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What’s next? A note from his Mom? January 1, 2009

Posted by shubber in Congress, CRATS, distracting PR, gauntlet being dropped, hot air, Manned Space, NASA, public service announcement, smack talk, space, Wasting Money.
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mophoto1275-300_

So in honor of our 300th post, i was planning to do a detailed examination of where we’ve been in the past couple years since the Space Cynics blog was started, how the industry has/hasn’t matured, predictions we (and others) have made that have/haven’t come true, etc.

And then I read this little gem.

Seems that Mike Griffin has been fighting pretty hard to keep his job when the new Administration takes over – and now he’s recruited his wife into the mix.  The headline:

Don’t Fire My Husband, NASA Chief’s Wife Begs Obama

Really? Have you no shame, Mike? It’s not like you’ve presided over any great legacy at NASA in your relatively short tenure under President Bush. You are beholden to your special interests in the military industrial complex, and only grudgingly have allowed any form of innovation or private sector involvement to participate in our development of space when forced, kicking and screaming, to adopt Zero G flights over the Vomit Comet or fund COTS – and even then you can’t do it right.

But to send out (via priority mail) copies of your speeches, as if anyone would want to suffer through them a SECOND time, was priceless.  Granted, it’s not like the total cost of mailing was even a rounding error in NASA’s budget – it’s about leadership.  The CEO of an organization, which is what you are for all intents and purposes, sets the tone for the people who choose to work for him.  When you engage in such behavior, it reinforces the wrong sort of message to the rank and file employees – no different than when the President chooses to get a hummer in the Oval Office from an intern and then lie about it on national television.

It’s about Leadership.

You missed great opportunities to engage in development of true CRATS, real hypersonics research, support initial studies into SBSP (yes, even though I am very cynical about it, that IS part of NASA’s job IMHO), and to put nails in the coffins of both VSE and the ISS, freeing up billions of dollars to fund the hardest part of the equation – getting out of the gravity well.

So, perhaps I can weave in a bit of “The 300” after all.   End your tenure with dignity, not sniveling before the next President begging for your job.  Or, even sadder, having your wife beg for you. DO your job, now, and then go out with pride.  If that’s still possible.

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Comments»

1. Eric Haynes - January 2, 2009

I kinda doubt Griffin recruited his wife, she probably did it on her own. As bad as he’s seemed in the last few weeks I have to say that he’s was 1,000 times better than Sean O’Keefe!

Mike, you can have all the degrees in the world but in a job like NASA admin you got to sell it to the people. You don’t name it VSE, you name it “America’s return to the Moon” program or something like that. You don’t smirk in your official NASA photograph, you smile. You may know it all, but don’t act like it. It turns people off and they’ll start hating you.

I hope the next NASA Administrator will learn from the good ones (Mike certainly had a lot of very good qualities) and also learn from the bad ones (That name O’Keefe comes to my mind over and over again). The “I’m smarter than all of you and I’ll get my way no matter what” just doesn’t appeal to many people.

Maybe we should get Dan Golding back lol!

2. Eric Haynes - January 2, 2009

Oops, I meant Dan Goldin, not Golding.

3. Jonathan Goff - January 2, 2009

Eric,
What did you dislike about O’Keefe? In some ways I thought he did a much better job than Griffin.

~Jon

4. Eric Haynes - January 9, 2009

Jon, by almost all accounts he was not qualified for the job. He was a OMB bean counter with absolutely no space, science, or engineering background. He was clueless at NASA and his cancellation of the last Hubble repair was ultimately his demise. He even failed after NASA, he was ousted from his $450,000 a year LSU Chancellor position last year.

The NASA Chief job is next to impossible anyway. I’ll give Mike Griffin credit that he was well qualified (over qualified perhaps) and up to the task at hand. He probably did the best with what he had. His major downfall was his ego, which led him to state inappropriate comments. You can’t do that in a political job like NASA, you must be at the top of your game at all times and never let your guard down.

That being said, if you put 2 or 3 Mike Griffin’s in charge of a space program with an unlimited budget we’d probably colonize the solar system in 50 years!

It’s possible Dan Goldin was the best NASA Chief we ever had. There was a reason he lasted through 2 administrations. True, he was known as a hatchet man but he could rally his troops and he was great with the public. You HAVE to do that to be successful.

5. Jonathan Goff - January 10, 2009

Eric,
I’m sort of confused by your message. First you say that O’keefe wasn’t qualified because he wasn’t an engineer, scientist, or space guy, but then you admit that the administrator is a fundamentally political job (which it is). One of NASA’s best administrators in the past (Webb) barely knew a wrench from a screwdriver, but he was a very effective *administrator* because he was policy and politically saavy. While I do think that a NASA admin ought to at least be excited about space, I’d rather have a saavy leader/policy person at the helm than an uber-smart engineer like Griffin. A policy person at least has a fighting chance of realizing they don’t know everything, and if at least one of their two closest underlings is a sharp engineering sort, I think that’s a better combo.

Really, Griffin’s problem was similar to what bedevils a lot of groups in the space arena–they’re led by engineers who are sharp as nails at engineering, but not really that good when it comes to either running a business or running an organization. It’s like what Michael Mealling said a long while back about the space industry–we need more business guys who become excited about space, than space guys who pretend they know business!

~Jon


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