NASA's Strategic Plan

The Final Frontier

ASA's Renaissance began in Spring 1995. That's when an internal "Zero-Base Review" team proposed sweeping management and organizational changes designed to simplify operations, reduce overlap and cut spending by $5 billion in five years-all without curtailing space and aeronautics programs.

The six-month study, conducted in accordance with Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review, determined that the way to create a leaner and more efficient NASA was to prune the agency's infrastructure-jobs, facilities and administrative overhead. The proposals were adopted in NASA's 1996 Strategic Plan.

The Zero-Base Review established NASA's operating guidelines:

  • The agency's management framework rests on five strategic enterprises: Mission to Planet Earth, Aeronautics, Human Exploration and Development of Space, Space Science, and Space Technology.
  • Each of the 10 field centers has a primary mission reflecting its role in one of the strategic enterprises. Each will serve as a center of excellence for a certain technology.
  • Only civil servants and employees of the Jet Propulsion laboratory will perform in-house science, research and engineering work. Aerospace operations, including the space shuttle, will be the responsibility of NASA contractors.
  • Outsourcing and commercial services will be maximized.
  • Activities and operations will be standardized as much as possible and off-the-shelf products will be used whenever appropriate.

Under the plan, NASA Headquarters officials determine what the agency does and why. They are responsible for formulating programs, developing plans and setting policies.

A key step in NASA's reorganization was the careful sorting of roles and responsibilities for the field centers, which now must determine how the space agency gets its jobs done. Senior managers defined specific missions and areas of excellence for each center and selected one center to manage everything within its area of excellence.

  • Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif.-Mission: aerospace operations systems and astrobiology. Excellence: information technology.
  • Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, Calif.-Mission: flight research. Excellence: atmospheric flight operations.
  • Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.-Mission: Earth science/physics and astronomy. Excellence: scientific research.
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.-Mission: planetary science and exploration. Excellence: deep space systems.
  • Johnson Space Center, Houston, Tex.-Mission: human exploration and astro materials. Excellence: human operations in space.
  • Kennedy Space Center, Fla.-Mission and excellence: space launch.
  • Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.-Mission: airframe systems, aerodynamics and atmospheric science. Excellence: structures and materials.
  • Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio-Mission: aeropropulsion. Excellence: turbomachinery.
  • Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala,-Mission: transportation systems development and microgravity. Excellence: space propulsion.
  • Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, Miss.-Mission and excellence: propulsion test.
  • NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC-Mission and excellence: corporate office.

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