Frank's note: Of all of the recent NASA Administrators (Goldin, O'Keefe, Griffin) former Marine General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has given the fewest public appearances of them all. Excluding college commencements and STEM talks to school children, Bolden has been largely AWOL from the public square this summer. The face of NASA leadership, to the public, agency employees and the press has been that of Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver. The last time Bolden went before the press it was Al Jazeerra. Need we say more?
The question of his advocacy's absence has raised, rightly or wrongly, questions about the support for the Obama Administration's own space plan, and that of the Administration for him as leader. All of this could change tomorrow, but as for now there is a perception of a rudderless NASA adrift waiting for Congress to decide how much of Project Constellation to cram down the agency's throat. Central to the heart of this issue is just how important is the NASA Administrator in today's political climate. Sandwiched between the President's policy (as directed under this President by the Office of Science and Technology Policy OSTP) and the priorities of the Congressional space committees, a NASA Administrator has little leeway for his or her own direction. If there are clear lines of authority, strong center and directorate managers, much of what an administrator does on a day-to-day basis seems perfunctory. In such a climate, the Deputy Administrator's portfolio, directing institutional change in the agency's structure and messaging, seems the more interesting lot.
My question for NASA Watch readers: If you were the Administrator of NASA, what would be your priorities, given the President's overall space plan? (no, you can't change the plan) How visible would you or should you be? And how would you go about educating the public on your agency's vital functions? Ideas?
Bolden Is Operating In Cloaked Mode These Days, earlier post