Transition: November 2008 Archives

NASA Presidental Transition Action Item Log

Editor's note: The following is an amalgam of several different versions of a document titled "Presidential Transition Action Item Log" provided by NASA sources this week. More than 80 specific requests to NASA by the Obama Transition Team are listed. This document is maintained by the PA&E (Program Analysis and Evaluation) Office at NASA HQ.

Obama Team Seeks Data on Possible Changes to Ares, Orion, Space News

"U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's NASA transition team is asking U.S. space agency officials to quantify how much money could be saved by canceling the Ares 1 rocket and scaling back the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle next year."

Editor's note: The phone calls and emails are coming in from JSC, MSFC, and KSC. Additional Transition Team action items have made their way to the field centers. These requests seek information into costs that would be associated with Ares 1 cancellation, alternate ways to launch as reduced Orion including EELVs, foreign launch vehicles. Stay tuned - there will be more.

FYI Mike Griffin has made it abundantly clear that he would not stay at NASA if such changes to his architecture were to be recommended. As such it seems to be a virtual certainty that he'll be departing - soon.

NASA 2.0.2

Netroots Nation: Progressive NASA and Space Policy Under a New Administration (video) (PartI) (Part 2)

NASA Presidental Transition Action Item Log

69. Information Transparency - List the agency's major information dissemination activities (in reports, on web sites, etc.). Describe how the agency decides what information to publish on the Internet and on paper. Identify the agency officials who manage these decisions and to whom they report. Note: OCIO and OP may have inputs

Transition Update

Editor's note: According to various sources at NASA, among the things being researched by NASA HQ staff in response to inquires by the Obama Transition Team (aka PETT) are: estimates of what it would take to terminate and/or fly the shuttle between FY 2010 and FY 2012; results of PA&E's commercial crew/cargo study; a detailed look at authorized budgets vs actual appropriations (including un-obligated funds); possible lawsuits that NASA is anticipating; contracts needing to be awarded; regulatory issues that may arise; the status of various international arrangements; plans for use of the ISS; and NASA's agreements with the DoD on launch standards and interfaces. In other words, just the routine sort of things you'd expect to be researched and discussed as a hand over was about to take place.

As you can see from this 24 September SMC presentation below, the PA&E folks already had a good idea of what they needed to be prepared to provide. But they did need a little assistance in focusing this effort agency-wide: in that same meeting (according to official notes) Griffin "reminded members that the Agency will have only one transition book, and does not want mission directorates and centers to be working on individual transition documents. He requested that members manage this proactively, and stop independent efforts. He committed to share the transition book with members and to seek their contributions. He requested that everyone remain a NASA team in the next 6 months, and that PA&E provide a status on their activities next month."

NASA Presidential Transition Status, NASA PA&E Presentation given at the 24 September 2008 SMC

CBO Director to Head OMB

Obama Names OMB Director, Washington Post

"[Peter R.] Orszag, 39, is director of the Congressional Budget Office, where he oversees a staff of 235 people who produce nonpartisan analyses of economic and policy issues. Orszag is widely respected for his work on how Americans receive medical care. Unlike many of his predecessors, who hewed closely to pure number-crunching, Orszag has carved out a niche as a leading international thinker on health policy."

CBO: An Analysis of NASA's Plans for Continuing Human Spaceflight After Retiring the Space Shuttle

"For the 10-mission manifest, the probability that NASA can retire the space shuttle fleet by September 2010, in CBO's estimation, is between 20 percent and 60 percent. (The lower boundary of that confidence interval results from using the assumption that the probability of launching the shuttle without a minor delay is 80 percent; the higher end of the range derives from the assumption of a 94 percent probability of a minor delay.)"

NASA 2.0.1

Citizenship 2.0, opinion, Washington Post

"We've finally reached something of a left-right equilibrium in the dramatic restructuring of the public sphere that has been underway for the past decade. Against this background, on Nov. 4 the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to supporters from the president-elect signaling aspirations to convert the campaign's success with social networking technologies into a tool not merely for winning but for good governance. Such a conversion would require transcending the factional patterns that currently define Internet-based political communication. It would demand a category shift: to remake the tools of factional organization as instruments of broad, cross-partisan and respectful public engagement."

Editor's note: I ask again: is NASA prepared for this kind of governance paradigm? Is it at all prepared to interact with rank and file citizenry in this fashion? With its own employees?

NASA 2.0, earlier post

Confirmation of Political Appointees: Eliciting Nominees' Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and across Government (NASA Excerpt), GAO

"NASA is currently at a crossroad. In response to President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, the agency is in the midst of phasing out the Space Shuttle Program and beginning another major undertaking, the Constellation Program, which will create the next generation of spacecraft for human spaceflight. This is NASA's biggest transition effort since landing humans on the moon more than three decades ago and then initiating the Space Shuttle Program a few years later. Moreover, it is expected ultimately to cost nearly $230 billion over the next two decades. Numerous people, hardware, and infrastructures will be affected by coming changes. There are also pressures for funds to be spent on other projects, which poses a financing challenge for the agency."

NASA 2.0

President 2.0, Newsweek

"Obama's transition team is already building an organization to carry on the Internet efforts begun during the campaign. On the stump, Obama laid out plans for a technology czar in his administration--a senior-level, or even cabinet-level, post that he promised would make his White House transparent and ultra-efficient. Obama has talked about streaming portions of cabinet meetings live on the Internet in order to reach more people, and not long after his election he gave one of his first "radio" addresses in video form on YouTube. He's also asked that candidates for jobs in his administration submit their information online, so more than just Washington insiders would be considered."

Why Obama should ditch YouTube, CNet

"In this post today, I'll explain why the government needs to step up, host its own videos and why it is simply improper to rely on YouTube to foot the bandwidth bill for Obama's messages to the people. I will also make the case that the use of YouTube and Google Analytics by the Obama transition team violates the privacy website visitors, and possibly even violates federal rules banning the use of permanent tracking cookies on government websites."

Editor's note: Is NASA up to this challenge? Right now, the answer is a resounding "No". But there are some bright sparks here and there. Can NASA adjust and reconfigure itself so as to be 21st century compliant - and in synch with Obama's White House ? You tell me. Lets see if any of the people who will spend their entire careers working in the NASA of the future - i.e. the Net Gen/Gen Y/Next Gen - have anything to add.

Imagine reconnecting NASA, Alan Stern, The Space Review

"The space program of the United States leads the world. It has produced more historic firsts, delivered more discoveries, and possesses more capability than any of our competitors.

Yet, our space program does not enjoy the strong support it once did. A part of the reason for this is that the current program is too disconnected from everyday life and American society. After all, when was the last time you heard that the space program developed something new that directly touched your life and made a tangible difference to you?

But it need not be this way."

NASA's Black Hole Budgets, OpEd, Alan Stern, NY Times

"As a scientist in charge of space sensors and entire space missions before I was at NASA, I myself was involved in projects that overran. But that's no excuse for remaining silent about this growing problem, or failing to champion reform. And when I articulated this problem as the NASA executive in charge of its science program and consistently curtailed cost increases, I found myself eventually admonished and then neutered by still higher ups, precipitating my resignation earlier this year. Endemic project cost increases at NASA begin when scientists and engineers (and sometimes Congress) burden missions with features beyond what is affordable in the stated budget. The problem continues with managers and contractors who accept or encourage such assignments, expecting to eventually be bailed out."

Alan's stern warning, Nature

"S. Alan Stern used to be a big cheese at NASA. From the looks of things, he'd like to be so again. Stern, former associate administrator at the space agency, has been getting his name out there in a big way. He certainly thinks it's time for change. "A cancer is overtaking our space agency: the routine acquiescence to immense cost increases in projects," Stern writes in a New York Times op-ed piece."

Time to go Mike

Michael Griffin Chats About NASA's Future Under President Obama, Discovery Space

"Irene Klotz: The Government Accountability Office (GAO), in its tally sheet for the new administration, identified the shuttle's retirement as one of the top...

Michael Griffin: ...issues for the transition. Yes, I know. I found that amusing.

IK: Why amusing?

MG: I think the country has enough interesting topics confronting us in the present day and time that space shuttle retirement is probably not deservedly on that list. That's just my opinion. That's a matter of -- to me -- technical program management in the space program and should be approached as such. So I noted the GAO's assessment of that as a top issue for President Obama with some amusement."

Editor's note: I find this exchange rather amusing - and troubling as well. Space policy - specifically human spaceflight - became a significant factor in the 2008 election - albeit focused in Florida - one that both McCain and Obama spent a lot of time on. Position papers and regular statements were regularly fired out by both campaigns - with spill over to a national audience. In addition, the GAO, not always known for its rosy appreciation of NASA's progress, thinks that the future of human spaceflight is a national priority for the new Administration. And Mike Griffin thinks that this is all "amusing" and that space is "probably not deservedly on that list" of national priorities? Gee, talk about a way to take the wind out of every NASA employee's sails. If NASA's leader thinks that space is not important any more...

Time to go Mike.

Transition Update

Obama's NASA Dilemma - The fate of the U.S. space program hangs in the balance, Technology Review

"While other presidents have had the luxury of putting off major decisions on NASA, the Obama administration has a deadline. By April 30, 2009, the new president must decide whether to shut down the Space Shuttle program--currently the United States' only way to get humans into space and to service the International Space Station (ISS)--or extend the program at no small cost. While the current administration has signed an authorization bill to keep the Space Shuttle flying until the end of 2010, the legislation only prevents NASA management from mothballing Shuttle-related programs until the end of April 2009."

Transition Update

NASA faces closer scrutiny, Huntsville Times

"The change in the White House, financial problems and a mini-makeover of Congress will bring new scrutiny of NASA, predicted Keith Cowing, a longtime NASA critic who runs the Web site "There's going to be reviews of all government agencies. NASA is not being singled out. It's just what happens when there is a change in administrations. That's what transition teams are doing right now," Cowing said. "They'll make their recommendations and the new Obama administration will go forward from there." Cowing predicted that the changes at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would put the microscope on high-profile projects - like the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares rockets, new Mars probes and rovers, and an expanded International Space Station - that fall behind schedule or face cost increases. "Obama has promised an emphasis on science and climate, and I think you will see that shift come to NASA," Cowing said."

Transition Update

Editor's update: The Transition Team has added the following individuals:

Alan Ladwig (former Office of Policy and Planning AA)
Ed Heffernan (former Office of Legislative Affairs AA)
George Whitesides (NSS Executive Director).

Science, Tech, Space and Arts Team Lead,

"NASA Review Team Lead

Lori Garver is currently the President of Capital Space, LLC. For the past 25 years, Garver has been a leader in the aerospace community, working in senior roles in the non-profit, government and commercial sectors, including serving as executive director of the National Space Society and as a Vice President of DFI International. In addition, Garver previously served as NASA's Associate Administrator of Policy.

Roderic ("Roddy") Olvera Young is Senior Vice President of TMG Strategies, directing the firm's Technology and Environment team and providing strategic counsel to the firm's clients on their high profile conflict and crisis issues across a range of industries. He previously worked on Banking and Appropriations Committee assignments and served as the Press Secretary to NASA's Administrator as a Presidential appointee."

NASA OIG Report: NASA's Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges

"As required by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, this memorandum provides our views of the most serious management and performance challenges facing NASA. We continue to use this forum as a means to draw attention to areas within the Agency's key programs and operations that need to achieve greater economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. In determining whether to report an issue as a challenge, we consider the significance of the programmatic, institutional, and external concerns in relationship to the Agency's mission; susceptibility to fraud, waste, and abuse; whether problems are systemic; and whether there are safety issues that could result in injury or loss of life. Through various initiatives and by implementing recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and other evaluative bodies, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), NASA is working to improve Agency programs and operations and address the following challenges:"

Just Pick the Wrong People

NASA chief doubts he'll keep job during Obama administration, Houston Chronicle

"I didn't have anybody crammed down my throat. We have done that experiment at NASA - to see if people who don't know anything about the space business can run NASA," Griffin said. "It didn't work. I know how to fail. Just pick the wrong people, and you are doomed."

Editor's note: "Just pick the wrong people, and you are doomed." Indeed, Mike. Not listening to the advice of others is equally effective in that regard.

The Path Ahead

Obama's space plans (Video), CNN

"CNN's Miles O'Brien asks what the new president might mean for the U.S. space program."

NASA chief says U.S. must stick to moon plan, Reuters

"If President-elect Barack Obama wants to abandon NASA's road map to the moon, the space agency's chief says he wants no part of it. Not that NASA administrator Mike Griffin, a Bush administration appointee, is expecting to stay on when the Democrat takes office on January 20."

NASA Chief Doubts He'll Keep Job Under Obama, 13 Central Florida News

"Officials close to Obama's transition team said the new president is likely to review Constellation, which is having technical and financial problems that could delay its first mission, currently scheduled for 2015."

NASA HQ Internal Memo: Transition Procedures and Contacts

"Pursuant to the November 8, 2008 Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Transition Procedures, Identification of Transition Contacts, and Access to Non-Public Government and Transition information (MOU), and the accompanying Policy Statement Concerning Identification of Transition Contacts and Information Disclosure to Transition Personnel, the following individuals are authorized by the President-elect's Transition Team to work with NASA: Lori Garver, Roderic Young"

Changing NASA's Course? MSNBC

"In a follow-up phone call, Young confirmed the NASA Watch report and told me that he and Garver were just beginning their talks with space agency officials. Substantive policy discussions are not on the agenda right now. "It's high on listening, and offering options," he said."

Transition Update

Editor's note: So far nothing official has emerged regarding possible Administrator replacements for (likely) outgoing Administrator Mike Griffin - other than the usual rumors, gossip, and chatter (which I have tried to avoid promoting on NASA Watch.). However, this chart is making its way around town. While NASA is not included, it is interesting to see that the environment may take on an unusual prominence (Al Gore as "Climate Czar"). One would think that NASA's Earth Science work would become much more important than it has been for the past 8 years.

Gore says no to 'Climate Czar' role, Washington Times

"President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is flirting with creating a White House "Climate Czar," but climate change crusader Al Gore says he doesn't want the job."

Transition Update

Officials Guiding the Process Are Named, Washington Post

"The Obama transition team yesterday rolled out a new list of officials who will help guide the process, singling out the Treasury, Defense and State departments as its first three areas of focus. The transition team also set in motion a plan to review the policies and budgets at federal agencies and prepared to hire new personnel. .... Tom Wheeler: Science, technology, space and arts agencies. On leave from Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm that works with early-stage technology companies, where he is a managing director."

Editor's note: I am expecting to see the NASA team formally named shortly.

Reader note: "John Podesta is both the leader of Barack Obama's transition team and the progressive Center for American Progress think tank. CPA has just released the de facto Obama playbook, Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The table of contents identifies no specific chapter devoted to space exploration.

However, a separate position paper entitled The U.S. Space Program: Restoring Preeminence in Space Science and Exploration by Neal Lane and George Abbey is included elsewhere on the site."

Transition Update

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's Blog: Presidential Transition

"Since mid-summer NASA has been preparing for the Presidential transition that is now upon us. The Office of Management and Budget has led the efforts across the government and has been very forward leaning with both campaign teams to be ready to initiate a smooth transition, particularly with the challenges that we face as a nation today. While NASA usually does not factor as a near-term decision for incoming Administrations, this year the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted Shuttle retirement as one of its top 13 urgent issues across the government."

Space: Hoping for Change (Eric Sterner),

"President Obama himself is the wild card in the mix. During the Democratic primaries, he planned to cut into the Constellation program to pay for increased educational spending. Yet by the general election he had reversed himself and promised increased funding to close the gap between shuttle retirement in 2010 and Constellation's arrival in 2015. Does this change represent a true change of heart and the beginning of a commitment to our future in space, or an opportunistic campaign tactic to appeal to voters along Florida's important space coast? That remains to be seen."

More cash may flow for science, research, Huntsville Times

"Currently, NASA spends more than $5 billion of its $18 billion budget on human spaceflight, including the space shuttle program. Marshall's annual budget runs about $2.5 billion. For the Ares program, costly delays could threaten the shuttle replacement rockets, said Victoria Samson, a defense and space expert at the Center for Defense Information. Ares "has had a troubled development," she said. "There've been reports of shaking and wind trouble. It doesn't mean Ares won't eventually work, but it has to be sooner rather than later if the money is to keep coming."

Nelson tells Obama to keep Griffin -- for now, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Bill Nelson wants Michael Griffin to run NASA until President-elect Barack Obama finds a "surefire" replacement, according to an aide to the Florida Democrat. Nelson expressed his wishes in a phone call this week to Lori Garver, who is running Obama's NASA transition team. "He called Lori Garver and said that until they had a surefire choice, they should continue with Griffin. And he thinks Griffin is doing a good job," said Bryan Gulley, a Nelson spokesman. Gulley would not say who Nelson would support if or when Obama picks a new NASA administrator."

Editor's update: The transition Team, widely rumored (but not yet officially confirmed) to headed by Lori Garver, is due to begin work at NASA HQ next Monday.

AIP FYI #104: Obama Urged to Quickly Name Science Advisor

"Almost 180 organizations, including the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the American Astronomical Society signed letters to Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain urging them to quickly appoint a White House Science Advisor by Inauguration Day. The October letters also ask that this position be called the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and that it be made a cabinet-level position."

Obama Space Policy News

New attitude: Obama vows change, agency by agency, AP

"Obama is a space fan, and a troubled NASA is counting on that. NASA doesn't have enough money to do all it has planned and is facing key decisions about its embryonic return-to-the-moon program, new rocketship and about-to-retire space shuttle program. The current NASA plan would have the space shuttle end in 2010 and astronauts not ready to fly in a new moon rocket until 2015. In the five years in between, America would have to rely on the Russians to take astronauts to the mostly U.S.-funded international space station. NASA's robotic Mars program is in disarray, and its Earth-observing program has been downsized. The Obama campaign said it supports a "robust" program of robotic probes and space-based telescopes and satellites. It also emphasized education and NASA's role in climate change research."

5 Signs President-Elect Obama Is a Geek, Wired

"Barack Obama, soon to become the 44th President of the U.S.A., is many things: a statesman, a lawyer, an author, and an orator. It is also our opinion at GeekDad that, even without knowing him personally, we have enough evidence to demonstrate that he is a big geek. Even if you didn't want him to win the election, you have to admit that it would be awesome for him to be not only the first African-American President, but also the first geek President."

Transition Team Update

Obama picks transitionteam, IHT

"With the election now behind them, the Bush and Obama teams began the delicate 77-day transition period. The General Services Administration turned over 120,000 square feet, or 11,000 square meters, of office space in downtown Washington to the Obama transition team, and select Obama advisers were due to be given interim securityclearances."

12 Barack Obama Quotes on Technology

"We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet. ... Pointing to President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon, Mr. Obama said: "I will set big goals for this country as president - some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist."

Obama Tech Policy Advisor Is On The Transition Team, WIred

"President-elect Barack Obama has named a telecom policy and internet business veteran to his transition team, a move that signals the kind of people and policies that we might be hearing about in the days to come."

2009 Congressional and Presidential Transition, (new) GAO
Obama Transition Team Official website (online - but slow) Unfortunately, space doesn't show up in the drop-down menu as a major issue area or even under the "Additional Areas".
Presidential Transition, GAO
The United States Presidential Transition, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
Obama Transition Project Ethics Code

Transition Team SWAT Teams

Obama Plans Could Shake Up Federal Workforce

"Obama intends to make government more efficient by sending "SWAT teams" from the White House into major agencies to improve programs and eliminate waste and inefficiency. He has promised to install a White House chief performance officer to work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers accountable. He promises to save up to $40 billion a year by reducing government contracting, especially no-bid contracts."



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