- Press Release
- August 9, 2022
Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters
NASA Federal Advisory Committees; Notice of Committees Re- Establishment Pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Federal Register
“The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has determined that the re-establishment of four (4) NASA Federal advisory committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) is necessary and in the public interest in connection with the performance of duties imposed upon NASA by law. This determination follows consultation with the Committee Management Secretariat, General Services Administration. These four committees were originally established on January 17, 2017. These four committees and their charters expired on June 12, 2021. Name of Federal Advisory Committees: Astrophysics Advisory Committee; Heliophysics Advisory Committee; Earth Science Advisory Committee; and Planetary Science Advisory Committee.”
Keith’s note: Its nice that someone at NASA noticed that these 4 important FACA advisory committees expired a month and a half ago. The last time that the NASA Advisory Committee had a public meeting was 31 October – 1 November 2019 – that was one year before the 2020 election. Yes, the pandemic upset things but NASA now has a thousand webinars, telecons, etc, every single day. NASA and its external communities have the whole telework thing down – just like the rest of us.
According to the official NAC website the NAC Aeronautics, Human Exploration and Operations, Regulatory and Policy, Science, STEM Engagement, and Technology, Innovation and Engineering Committees last met in 2019 along with the NAC itself. NASA has not even bothered to put up information resulting from any of these meetings. Nor is there any indication of when there will be new meetings. But wait – on another page on the NASA Aeronautics Directorate website says that the Aeronautics Committee met on 7 July 2021. And the Science Committee met on 14-15 April 2021 according to the Federal Register, and the Technology, Innovation and Engineering Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) met on 27 January 2021. And so on. No one seems to know what the NAC does and when it does it.
Oh yes: the NAC Science Committee’s subcommittees have somehow managed to continue to meet on a regular basis throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, NASA seems to have been so uninterested in the whole policy advisory thing that they forgot that the charters for these four active NAC science committees expired 6 weeks ago. If committees just evaporate and the NAC people cannot grasp which committee and subcommittees are or are not meeting, what else has slipped through the cracks?
The Office of Science at Technology Policy is still getting up to speed with regard to space policy. After a brief flurry of arm waving several months ago about who should be the executive secretary of the National Space Council, no one has heard a peep out of the Vice President’s office as to what is going on with that advisory committee or with its associated Users Advisory Committee. As such, NASA is simply making up policy based on what they derive from the White House without all of the ususal advisory apparatus in place that usually helps guide these things. Meanwhile, major budget issues confront the agency. Its large flagship project the Artemis Program with its giant rocket that is a decade late and many billions of over budget and the only solution seems to be a care package from TBD Infrastructure legislation. And then there is the while Human Landing System mess. NASA is at a crossroads in many ways. You’d think that there’d be a little more attention given to getting some external advice and reality checks.
The whole NAC thing is run by the Advisory Committee Management Division of the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). The OIIR is not known for being up to date on things. As I noted a month ago NASA’s International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn’t Bother To Update. They have no link to the Artemis Accords (which that office negotiated several years ago) and *all* of the policy links they have listed go to broken links that evaporated when the Trump Administration left office. I pointed all of this out a month ago. But NASA OIIR Associate Administrator Karen Feldstein and her team seem to be sleepwalking through the whole idea of telling stakeholders and taxpayers what they are doing or, in this case, what they are not doing.
– No One Really Knows/Cares What The NASA Advisory Council Does, earlier post