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Personnel News


By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
December 31, 1997

22 December 1997: Securacom Inc. Appoints Lt. General James A. Abrahamson, USAF- Retired – to its Board, press release, Yahoo

21 December 1997: Astrophysicist Schramm Dies in Plane Crash, Reuters, Yahoo

19 December 1997: KSC Launch Director Harrington to retire; successors named, KSC press relase, Florida Today

18 December 1997: Administrator’s Holiday Greeting, from Dan Goldin

“NASA’s successes did not happen because we have good luck.
Nor did they happen because of any one person. Each happened
because high goals were set and talented men and women, like
you, worked together to meet the challenges..”

And the reward for 600 of these “talented men and women” at KSC from Dan “Scrooge” Goldin and Paul “Grinch” Smith? A Christmas Eve layoff announcement!

17 December 1997:   Paul M. Johnstone, Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, passed away on Wednesday, December 17,1997.

14 December 1997: Special Report: Florida’s Future in Space Competing with the world, Florida Today

“The state’s long dominance in launching rockets is over, a victim
of global competition. Unless strong action is taken, Florida’s spaceports could become ghost towns in the 21st century.”

13 December 1997: NASA, Goldin looking hard at options in face of budget shortfall, Florida Today

14 December 1997: 
Latest MSFC rumors.

This is the latest: Roy Estes moves from his current position as Stennis center director to become center director at MSFC;
astronaut Jan Davis (former MSFC employee and UAH graduate) moves from JSC to become deputy MSFC center director (she’d be JSC center director George Abbey’s eyes and ears we suppose). Another part of this rumor has Carolyn Griner, the current MSFC deputy center director (usually an obvious choice to be considered for center director) moving back to NASA HQ, possibly to replace Wil Trafton as as Code M AA.

14 December 1997: 
Another Associate Administrator to leave NASA HQ?

We understand that Code H (Office of Procurement) Associate Administrator Deidre Lee has been telling folks that she will be leaving NASA. Add this to vacancies at Code J, L, M, R, and Y and you have 7 of the 19 (one third) HQ Offices without an AA.

Why hasn’t Dan replaced any of these folks with permanent appointees? As we understand the situation, most of the people who are qualified do not want the position. Those that would take the job are either not qualified or not politically acceptable to Dan Goldin and/or George Abbey.

There may be more departures soon: we know of at least two other AA’s (both from Codes near the beginning of the alphabet) who has also expressed an interest in leaving the agency.

This is hardly the way to head into 1998, Dan – a year which many inside and outside NASA see as being one of the most challenging NASA has ever faced.

12 December 1997: Brevard deserves some answers about space center’s future, an open letter to Dan Goldin, A Florida Today editorial (Goldin speaks in Cocoa Beach today)

10 December 1997: Personnel Changes at MSFC

Outgoing Center Director, Dr. Wayne Littles, announced Wednesday some
personnel changes. Sid Saucier, Propulsion Lab Director, will
become MSFC’s Associate Director, replacing Susan Smith who is
retiring. Bill Taylor, Deputy Director of Science and
Engineering, will assume duties as the Director of Science and
Engineering, replacing Sherman Jobe who also retires this month.
The changes are effective Dec. 21.

8 December 1997: JSCA 97-101 – Key Personnel Assignment

“With Capt. Wetherbee’s return, Col. Brian Duffy will resume his responsibilities as Assistant Director (Technical).”

7 December 1997:  Wil Trafton has landed.

We have received word that Wil Trafton, former Associate Administrator for Space Flight, will begin work on Monday, 8 December, as Executive Vice President of International Launch Services.

1 December 1997:  Rich Christiansen was named as Acting AA for Code R.

This was announced at an all-hands today. Given all of the bad news we hear about NASA’s FY 1999 budget we don’t expect Rich to be having much fun.

20 November 1997:  A Mission By Any Other Name. Why is Dan Goldin changing Code Y’s name?

Mission to Planet Earth is getting a new name. But is that all that will change? We have been getting lots of different spins on this.

“This name change was mentioned by Dan Goldin in an SES Leadership meeting in Washington D.C. two weeks ago. At that meeting, Dan said that he was changing the name to something such as “The Office of Earth Science” and is reported to have said that he just felt that the current name “didn’t send the right vibes” and that “Earth Science” is more consistent- and explainable – than was “Mission to Planet Earth”.

20 November 1997:  MSFC buyout application date deadline extended to COB, 12 December 1997.

Some MSFC cynics suggest that this is being done so that people can see who the new MSFC Center Director is before they make their decision…….

13 November 1997: 
Wil Trafton is leaving NASA

Office of Space Flight Associate Administrator Wil Trafton announced this morning at an all-hands meeting that he was leaving NASA sometime in December. No word (yet) as to where he is going or who will replace Trafton.

13 November 1997: 
Trafton announces his departure from NASA, NASA press release

13 November 1997: 
Statement by House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee chair Dana Rohrabacher

“Wil Trafton is an incredibly decent and capable man who time and time again was sent up here to run interference for the decisions of other
NASA managers. While I understand he is leaving for personal reasons, I
know that if I were in his shoes I would be very tired of taking other
people’s medicine for them. “

14 November 1997: NASA space station, shuttle chief calls it quits , Orlando Sentinel

14 November 1997: NASA’s associate administrator for space flight quits, Florida Today

13 November 1997:  A note from Jim Oberg.

I did resign from USA on November 12. This caught everyone (including my employers) by surprise.  However, it had been on my mind to do this for some time and to move on to more exciting opportunities. I hope to stay in touch with all my friends, old and new.

Email [email protected], phone/fax 281-337-2838.

NASA Watch note: The truth is out there.

10 November :  Letter from GSFC Associate Director Art Fuchs to all GSFC employees regarding “Project Goddard restructuring” and GESTA/AFGE negotiations.

7 November 1997: 
Susan Smith, Associate Center Director at MSFC, announced today that she will be retiring.

Ms. Smith was formerly the Chief Counsel at MSFC before being named to her present position by current Center Director, Wayne Littles.

7 November 1997: MSFC Center Director rumors abound.

The astronaut Shannon Lucid/astronaut Bonnie Dunbar rumors are starting to fade. They have been replaced with Office of Safety and Mission Assurance (Code Q) AA (and former astronaut) Fred Greogry and RLV Program Head (and former astronaut) Gary Payton.

UPDATE: Now these rumors are starting to fade. NASA Watch sources around NASA HQ and MSFC point to someone from the outside as the new MSFC Center Director. Supposedly, a military nominee with 3 or 4 stars is under consideration.

6 November 1997: MSFC’s Sherman Jobe to retire.

MSFC Science and Engineering Director, Sherman Jobe
announced his retirement yesterday. He was in this postion for less than 2 years. NASA Watch sources at MSFC expect another 2-3 top level MSFC managers to announce their retirement before the end of next week. 14 November is the last day to apply for the buyout at MSFC.

5 November 1997: Bud Jupin, USA head at KSC has up and quit.

5 November 1997: 
Robert Whitehead, Associate Administrator, Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology (OASTT) Code R is leaving NASA.

Whitehead announced at a 4 November all hands meeting that he was going to be leaving NASA in December. UPDATE: Some speculation suggests that Gary Payton might be under consideration to replace Whitehead.

4 November 1997: 
Time for a new phone book at NASA HQ?

We have heard that Code C AA Chris Christensen is working on a reorganization plan for NASA Headquarters. Among the rumoured consolidations is a merger of Code F and Code J — and possibly, a Code F, J ,and H merger. Perhaps the long- rumoured consolidation of HEDS and Space Station payload activities within Code M (currently split between Code U and M) will be part of this.

3 November 1997: 
Taking the Fall, Government Executive Magazine.

Downsizing, management, etc. Some NASA folks are interviewed. Wanna be a Team Leader?

29 October 1997:  National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Use of
Appropriations to Fund Expansion of “Career Transition Assistance
, B-272040, October 29, 1997, General Accounting Office


The General Counsel, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has requested a decision on the propriety of using appropriations to fund an expansion of its “Career Transition Assistance Program” (CTAP). The CTAP is operated by a contractor and offers outplacement services to NASA employees. NASA is considering an expansion of the program to offer additional services in part to offset the costs of agency downsizing. As explained below, we would not object to NASA using otherwise available funds for the expanded program provided NASA determines that the expenditures primarily inure to NASA’s benefit and the additional cost is reasonable in light of the anticipated benefits to NASA. “

27 October 1997: Wayne Littles resigns as Director of MSFC

At the end of a staff meeting this morning, Dr. Littles announced that he was retiring from NASA effective 3 January 1998. Current Deputy Director Carolyn Griner would be an obvious (and desirable) choice to replace Littles. However, rumors are circulating that JSC Center Director George Abbey would like to see an astronaut named as the new MSFC center director. A female astronaut.

28 October 1997: Marshall Center Director Dr. Wayne Littles to Retire, NASA Press Release

27 October 1997: New Deputy Director at LeRC

LeRC has announced a new Deputy Director position and someone to fill it: Dr. Phillip Walker, currently Director for Diversity Management. From what we understand there was no advertised vacancy announcement for this position.

6 October 1997: Letter regarding MSFC’s roles and mission sent to Dan Goldin from Sen. Shelby, Sen. Sessions, and Rep. Cramer.

13 August 1997: Big cuts at Code M?

Word has reached us that Dan Goldin has directed Code M to finally make the big cuts in its HQ personnel. The current head count of 106 is supposed to get down to 65. Word has it that Chris Christensen at Code C has been given carte blanche in selecting Code M folks for reassignment – to Code C.

Why is it that all the HQ codes are cutting personnel while Code C, the supportive infrastructure, is growing? Seems counter-intuitive to us, but then again, this is Dan Goldin’s NASA i.e. Never A Straight Answer.

8 August 1997: Memo from Doug Stone to Space Station Employees

“Because of where we are, and the continued strains on program funding, we are in the process of restructuring our organization to meet program needs in a more efficient manner.”

29 April 1997: It’s been a month Dan.

Hey Dan, it has been one month since your all hands meeting, office visits, and pledge to communicate more often with your employees. You haven’t done anything.

We have been watching the Headquarters Restructuring Website for a month now (Yawn). Little or nothing happening there. Virtually no one seems to want to call the hotline and there seems to be little interest in setting up the electronic feedback service that has been promised for a month now.

And just what is this service center anyways? The words have been bounced around for several months now yet we just can’t seem to find a description of it anywhere. Will this Service Center actually do anything or is this yet another attempt to look like you are thinking about people’s well-being when in fact you are doing nothing but pretending to be concerned?

The charts [1] [2] [3] regarding the service center from the 26 February 1997 “HQ Workforce Restructuring Options Discussion briefing” mention that NASA will “Set up service group function May 97”. May is 2 days away.

On 24 March, you made a series of committments to be more communicative with your staff at Headquarters. We gave you some action items on 25 March. We see no evidence whatsoever that you have paid attention to them – or to any of the committments you made on 24 March.

And yet you still wonder why people are dissatisfied with the way you manage them?

24 March 1997: Recommendations and Action Items

At one point in the morning’s Q&A session, Dan did say that he was going to walk around HQ more often and would try and visit a different code every week. We think this is a great idea and that Dan should be doing this all over NASA – not just at Headquarters.

Dan, today’s effort, while years over due, was a good start. One session shows that you are concerned. A second meeting will demonstrate interest. However, subsequent meetings must show clear evidence that you are acting on the input you have received or your words will once again start to ring hollow.

Action item for Dan Goldin: publish the schedule for each HQ Code visit on the NASA Headquarters website. Do the same for the visits you do to the NASA Centers. Once the visit is complete, post the questions/issues raised by your employees, and the actions you take to deal with these issues. As you complete these actions, please post the results. Today’s activities should be the first of these reports to your workforce.

Do these things and more people might just believe that you are truly concerned about the people at NASA – as well as NASA’s programs. As former JSC Center Director Gerry Griffin said in his 31 December 1996 editorial,

“The men and women of NASA and their contractors can do anything this country wants them to do. All it takes is leadership — not management, leadership.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.