NASA Goddard Is Confused About Its Own COVID-19 Polices (Update)

Keith's 5:12 pm update: This is the response that NASA GSFC News Chief Dewayne Washington sent me: "We truly appreciate the innovative spirit displayed and sought to highlight the employee and her accomplishments. Upon further review, however, we don't have the ability to distribute lab equipment to all those who may request it or to validate the safety of uniquely-configured home lab workspaces. Moving forward, lab/technical equipment will remain on center. If access to the center is required for work, there's a process for approving proposed on-site work in Stage 3 and part of that process involves ensuring the proper workspace COVID-19 safety protocols are established for employees."

I sent a second inquiry to NASA PAO and GSFC management: "I have added a link on my original NASAWatch posting to the full text of the internal GSFC memo issued by Raymond Rubilotta which mentions the working at home issue stating "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy". I am trying to understand how GSFC can publicly praise someone and then publicly criticize the exact same activity that GSFC just publicly praised them for. Can you send me the text of the actual policy that governs doing this sort of work at home? Is this a GSFC-specific policy or a NASA-wide policy? I am certain a lot of my readers across the agency are going to view this inconsistency with some concern - as if they do not have enough to worry about already."

One hand at GSFC clearly does not know what the other is doing. And when the center director takes a week off his "pinch hitter" deputy jumps the shark and blasts an employee who showed initiative - initiative that GSFC officially promoted. And then another employee takes that direction and issues another memo. And yet the GSFC magazine lauding that employee is still online. And all that GSFC PAO can do is punt with a non-answer. Lets see if there actually is a "policy" for this sort of thing and if GSFC will send it to me - or (much more importantly) that they will share with their employees. And if there actually is a poloicy, it will be interesting to see if GSFC explains why they never told anyone about it.

Raymond Rubilotta said in his memo "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy". So is the employee that GSFC lauded for working at home going to be punished? That's what Rubilotta said he'd do. I'm sure the dumbest lawyer on Earth could point out that this employee had been officially complimented so a reprimand is probably the most idiotic thing GSFC thing could do. If he is not going to take action then why did he threaten to in the first place?

No one at NASA can ever admit to making a mistake.

Keith's original 11:00 am note: NASA has asked its employees to work from home during the pandemic. Indeed, an official NASA GSFC publication featured someone from GSFC being creative and working at home - and features them on the cover of the publication. Then Goddard management turns around and says that their own policy prohibits the practice that they just lauded. Really? This is not the way to encourage people to be creative during the pandemic. Safety and liability are one thing. Lauding and then condemning someone for being creative is another. NASA Goddard really needs to get their act together.

Innovating at Home, Cutting Edge, NASA GSFC

"Even though the funding hadn't been approved at the time, there was another concept I could work on at home," Novo-Gradac said. It involved designing and validating a wedge-shaped, 3D optical target for measuring precise drift of the other spacecraft flying in formation. "I don't need 100 meters of range to validate that technology. I can do it on a small bench at home." While she continues to make purchases and design parts on a computer for the original project, the IRAD program agreed to shift most of her funding and labor to the second, mid-year IRAD request for now. "I had to bring home about 10 different instruments," Novo-Gradac said. "My family room had a perfect countertop with an upper deck. Other than having to haul home all that equipment, the experiment was a very manageable thing to bring home."

From: GSFC-Communications
Date: Fri, July 31, 2020 10:04 AM -0400
Subject: Center Policy Prohibits Lab and Technical Space Work at Home


Dear Colleagues,

It has come to our attention that our recent CuttingEdge cover story about Goddard technologists working from home was in violation of a center policy prohibiting lab and technical space work at home.

Performing lab/technical space work at home is strictly against our center's policy. If there are reasons for which you cannot perform your work at Goddard, please speak to your supervisor. Performing such work at home is potentially dangerous, and we will not risk your health and safety.

Peter M. Hughes
Chief Technologist

*For internal purposes only.

Keith's 2:09 pm update: Apparently the (acting) GSFC Center Director "Pinch Hitter for Dennis" was the impetus for this 180 degree turn with regard to employees working at home. Note that he says that he says "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy" while the center's own publication praises the same behavior.

NASA GSFC Internal Memo: Message and Updates from the Center Director, NASA GSFC

"Hello, everyone, Dennis is on leave this week and has asked me, like an understudy in the theater industry, to step in for him providing the weekly update. ... Raymond J. Rubilotta Associate Center Director, a.k.a. "pinch hitter for Dennis"

"Policy on Performing Lab Work at Home

It has come to our attention that because of the teleworking posture many of us still find ourselves in, several employees have taken it upon themselves to perform laboratory/technical space work at home or in their personal facilities. We do not need to go into detail on the associated risks, but it is both against our center's policy and potentially dangerous. Performing lab/technical space work at home is strictly prohibited and we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy. If you must perform lab work and are not classified as Stage 3 or 4 personnel, have reservations about coming to center, are up against a deadline, or for any other reason are unable to perform your work at Goddard, please speak to your supervisor to find the best remedy. You, our employees, are our greatest resource, and under no circumstances will we risk your health and safety."

  • submit to reddit

Kepler Communications - Aether
Baen Books - The Spacetime War by Les Johnson

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on July 31, 2020 5:13 PM.

Toyota's Artemis Generation TV Ad was the previous entry in this blog.

House FY 2021 Budget Makes 2024 Moon Landing Doubtful is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.