?

Keith's note: CASIS has had a less than stellar record of accomplishment since its inception. After kicking the can down the road for more than 5 years NASA has finally started to actively manage CASIS and has told them what needs to be fixed. CASIS' Management among the many things that had to be addressed. Given that NASA seems to feel that CASIS is going to play a pivotal role in the commercialization of the International Space Station starting in 2024, its about time they paid attention to its operation.

In a 15 November 2017 letter from NASA to CASIS NASA directed that "CASIS must examine its processes and communication in order to ensure inclusion and transparency to all CIPs. As partners in upholding the public's trust, we must quickly address these concerns - particularly those that could give even the appearance of impropriety - in order to ensure continued confidence in the ISS National Laboratory. To that end, I propose the following actions: ... - Installation of an experienced Chief Operations Officer (COO), to be responsible for day-to-day CASIS operations within the organization and working with implementing organizations in executing National Lab activities. The COO would be under the authority of the CASIS Executive Director and would report activities to the CASIS Board of Directors along with the CASIS Executive Director."

In the 22 January 2018 response from CASIS to NASA CASIS responded to mostly everything NASA discussed at a high level and semi-committal fashion but made no mention of changes to CASIS senior management that NASA had suggested. Yet 3 weeks later CASIS informed NASA in a 14 February 2018 letter that "the Executive Director / Principal Investigator position. Col. Gregory H. Johnson, the current Executive Director and Principal Investigator, will be leaving CASIS effective March 10, 2018." on 29 June 2018 CASIS sent a letter to NASA informing them that "CASIS has hired a new Executive Director, Joe Vockley, and will begin his employment on July 1, 2018. There will be a transition overlap period between Executive Directors as Mr. Vockley becomes familiar with all aspects of the ISS National Lab operations."

In a 1 March 2018 letter to NASA, CASIS said "The Board also made a careful and well-considered review of the performance of its Executive Director: The Board felt that he had made many important improvements and had built the CASIS organization into a strong level of capability. However, we felt that a new set of talents and style of leadership would be needed for the dynamic new environment facing the CASIS mission. Hence, a decision was reached to seek new leadership for the program. A national search for a replacement has been launched." They go on to say that "Additionally, and at the request of NASA, the Board created the position of Chief Operating Officer. Warren Bates was selected to serve in that position until a permanent appointee has been named. A national search was initiated but was subsequently suspended pending the selection of a new Executive Director. Mr. Bates, in the opinion of the Board, is serving ably in his new capacity."

Reading the letter that NASA sent to CASIS seems to suggest that NASA was directing CASIS to find some new blood to be COO. Instead, they picked Warren Bates, someone who has been at CASIS since 2012 who, based on his LinkedIn profile, is not the "experienced Chief Operations Officer" NASA was looking for CASIS to hire.

When CASIS hired Johnson he had no apparent scientific or nonprofit or research management experience. He had familiarity with NASA but he was a former fighter pilot/astronaut - not an obvious choice to lead a new organization with educational, commercial, and scientific responsibilities. Johnson's replacement Dr. Joseph Vockley certainly has an extensive background in biomedical research and management, but has no apparent background in space research and utilization.

So ... CASIS has gone from being run by an astronaut with no science or management background to being led by someone with decades of science and management experience - but no background in space. One could argue that the science and management experience is what CASIS desperately needs right now. There are plenty of space people floating around to advise Vockley. Based on what is posted on various web pages about Vockley, this would seem to be a wise move.

Vockley's linkedIn page describes his current position as being "Executive Director (CEO) of International Space Station US National Laboratory (CASIS)". That's somewhat inaccurate. Also, the CASIS website refers to Warren Bates as the "Director of Business Strategy and Portfolio Management". That is also inaccurate since he is the COO. If CASIS can't be bothered to get people's titles correct ...

Meanwhile many more managerial issues remain with CASIS - one being its Board of Directors. Stay tuned.

- CASIS Responds To NASA's List Of Problems With CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Is Still Broken, earlier post
- Previous CASIS posts

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 5, 2018 8:30 PM.

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