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Letter From CASIS to NASA: Visits to CASIS Implementation Partners and Washington, DC Stakeholders

Status Report From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Original document

March 1, 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:

At your request, General Abrahamson and Dr. Schein, on behalf of the CASIS Board of Directors, undertook a series of visits to CASIS Implementation Partners and Washington, DC stakeholders. These were for the specific purpose of learning more about the current state of relationships between the parties, and to identify ways in which CASIS can more effectively support the efforts of our partners. Further, at our direction, the entire CASIS team is working to formulate a set of policies to address any issues that arose from these reviews and where required, to implement the policies into our procedural software.

Meetings

Gen. Abrahamson and Dr. Schein met together for the initial visit with Jeffrey Manber of NanoRacks, at his Washington, DC headquarters, as well as meetings with Scott Pace and his staff at the President's Space Council and Sam Black at OMB. Following this initial round of discussion, the visit schedule was divided and is outlined below:

- December 15, 2017: NanoRacks – Jeffrey Manber (Washington, DC)
- January 11, 2018: Bioserve Space Technologies – Dr. Louis Stodieck, Stefanie Countryman, and
Mark Rupert (Boulder, CO)
- January 18, 2018: NanoRacks – Marcia Hodge and Michael Lewis (Webster, TX)
- January 18, 2018: Airbus Defense and Space – Kris Kuehnel and Ron Dunklee (Webster, TX)
- January 18, 2018: STaARS – Heath Mills (Houston, TX)
- January 19, 2018: Craig Technologies - Bill Corley (Houston, TX)
- January 19, 2018: Boeing – Kevin Foley and Scott Copeland (Houston, TX)
- January 19, 2018: Alpha Space – Stephanie Murphy (Houston, TX)
- January 22, 2018: Techshot – John Vellinger (Greenville, IN)
- January 23, 2018: Space Tango – Twyman Clements and Kris Kimel (Lexington, KY)
- January 25, 2018: OMB – Sam Black (Washington, DC)
- January 25, 2018: Senator "Bill" Nelson of Florida, the Eisenhower Senate Office
(Washington, DC)
- January 25, 2018: National Space Council – Scott Pace (Washington, DC)

Messages Delivered by the CASIS Board

CASIS is committed to establishing and maintaining a strong working relationship with all its partners and judges its success, in some considerable measure, by the success of its partners in maintaining an active business in LEO. We serve to satisfy the requirements of the Project Sponsors that NASA and CASIS are recruiting to the program. In doing so, the CASIS operating policy is one that must also be characterized by fairness and transparency, without any attempt at favoritism. While genuinely serving all, we must maintain a level playing field so that all interested parties have an opportunity to participate in the growing economy on the ISS and LEO, in general. We are also very interested in receiving feedback from all our partners on a regular basis and at an appropriate level, so that we can determine whether our organization is performing as expected. We are especially interested in becoming informed, both promptly and directly, on any issues that arises that suggest that the organization is deviating from its stated policies. Our goals are to (1) ensure that all Project Sponsors are fully informed as to what resources and opportunities are available that will allow them to successfully carry out their research program on the ISS, and (2) allow them to make an independent decision as to which Implementation Partner to choose in instances where there are duplicative services.

What was Learned?

First, there is a large and mature external resource available in the form of Implementation Partners that well serves that mission of the National Laboratory. We will not go into detail in this aspect our report. The messages received about current relationships with CASIS and its management team varied somewhat amongst the Implementation Partners. In general, relationships were described as positive and constructive. In several instances, partners voiced their appreciation of the business development operations at CASIS which fed new projects into their programs. There was one notable instance where CASIS might have deviated from its central policy of fairness, as it related to access to the CASIS network of venture partners. Corrective action has since been taken and the responsible member of the CASIS staff is no longer with the organization.

During the conversations several areas for improvement were identified and actions are now being taken to make improvements in the CASIS operations. These came in three basic categories:

(1) The provision of more detailed information about a new project up for bid to ensure that the project requirements are fully understood and can be responded to regarding services, facilities and estimated costs;

(2) Partners in several instances requested direct access to new Project Sponsors to better describe their program, and their services and facilities, and again to better understand the requirements of the project and prepare an appropriate budget; and

(3) Better communication from CASIS to the Implementation Partner that has submitted a competitive proposal so that the IP knows where they stand and whether they are still in the running as a service provider to be chosen by the Project Sponsor.

We encouraged all Implementation Partners to attend the CASIS Implementation Partners Workshop held in Houston on January 30, 2018. More than 50 people attended from more than 30 entities. The workshop provided the CASIS management team a better understanding of any obstacles that interfere with effective CASIS-Implementation Partner working relationships. The forum also allowed CASIS to articulate its new policies that ensure all partners are being treated fairly and without bias or favoritism.

CASIS also provided a preview of the new Implementation Partner portal to be released in April that will help to address the concerns raised by the community. We have recommended that the Implementation Partners regularly update the information they provide on their web sites, accessible through the CASIS portal, including new services and facilities and services available to Project Sponsors. Our feedback loop from Implementation Partners will also be improved through more frequent in-person interactions with both management and board members as well as automated survey tools deployed through the CASIS Implementation Partner portal to be released in April.

Management Changes

The Board also made a careful and well-considered review of the performance of its Executive Director: The Board felt that he had made many important improvements and had built the CASIS organization into a strong level of capability. However, we felt that a new set of talents and style of leadership would be needed for the dynamic new environment facing the CASIS mission. Hence, a decision was reached to seek new leadership for the program. A national search for a replacement has been launched.

In the interim, the Board voted to request that General Abrahamson assume the responsibilities of the Executive Director on an acting basis until a new permanent appointment as been made. General Abrahamson agreed and will serve in this capacity starting on March 10, 2018. The Board expressed its appreciation to General Abrahamson for his willingness to accept this assignment. It was also determined that CASIS should not function with a Chairman of the Board, who is temporarily but simultaneously also acting as the Executive Director. Therefore, Dr. Schein, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, has been elected as the new Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors.

Additionally, and at the request of NASA, the Board created the position of Chief Operating Officer. Warren Bates was selected to serve in that position until a permanent appointee has been named. A national search was initiated but was subsequently suspended pending the selection of a new Executive Director. Mr. Bates, in the opinion of the Board, is serving ably in his new capacity.

Board Reorganization

During its most recent meeting the Board carefully reviewed the current structure and function of its operating committees to ensure that all aspects of the CASIS mission are being adequately supported. At the moment, it is believed that the board composition, regarding subject matter expertise and commitment, well serves the CASIS program but that the organization will always be on the hunt for new talent. The structure of standing committees has been revised and will now include an Operations Committee, chaired by Joe Formichelli, and a Business Development Committee to be chaired by Dr. Schein. These new efforts will complement the existing structure: Governance, Finance, Audit, Science/Technology and Education/Outreach.

The CASIS Board will play an increasingly active role in communicating the long-term value of the ISS National Laboratory, including a regular cadence of engagements with DC stakeholders, and especially with NASA, OMB and the President's Space Council.

The actions outlined in this letter were all carefully coordinated verbally and with excellent advice from NASA during the period of the above actions. This letter is to complete the documentation of these initial actions. We look forward to additional progress, and opportunities to timely reporting of further action to accelerate our CASIS mission and mandate. We also appreciate the advice and call to action NASA provided to enhance our responsiveness and our mission execution. Thank you for being our excellent partner!

Sincerely,

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

Dr. Philip Schein, M.D.
Transitioning Interim Executive Director, CASIS currently elected Chairman of the Board, CASIS

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