NASA denies allegations surrounding dismissal of safety advisers

Top managers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are reacting with surprise to a published report that claims the agency dismissed several of its top safety advisers because it did not agree with their advice.

NASA fired five members of its independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and two of the panel's consultants last year after an expert warned that the U.S. shuttle fleet would have safety problems if the agency's budget was not increased, according to a Feb. 3 report in The New York Times. The newspaper said a sixth member resigned in anger over the firings.

"I'm surprised," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told CNN on Feb. 3, two days after the shuttle Columbia, streaking home to Florida from a 16-day science mission, broke apart and rained debris and human remains over as many as five states. "[The panel is] a valuable source of advice and recommendations to us and we've acted upon those," O'Keefe said.

Former panelists accused NASA of "developing institutional myopia" about the panel's warnings and observations, according to the newspaper. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel's most recent report, released in March 2002, said that while safety had not yet been compromised, "the current and proposed budgets are not sufficient to improve or even maintain the safety risk level" of operating the shuttle and the U.S.-led international space station. A month after the report came out, ousted ASAP Chairman Richard Blomberg told Congress, "I have never been as worried for space shuttle safety as I am right now."

NASA officials acknowledged replacing the panelists, but said it did so in an effort to infuse the panel with fresh talent and expertise. In a news conference, NASA Associate Administrator of Space Flight William Readdy denied the panelists were fired. "They provide us with expert advice and we value the reports they generate," he said. Several individuals, including Blomberg, had served an average of 12 years and were forced out when the agency decided in April 2001 to limit terms of service to six years.

The change in the charter created vacancies on the panel that were filled by several people with an intimate knowledge of the space shuttle program. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Forrest McCartney, director of Florida's Kennedy Space Center during NASA's recovery from the 1986 Challenger disaster, is vice chairman on the panel. Members include former Shuttle Commander Sidney Gutierrez and aerospace consultant Robert Sieck, who directed shuttle processing at Kennedy in the 1990s. Former astronaut Bernard Harris is among the panel's consultants.

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.