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Letter from CASIS To NASA Regarding Complaints About CASIS Activities

Status Report From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Original document

January 22, 2018

Mr. Sam Scimemi
Director, International Space Station and CASIS Liaison
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters
300 E. Street SW
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Mr. Scimemi:

We are responding to your letter dated November 16, 2017, presenting several issues voiced by the ISS Program, outside stakeholders, and ISS National Laboratory Implementation Partners (IPs). First, we would like to thank you for your candid feedback and confirm that we take these issues very seriously. We have corrective actions already in process; a subset was previewed with you in our meeting in Houston in December. Our interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), Warren Bates, will be leading these activities until the permanent COO national search begins later this month. The COO, who will function as the day-to-day operational executive at CASIS, will report the status of operational activities and receive guidance frequently from me and our Board of Directors. These actions are outlined below addressing concerns listed in your letter.

- Issue 1: Unbalanced support to IPs possessing similar capabilities and

- Issue 2: Lack of transparency and parity in CASIS's IP selection process

-- Significant changes are being made to our IP selection process that will improve transparency while providing more weight to fairness in process design. Some of these changes include (a) stating a policy that the customer makes the IP selection and not CASIS, (b) releasing a new web portal that will (i) allow commercial service providers to view and bid on projects sourced by CASIS's business development efforts and (ii) provide a feedback platform both for general IP experience working with CASIS and also for CASIS to provide feedback if an IP is not selected, (c) communicating a policy that any projects sourced by IP business development efforts will be treated confidentially by CASIS and not shared with other IPs, and (d) initiating direct contacts between IPs and prospective customers at a predictable, defined point in our IP selection process.

-- Relationships will be improved with IPs from the working level through the Executive and Board levels. The COO will be responsible for improving these relationships and feedback loop. We are also in the process of hiring a Partnership Services Manager whose primary responsibility will be to build and maintain relationships with IPs further bolstering the resources focused on improving communications with IPs.

- Issue 3: Protection of IP intellectual property

-- We will publicly post our policy that if an IP brings a project to us that they sourced, CASIS will treat it as a confidential project and will not share without their consent. Furthermore, if a potential ISS NL user submits a project to us with an IP pre-selected, we will similarly not share it with other IPs. When appropriate, CASIS would enter into specific confidentiality agreements as requested by the IP (subject to negotiation and agreement of reasonable terms).

-- We are exploring potential ways to further enable and/or incentivize IP business development efforts that would benefit the ISS NL and LEO ecosystem development.

- Issue 4: Delayed communications with IPs

-- The web portal will provide the ability to run reports on all projects that a given IP has provided to CASIS or projects that have provided a bid. This will allow CASIS to provide timely responses to questions from IPs. IPs will receive timely information after their bid informing them whether they are being considered a candidate by the project proposer and whether they have been chosen as the provider of the service.

-- Furthermore, CASIS tracks its time from formal proposal submission to final determination of selection (or turn down with feedback). Currently, the average time for this process is 58 days. We are working to further streamline our review process. CASIS will also begin tracking the time from submission of initial project concept summary to formal proposal submission. The COO will be accountable to ensure that these improvements result in more timely communications with IPs.

- Issue 5: Insufficient communications between the operations and business development teams

-- Management of IP relationships will be run solely through the CASIS Operations team to ensure efficient and clear communications. The new Partnership Services Manager and COO will further support consistent messaging to IPs.

-- CASIS is continuing to build and improve processes that facilitate the logistics of getting to the ISS while working in collaboration with IPs and NASA on utilization planning and associated logistics. All of this activity is geared towards optimization of value and utilization. Because these evolved systems focus on building an inventory of payloads to support optimized utilization of ISS NL resources, it forces more communication to ensure synchronicity between our operations and business development teams. This should result in even better targeting of projects that will maximize utilization in a given increment, as well as consistency in messaging from these teams.

- Issue 6: Limited IP access to customers which were initially identified by CASIS

-- Our updated IP selection procedures will have a clearly defined point in the process at which time CASIS will facilitate direct contact between the customer and IP candidates. This will occur when the customer proposal request is released to IPs. Upon release through the IP web portal, CASIS will facilitate direct phone calls/meetings between IP candidates and the prospective customer to discuss the project further and enable the IPs to sufficiently respond by having access to the customer. This also provides an opportunity for the IP to better explain their capabilities and hardware to the customer.

-- On a related note, we will also be moving the time at which IPs are notified of potential opportunities to an earlier point in our business development process. Early concepts in development by potential users working with CASIS will be posted to the IP web portal so IPs will have visibility into the pipeline of potential projects. This will assist in their planning and preparation to respond to rapidly moving projects and customers.

- Issue 7: Perception of representational organization conflict of interest

-- We are updating our investor/company matchmaking procedures for your review and comment. The final form of these procedures will then be posted on our website so it is clear how CASIS will help businesses access its growing investor network without bias. It will be clear that we do not endorse companies—we simply make matches where there is mutual interest. Our goal is to maintain an open playing field where all IPs and Project Sponsors have access to the CASIS network with CASIS serving as a facilitator to initiate the discussions and leaving it to the parties to consummate a transaction.

-- The evolved IP selection process will improve transparency and communication with IPs on opportunities/projects sourced by CASIS business development efforts. Our processes will be clearly outlined to avoid the perception of subjectivity as much possible. Most importantly, it will be the customer who makes the ultimate IP selection, not CASIS. Our goal in this process: a wellinformed customer/Project Sponsor making a timely and independent decision. Several actions were proposed in the letter you delivered to us on November 16, 2017. Some of these were addressed in the above section. We have addressed the other proposed actions below:

- NASA HQ and ISS Program attendance at CASIS board meetings.

-- NASA HQ and ISS Program attendance is welcome at all future open sessions of CASIS board meetings. For the upcoming January 29 meeting of the CASIS board, NASA HQ and ISS Program attendees are also invited to attend closed sessions of the CASIS board meeting.

- Assurance that the Board of Directors is providing appropriate level of strategic guidance while using their individual professional networks to support CASIS business development functions.

-- Board leadership has already met with several key DC stakeholders and will focus to build strategic relationships with policymakers in DC over the upcoming months, including OMB and the National Space Council. This will be a recurring activity with reports back to NASA in conjunction with CASIS board meetings.

-- Board members are currently making visits to individual IPs for the purpose of learning more about their resources and needs, hearing their concerns, and planning for systems and operation that can contribute to their success.

-- In addition to their traditional role as board members including oversight and strategic planning, Board members will be expected to interface with their professional networks and appropriate top-level government/industry leaders to make introductions, facilitate discussions, and support CASIS business development functions.

- Merging the annual target metrics proposed by CASIS with the Cooperative Agreement required Annual Performance Plans to allow NASA/CASIS collaboration on mutually agreed upon annual goals.

-- We concur with this recommendation. We are currently working collaboratively with representatives from NASA HQ and ISS Program Office to arrive at mutually agreed upon goals as quickly as possible.

- Annual review of the effectiveness of the CASIS Board of Directors.

-- The Board will examine and optimize its committee structure, if appropriate, to best serve the CASIS mission and fulfill its traditional role of providing oversight while more efficiently interfacing with the CASIS staff.

-- As a standing policy, the performance of each board member will be assessed by the Executive Committee annually. Those board members who appear to be underperforming will be informed and cautioned. A failure to respond/improve performance may result in dismissal, but only after a careful review and due consideration.

Additional details are available upon request for any areas described above, including changes to our resource utilization and prioritization process, that will improve how proposals are targeted to enable maximum utilization.

Sincerely,


Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson, USAF (Ret)
Chairman of the Board of the Directors
CASIS

Gregory H. Johnson
President and Executive Director
CASIS

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