Major changes in store for NASA

Privatizing the space shuttle program is one of several management reforms the Bush administration is considering for NASA, President Bush's pick to lead the space agency told Congress Friday.

Sean O'Keefe, currently deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at his Senate confirmation hearing that NASA must cut its infrastructure costs so it can refocus on its core mission of exploring space. He also tried to reassure senators that promoting science, not cutting the budget, is his chief objective as he takes the reins of NASA.

"I don't know what the exact number of [space shuttle] flights should be, but it ought to be driven by payload requirements and the scientific mission," he said. O'Keefe will use the President's management agenda, including its competitive sourcing initiative, as a baseline for fixing the agency's personnel and budgetary woes, he said.

"If anything…what I find most challenging about the opportunity and what I'm looking forward to is the opportunity to implement the President's management agenda at an organization like NASA," O'Keefe said. Further privatization of the shuttle program is consistent with the Bush competitive sourcing plan, he said. The United Space Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, already handles some shuttle operations. But O'Keefe's OMB background clearly worried some senators who oppose the administration's decision to cap funding of the International Space Station, which is nearly $5 billion over budget. "I don't think the leader of NASA can be just a budget-cutter," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who added she supports O'Keefe's nomination with "reservations." Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., repeatedly questioned O'Keefe over the report of the International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force, a panel assembled by OMB and NASA to review the program. To curtail costs, the panel urged scaling back the station design so it accommodates fewer astronauts than originally planned, a move that will limit the amount of research the station can perform, according to Nelson. O'Keefe praised the report and said he will try to reconvene the task force to develop a long-term scientific vision for NASA. "Between the [task force] report and the President's Management Agenda, those are the two documents that I hope will be required reading throughout the organization," he said. In written testimony, O'Keefe criticized NASA's personnel policies in recent years, such as use of voluntary "buy-outs" to downsize the workforce. Because the departures were voluntary, NASA could not target its personnel losses with precision. "Unfortunately, such measures have an unpredictable impact on the agency's skill mix," he wrote. O'Keefe added that the administration's Managerial Flexibility Act would give the agency personnel flexibilities to make quick hires. O'Keefe is expected to receive quick confirmation and hopes to be at NASA by early January.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.