Status Report

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 29-30 November 2005

By SpaceRef Editor
January 25, 2006
Filed under ,
NASA Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 29-30 November 2005

November 29-30, 2005

House and Senate Office Buildings

Washington, DC


House & Senate Office Buildings, Washington, DC

November 29-30, 2005

Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC
November 29, 2005

Opening Remarks

The Hon. Senator Harrison H. Schmitt, Chair of the NASA Advisory Council (the Council) called the meeting to order at 8:00 a.m.

Dr. Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, welcomed members and attendees to his inaugural Council meeting. The Council is one of two bodies specifically chartered by Congress to give advice to NASA. The Council members have the highest credentials of accomplishment and will work with NASA across several major areas to provide external guidance and critique. Advisory groups that have worked in the past with the mission directorates will be brought under the auspices of the Council. One of the goals of this meeting will include development of the Council’s “goforward” plan. He asked all of the members to look carefully at the time commitment that would be necessary for the work, and to inform him if they would not be able to support the commitment needed for the plan.

Senator Schmitt also welcomed and thanked the members. He indicated that the group would work to provide productive insight to the Agency, and also emphasized the importance of members’ regular attendance. Senator Schmitt thanked the House Science Committee and its staff for the use of its Hearing Room in the Rayburn House Office Building, and noted that this meeting was open to the public and held in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) under which the Council will operate.

Senator Schmitt reviewed the manner in which the Council was organized. The newly organized Council is composed of five Committees: Exploration, chaired by Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson; Science, chaired by Dr. Charles Kennel; Aeronautics, chaired by Mr. Neil Armstrong; Audit and Finance, chaired by Mr. Robert Hanisee; and Human Capital, chaired by Dr. Gerald Kulcinski. A regular meeting of the Council and its Committees will be held on a quarterly basis. On the day preceding each Council meeting, the Committees will meet; Subcommittees, if they are formed, will meet sometime prior to the Committee meetings. The Council and each of its Committees will publish a short annual report, including approved recommendations. Those reports should include a tentative plan for the succeeding year. According to the NASA Policy Directive for advisory committees, the Council Committees will operate under the letter and spirit of the FACA although not formally chartered as FACA committees. Committees and Subcommittees may have open meetings, subject to the discretion of the Chairs, but may engage in fact-finding meetings not open to the public. Committees will present and discuss their recommendations for Council action with the Council as a whole in open session.

After Senator Schmitt briefly described his background and interests, each of the Council members similarly introduced themselves (see Council biographies in Appendix B).

Dr. Griffin thanked all of the members for their service on the Council. The programs to be presented for review by the Council are within an overall NASA strategy, and within that context, the advice will be most useful. The civil space program is not going to receive a lot of new money. The President has allowed NASA to grow with inflation and slightly more, but it is not reasonable to expect growth beyond that. The space program will go forward in a new vector. Dr. Griffin indicated that he believes that the future of the US Space Program lies beyond Earth orbit, but that future needs to be reached in an orderly, careful, and expeditious way. We must protect and preserve the robust Space Science program created in NASA over the years. Inevitably, science, as well as other activities in NASA, has been asked to help pay to return the Shuttle to flight; however, despite rumors to the contrary, science has not been asked to pay for human exploration. Aeronautics is a third major pillar within NASA and is crucial to the nation, although it is not equal financially to the other pillars. Dr. Griffin noted that we need to understand that there has been substantial progress within the entrepreneurial sector that could be taken advantage of, and helping to strengthen that segment of the community is a primary goal.

Finally, as the President stated in his speech last year, we invite other nations to join in the exploration journey. However, cooperation should not put international partners or commercial providers on the critical path. The Council can provide its advice in this area. It can help NASA in its endeavor to keep stakeholders in the administration and Congress satisfied.

Senator Schmitt then noted that the primary goal of this meeting was for the members to gain a strong background in NASA missions and issues through a series of informational presentations and discussions. Over the next two days, the Council received updates from NASA’s mission directorates as well as the financial, human resources, small and disadvantaged business, and education offices.

Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)

Ms. Diane Rausch, NASA Advisory Committee Management Officer (ACMO), briefed the Council on the FACA. She noted the long tradition of advice to the Federal government. Today, there are over 1,000 Federal advisory committees. NASA’s advisory committees have fluctuated from two (at present) to 26. Ms. Rausch discussed the nature of advisory committees, when FACA applies, and requirements of the FACA. Advisory committees can be established by statute, the President, or a Federal agency. She referred Council members to the Council charter. Mr. Chris Blackerby is the Designation Federal Official (DFO) and Executive Director of the Council. Basic requirements of the law include: a charter, a balanced membership (with regard to points of view), public meetings, formal minutes, opportunity for public filing of written statements, announcement of meetings in the Federal Register, and maintenance of all committee documents for public inspection. In addition, every Federal agency is required to have an ACMO and each FACA advisory committee must have a DFO. There are two types of advisory committee members, “Special Government Employees” (SGEs) and “Representatives.” All of the Council members are SGEs.

In response to a question regarding subcommittees, Ms. Rausch indicated that Subcommittees that are deliberating and intend to report recommendations back to the Committees should have public meetings with the exception of some fact-finding meetings. NASA’s policy is that Subcommittees will act in full compliance with the FACA, even though they are not chartered under the law. Ms. Rausch highlighted the process and conditions for closed meetings and “non-FACA meetings.” She noted that the Administrative Session on the second day would be a non-FACA meeting—it is a purely administrative session. Ms. Rausch agreed that vetting Committee findings and recommendations through the Council is a good process to use. Key FACA regulations and policies can be found in 41CFR Parts 101-6 and 102-03, and NASA Policy Directive 1150.11. The purpose of the Council is to advise; only Agency officials can make decisions and implement policy and directions. Ms. Rausch noted that there will be a NASA website for the Council, but it is currently in under construction. In response to a question, Mr. Robert Flaak, Director of the

Committee Management Secretariat in GSA’s Office of Government Policy, noted that some agencies accept the advisory committee reports and some don’t. Many of the recommendations are not adopted in any way whatsoever. He and his staff are working with agencies to help them improve the ways that recommendations are implemented. In response to a question about liability, Mr. Andrew Falcon from NASA’s Office of General Counsel, noted that advisory members, as SGEs, are probably not liable for their decisions; however, the final determination is subject to the Attorney General.

Ethics Briefing

Mr. Michael Wholley, NASA General Counsel, introduced Mr. Andrew Falcon, from the Office of the General Counsel, and emphasized his Office’s proactive support to the Council. Mr. Falcon provided the ethics briefing for SGEs serving on the Council. He discussed the appointment as an SGE and what it means—SGEs are subject to ethics rules and post employment rules. The Agency has an obligation to work with the Council to ensure that it follows the ethics rules. He emphasized that potential issues must be worked in advance, and the Council’s first line of defense is the DFO, Mr. Blackerby.

Mr. Falcon discussed representational conflicts and how they apply to SGEs, financial conflicts, and post-employment restrictions. Where there is a potential conflict, the Council member needs to have a conversation in advance with the Office of General Counsel to see what options may be available. In response to a question regarding stock trading, Mr. Falcon recommended that people talk to him first on an informal basis if the stock is with companies in the NASA contractor base. The formal statutory obligation is the Financial Disclosure Statement, and the General Counsel Office will review those statements. Mr. Falcon and his colleagues will work with the Council in advance to ensure that there is a plan for avoiding conflicts of interest. The simple solution for all of the restrictions is to avoid participating personally and substantially in particular matters in which the party has a substantial interest. Mr. Falcon provided contact names and numbers in the Office of General Counsel and encouraged Council members to call any of the contacts if they have questions or concerns. The most important point for the members to keep in mind is awareness of his or her personal and professional activities outside NASA and what topics will be coming up on the Council agenda. The trickiest question that often arises is when something is a “particular matter.” Senator Schmitt indicated that as soon as the list of Council topics is finalized, he would like Mr. Falcon to review it.

Exploration Systems

Dr. Scott Horowitz, Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), provided an update on the Exploration Systems Architecture. He reviewed the Vision for Space Exploration (the Vision) that was announced by the President in January 2004. The Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), completed in summer 2004, looked at a number of options in developing an overall architecture and plan. The first step is the Moon – learning how to operate away from low Earth orbit (LEO) as well as developing technologies such as crew and cargo launch vehicles, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), and Mars ascent and descent propulsion systems. In addition, fundamental science will be conducted. The first two missions will be part of the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP), and will include (1) a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and (2) an RLEP-2 Lander.

Dr. Horowitz discussed the CEV. There has been considerable debate about what the CEV should be. Studies have concluded that a blunt body capsule is the safest, most affordable, and fastest approach. The Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) design is currently a two-stage vehicle, one engine per stage, to deliver over 50,000 pounds to LEO. The heavy lift EELV, of which there are two, the Delta IV and Atlas V, has a 125 metric ton lift capacity. In response to a question regarding the EELV, Dr. Horowitz stated that the design document is stable and is a good starting point. Currently, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is the lead integrator for the CLV; one of the next developments is the Earth departure stage. The J-2S engine is out of production, and this type of engine would have to be developed or brought back to life. NASA does not have the budget for two parallel paths. The plan is to compete the second stage. The Lunar Lander and Ascent stage are further into the architecture and are represented conceptually at this time. The descent stage is baselined as a hydrogen/oxygen system. In response to a comment, Dr. Horowitz indicated that different chemistries are being examined and trades are still being done. Much of the funding for the Prometheus program (nuclear thermal propulsion) has been reduced in order to get the launch vehicles ready. Two classes of nuclear propulsion are needed, in-space and surface, but there are insufficient funds to support a nuclear rocket engine at this time. Dr. Horowitz stated that his principles are: start off with bite-size pieces, have good testing opportunities, have good, solid requirements, and don’t make changes unless absolutely necessary.

Dr. Horowitz showed the current Exploration Systems organization and discussed basic organizational roles. In response to a question, he noted that there hasn’t been a decision on whether Johnson Space Center (JSC) will select a lead systems integrator or do the job themselves. Program Management is at the field Centers: the Constellation Systems Program is being led by JSC; the RLEP is being led by Ames Research Center (ARC); the Human Research Program is being led by JSC; and the Technology Development Program is being led by Langley Research Center (LaRC). In response to a question, Dr. Horowitz indicated that the budget is currently under review. Senator Schmitt added that the Council should know something about the 2007 budget before the next meeting. In response to a question regarding launch costs, Dr. Horowitz noted that there have been a number of cost studies related to launch cost per pound. Some estimates indicate that a cost of $3000/lb. is achievable. Future space flight must be worthy of the expense, difficulty, and risks. We need to build beyond our current capabilities, lower costs, and do it more reliably and safely. The goal for the new launch vehicle is better than one accident in one thousand launches.

Steps must be evolutionary, incremental, and cumulative. A committed and long-term lunar effort is needed. The ESMD has aggressively adopted the recommendations of the ESAS study team and is doing everything possible to accelerate the CEV to reduce the gap in US human space flight capability. Programs are refocused toward near-term needs. The ESMD organization has been streamlined at Headquarters and Program and Project offices have been established at the field Centers.

In response to a question regarding foreign technologies, Dr. Horowitz observed that in terms of being able to go to the Moon and back, from an engineering standpoint, the Chinese are about 6 years ahead of us. Dr. Tyson stated that the baseline approach was not adequately communicated to the public, i.e., why this Vision is different than what we did before. Dr. Horowitz agreed that NASA has a perception problem and needs to do better. He invited the Council’s help in addressing the problem.

In response to a question, he indicated that he would like to have a significant test of the launch system in 2008. Hopefully, the commercial world will take over some of the more routine services. There is sufficient technology to land on the Moon, but additional technology is needed to make it better. Mars is at the edge of our reach with current technologies. Chemical rocket engines can just barely get us to Mars, but not beyond.

Senator Schmitt qualified that by adding that we really don’t know how to do descent landing on Mars. He commented that one of the things that the Council may want to look at is the peril of under funding a program. For example, a lot of the issues on Shuttle are related to under funding. Dr. Horowitz replied that in terms of architecture, NASA has not given up anything for the first step (the Moon) because of cost constraints; however, for Mars, the nuclear thermal engine has been deferred. Senator Schmitt observed that a lot of work was done under the Apollo program for sustained activities on the Moon. Mr. Colladay commented that the fear is that the gap in human space flight will widen. In response to a question regarding fallback options or alternatives around the gap, Dr. Horowitz stated that there is no alternative if the Shuttle is retired in 2010. We must use all of our resources to ensure that another vehicle is ready to go. For Station, services can now be purchased from Soyuz. Dr. Fisk noted that another unfortunate consequence of the budget constraints is fall off of interest by graduate students, who are the future workforce. Dr. Huntress added that we must do something worthy when we get there. Dr. Horowitz agreed and stated that he is working with Dr. Cleave to formalize arrangements to get “buy-in” from the science community.

Shuttle/Station Operations

Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, provided an overview of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) Programs. The ISS partnership has been extremely strong and international cooperation has been outstanding. About 50 percent of the ISS assembly is complete from a mass standpoint. The remaining US elements are flight-ready at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The problem is the delivery system to orbit. Mr. Gerstenmaier showed the Shuttle processing, launch to landing, and noted that it is an integrated, complicated system. The Exploration architecture is much simpler. The real challenge in the “gap” is retention of workforce and expertise at the smaller subcontractor level. The next major activity on Station is a cargo supply vehicle undocking on Dec. 20. Each of the planned Shuttle flights is full of activity—cargo and work crew.

Mr. Gerstenmaier discussed the launch vehicle capabilities for the Station. When the Shuttle is retired in 2010, a lot of upmass and capability will be lost. NASA is in the process of trying to get commercial services to bridge the gap to the CEV. About 15 flights are needed for assembly (with logistics/spares, etc. the number of flights is 18). As the Shuttle is retired, the ISS logistic system must migrate from a “repair and return” to a “build and burn” concept. Some components must be redesigned to support the new spares philosophy. There is synergy between the redesign activity and what Exploration needs for the future. In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that the ISS has a lot of capability for commercial users; the problem is the transportation aspect.

Mr. Gerstenmaier provided an overview of the Shuttle External Tank (ET). On the outside of the tank, there are about 4,800 lbs. of foam. Prior to Return to Flight, there were a number of modifications to the ET. Everything that was redesigned, except the bipod fitting, worked exactly as expected. NASA was surprised about the STS-114 foam debris events. The major area being worked is the LH2 Protuberance Air Load (PAL) ramp. Mr. Gerstenmaier described the latest results from ET troubleshooting and testing. To fix the problem, the Program is looking at redesigning the area or flying without the PAL at all.

Hurricane Katrina damaged some assets and slowed down processing. However, the Michoud workforce was tremendously motivated and were willing to make personal sacrifices to get the work done. About 90 percent of the workforce is back on the job.

The Shuttle ETs, solid rocket motors, and Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) will jump-start the EELV for Exploration as well as “buy down” risk. Workers can transition from their current Shuttle job to Exploration. NASA has evaluated the applicability of the Return to Flight (RTF) Task Group minority reports and has undertaken four broad Agency actions: set clear achievable expectations and hold people accountable; return to classic program management and rigorous system engineering principles; assign managers that have a solid foundation of engineering attributes; and eliminate prejudices and barriers to learning from mistakes. Mr. Gerstenmaier acknowledged that it would be a long-term process to affect some of these changes. People with solid engineering attributes are on the job now. However, there may be a problem if the next generation of engineers and managers are not available. The workforce is very important to the success of the program. In response to a comment, Mr. Gerstenmaier agreed that in the past, NASA has outsourced too much of the core system engineering capability and is working on getting that core capability back. It is important for the operations team to work hand-in-hand with the development team.

Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that NASA has a solid plan in place for the next Shuttle flight (STS-121) in May. The Shuttle needs to return to a 90-day turnaround to meet the manifest and complete ISS assembly. Out year funding (FY 2009 and 2010) is a concern for Space Operations. NASA is developing a transition plan with ESMD to transfer operational experience into the development cycle. The Shuttle-derived exploration vehicles provide essential continuity between current and future systems.

In response to a question about downmass, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that NASA can still deliver hardware to Station and dispose of the old hardware. However, there will be more in situ type of research or in situ repair rather than return. Station can be used as a testbed for exploration for in situ types of activities.

Russia is looking at replacing Soyuz with a new vehicle around 2014, but there may be funding issues. In the long term, the exciting aspects of the mission are developmental research, Mars analogy experiments, etc. These are in the process of being put into the mission plan. Mr. Gerstenmaier indicated that he could discuss specific budget details after the budget is released in February. There is a plan to decommission the ISS in 2016; however, the Station physical hardware will last well beyond this timeframe. With respect to the schedule, Mr. Gerstenmaier indicated that the 18 flights to assembly complete are very doable. The Program will start demonstrating this year and see how things go. Schedule cannot be ignored, but it will not be a driver. In response to a question, he indicated that NASA has some “plan B” options.

Audit and Finance

Ms. Gwendolyn Sykes, NASA’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), provided an overview on the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO). She focused her presentation on financial management and audit statements. Ms. Sykes compared the organizational structure in 2002 with that of today. In the old structure, there was a dichotomy between the accounting and finance side and the budget side. The first change was to ensure stability and continuity of operations. The OCFO now has strategic goals. In 2002, each Center had its own financial system; today, there is one core system, and financial statements come directly out of the system. In the future, there will be a need to put a lot more reporting into the hands of Financial and Program Managers.

Ms. Sykes noted several areas of budget improvements. The Program Planning and Budget Execution System (PPBES) is being implemented for the FY 2008 budget process. The funds distribution process is being streamlined to support Mission execution. For 2004, the external auditors (under contract to the Inspector General) have identified two material weaknesses and one reportable condition. Significant strides have been made in the intragovernmental fund balances with the US Treasury. Another area that represents a challenge is property. Property, plant, and equipment represents 75% of the balance sheet assets. Ms. Sykes noted that the reportable condition, “environment liabilities,” can be resolved. NASA changed its way of estimating its environmental liability, and there was a training issue with the new tool.

The PPBES will be an essential part of the budgeting process, and will enable timely budget decisions and provide for tracking of those decisions. In response to a question, Ms. Sykes noted that a separate organization– Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E)–does the program analysis. With respect to the accuracy and timeliness of information at the project level, NASA is moving forward and is in much better shape than it was in 2002. There is one core financial system as well as standards for the accounting operations. NASA is now (FY 2006) operating in the new program and project structure. Under the old accounting system, there were 120 subsystems. Today, the new SAP Core Finance is one single transaction-based accounting system. It is housed at MSFC. This system is being used in other agencies, e.g., the IRS. Gen. Lyles noted that the President’s Commission recommended an independent cost analysis function. Ms. Sykes indicated that this is now part of PA&E. In conjunction with the core finance system, there is a single labor distribution system (time and attendance, etc.). Senator Schmitt noted that the Council should probably get a briefing from Scott Pace, who leads PA&E. The new system was implemented in stages, but implementation was completed in one fiscal year. For historical data, the legacy system must be kept in maintenance mode, but no new data is being put into it. Senator Schmitt noted that some of the NASA facilities were at risk because of the use of full cost accounting for those facilities. Ms. Sykes indicated that her office is reviewing that and looking at what makes sense. With respect to property, plant, and equipment, a considerable amount of material is in the hands of contractors. This is one of the challenges.

Another area of dialogue is the capitalization policy and process. NASA has used the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to do property audits at contractors’ facilities. NASA is developing a corrective action plan to address the Audit findings. This plan will be available to the Council. The responsible parties are also working as a team to respond to the 45 GAO recommendations. In response to a question, Ms. Sykes indicated that she has hired 34 people into her organization over the past 6 months. She has been working with human resources to use hiring flexibility to bring qualified people on board. Dr. Fisk encouraged Ms. Sykes to put in place an organized process to evaluate the system at the working level, and determine whether the ultimate customers are satisfied that the system serves their needs. In response to a question, Ms. Sykes indicated that she has the equivalent of an internal audit team—the office of quality assurance within her organization. Dr. Levy observed that one of the big impediments to financial management of programs is NASA’s inability to project costs accurately. Ms. Sykes indicated that she is working with the programs to provide the analytical tools that will address this issue. In response to a comment, she noted that she has regular interchange with the CFO’s in other agencies.

Senator Schmitt adjourned the day’s meeting at 5:00 p.m.

Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC
November 30, 2005

Senator Schmitt called the meeting to order at 8:00 a.m. and announced that this was a public meeting, being held in accordance with the FACA. The public session would end at 1:00 p.m. Senator Schmitt thanked the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Dirksen Building for use of the facility and their support.


Dr. Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), introduced Dr. Mario Livio from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute. He discussed some interesting highlights from the Hubble science program: the accelerating universe and dark energy; the distance scale and the age of the universe; the evolution of galaxies and cosmic star formation rates; and the composition of extrasolar planets. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Hubble is that it has brought the universe to the homes of people around the world. Dr. Livio showed a few of the Hubble images. Gen. Abrahamson requested that the presentation, with the images, be made available electronically to the Council members.

Dr. Cleave discussed the Science Program. The Program has a long history of excellent work, and this history is drawn upon for future work. The Directorate will be reorganized into four divisions: Astronomy and Physics (formerly the Universe); Heliophysics (formerly Sun-Earth and part of the Earth science group); Planetary Science (formerly Solar System); and Earth Science (formerly a separate enterprise). A number of key questions drive the science in each Division. For each Division, Dr. Cleave noted some recent highlights, technology priorities, and “hot topics.” She emphasized that the SMD works very closely with the science community in developing roadmaps. Dr. Cleave invited Council suggestions on an alternative name for the “Heliophysics” Division. The Mars group and Moon group are included within the Planetary Science Division, as is the planetary protection work. In response to a question, Dr. Cleave noted that Earth history (geologic) is under the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, the Climate Change Initiative is an interagency group in which NASA is a key player. In response to a question, Dr. Cleave explained the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System.

Dr. Cleave showed the SMD flight missions by phase—formulation, implementation, and operations—and a summary of planned launches CY2005 – CY2010. She emphasized that the planning process both directly and indirectly involves the community. The SMD will look to the Science Committee of the Council for tactical advice on implementation of strategic priorities. Each of the Science Divisions will have a Subcommittee, and findings and recommendations of those Subcommittees will come to the Council through Dr. Kennel, the Chair of the Science Committee. In response to a comment, Dr. Cleave noted that there are issues with cost growth, particularly within the small cap missions. The SMD is trying to manage missions within their budget lines. There has been a lot of change over the past year, but the essentials remain the same: the strategy is driven by science questions, selections are based on an open, competitive process; there is continuous technological advancement; and there are domestic and international partnerships.

In response to a question, Dr. Cleave stated that technology readiness is carefully examined to see whether a program is ready to move forward. With respect to impact of the Shuttle “gap” on SMD, Dr. Cleave indicated that SMD is working on how it will be aligned with the Exploration group. SMD provides the Program and Project Scientists for the Exploration Lunar missions. The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) provides the engineering. Budgets are currently under discussion. Dr. Griffin has stated that he wants a robust science program. However, there will be changes in priorities in the portfolio.

In response to a comment, Dr. Cleave noted that the SMD has a formal process for mission extension. There is a peer review, and all projects in mission extension must submit proposals. The peer reviewers evaluate the proposals and provide advice with respect to which missions should continue. For strategic inputs, the SMD relies on the National Academy of Sciences. In response to a question about life sciences, Dr. Cleave indicated that this science is not in her portfolio. Life sciences moved into the ESMD. Dr. Logsdon observed that when life sciences moved to the ESMD, it became focused on bioastronautics.

In response to a question about the organization, Dr. Cleave indicated that the SMD is reorganizing, coordinating business functions, and separating two science groups. The proposed changes are vetted through the community and NASA management. NASA’s investment in the Heliophysics Division is about $700 million at the top level. The Prometheus program is a joint program with DOE, but the research in this program has been scaled back. There is no fusion program at the present time. Dr. Cleave noted that the SMD works on Space Weather, but there haven’t been discussions with Exploration about other space hazards.

In response to a comment on out-year budget constraints, Dr. Cleave noted that SMD is struggling with out-year budget challenges. SMD is trying not to eat the “seed corn.” Priorities come from the Academy’s Decadal studies, but SMD considers the balances between mission portfolio and research and analysis (R&A).

In response to a question, Dr. Cleave explained how the decision was made on Hubble. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will carry the investigations further than HST. It does not duplicate all of the things that HST is doing now. Dr. Colladay observed that it appears that there is an attempt across the Agency to get more fidelity in the up-front cost estimates. Dr. Cleave agreed and noted that her Directorate is working very hard on cost estimates.

Within Space and Earth Sciences, there has been an independent assessment team, and SMD is continuing that tradition. The challenge is in the Principal Investigator (PI) cost-cap missions. The SMD is working very hard on the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) process by funding up-front assessment studies and using the “down-select” approach. With respect to names of the Divisions, Dr. Tyson suggested “Astrophysics” rather than “Astronomy and Physics.” In response to a question regarding value obtained through grants, Dr. Paul Hertz explained that the grant “deliverable” is through publication in peer-reviewed journals. The feedback mechanism is the peer review process. All awardees submit annual reports and subsequent year funding is conditional upon this report and appropriate progress being made. The portfolio is constantly being re-evaluated. Peer review and input from the community is used to identify priorities moving forward. A very small fraction of grants are unsolicited. Research solicitations are very broad.

In response to a question, Dr. Cleave indicated that SMD is not supporting fundamental biology at the present, although a small fraction of the grants go to astrobiology. The technology portfolio is highly competed.

Senator Schmitt asked the Council to take an action to get a briefing from NASA’s patent counsel, specifically on the current situation regarding licensing. With respect to supercomputing, Dr. Cleave noted that there is a group at the Ames Research Center (ARC) and a more focused group at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Dr. Fisk raised the issue of cost growth in programs during the execution phase. Dr. Cleave agreed that SMD worries about this. As a result of the change in administration, NASA is taking a fresh look at the Independent Technical Authority (ITA) and how it assists projects. Another area under scrutiny is program/project management governance.

Senator Schmitt raised the question of dialog with the ESMD regarding the lunar program. Dr. Cleave noted that she is in active discussion with Dr. Horowitz regarding this program. SMD will approach payloads through the AO process. As noted earlier, SMD provides the program and project scientists to the lunar program. The Directorate does not pay part of the launch costs on foreign launch vehicles. All international programs are on a “no exchange of funds” basis. SMD works with the US launch industry and DOD on expendable launch vehicles.

In response to a question, Mr. Luther commented on the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR)—it produces a difficult and arduous process, but is not insurmountable. SMD is actively working with the Centers on the ITAR process.

Gen. Lyles asked about the United Launch Alliance and whether NASA has been involved. Mr. Luther noted that the actual dialogue with the DOD takes place through the Space Operations Mission Directorate. There are still a lot of questions to be answered about what will happen in the long run. In the near term, there is an infrastructure as well as a vehicle problem, and NASA is in dialog with DOD about these issues.

In response to a question about longer term thinking on the relationship between robotic and human exploration, Dr. Cleave noted that she expects to work with the Council on this question.

Human Capital

Ms. Toni Dawsey, Acting Director of the Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM), provided an overview of the human capital program and discussed challenges and activities underway. OHCM at Headquarters has a corporate role. The Human Resources Offices at the Centers have an operational role. Together, they work to support Center-specific and overall Agency needs. NASA is in the process of major workforce transformation to implement the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA missions. In the short-term, OHCM and the Centers are addressing uncovered capacity among the Centers, the Shuttle Program transition, and reshaping the Aeronautics Program. In the long-term, the organization is working to ensure the workforce is viable to support the Vision. At the beginning of last year, there were about 2,000 uncovered FTE. After the President announced his Vision, OHCM began working on the challenge—through buy outs, restricting outside hiring, job fairs at Centers with uncovered capacity, and transition counseling. As a result, 650 people took buy-outs and 95 employees were reassigned through the job fairs. NASA is currently running a third round of buy-outs and about 400 employees are expected to take them. NASA has been complimented by the Hill on its conscientious use of buy-outs. In addition to the third round of buy-outs, the senior leadership has initiated a more aggressive plan to further reduce uncovered capacity while working to maintain in-house core competencies that are needed to carry out the Vision.

NASA has also looked at the Headquarters function and has performed an institutional review to look at those functions that should be performed at field Centers. NASA has also implemented tighter hiring guidelines. The workforce team has met with Center management to identify which Centers have the engineering, technology, and research capacity to accept work packages. In addition, there is another project team looking at current and new work outside the Exploration architecture that can be packaged and sent to Centers that have excess capacity. The goal is to have an equitable distribution of work and ten healthy Centers. This activity is scheduled to be completed in June 2006. With the movement of work packages, NASA believes that reduction in force may not be necessary. The organization is optimistic about the results of all of the rebalancing efforts.

Dr. Fisk commented that the impact on employment area is broader than civil service—it includes contractors. Ms. Dawsey noted that there is a study underway that includes contractors, but she was not prepared to discuss the details of the study at this time. She acknowledged that contractors play a key role in NASA, and will continue to do so. However, it is expected that a lot of design work will come back to NASA. The transition team is looking at the composition and size of the workforce.

Although NASA is planning to continue the new hire pipeline, there is a temporary halt to that at present. NASA needs to continue to bring in expertise in the areas of the Exploration Vision and ensure leadership for the future. After June, NASA will decide where and how it will recruit. If JSC and KSC cannot recruit within NASA, they can get waivers to hire from the outside.

In response to a question from Ms. James, Ms. Dawsey indicated that she has been Acting in her position since October 1; there should be a permanent person in the position by January.

The Systems Engineering and Institutional Transitions Team (SEITT) is developing and documenting the long-term workforce strategy. Human Capital representatives, both at Headquarters and field centers, are on the SEITT. In addition to identifying workforce competencies, the team is identifying transition strategies and flexibilities to facilitate the transition of the workforce to future Agency needs. Dr. Tyson noted that numerical charts that showed progress (e.g., dollars saved by buy-out) would be helpful at future meetings. Mr. Montelongo added that he would like to see a presentation of the comprehensive strategy at a future meeting.

Mr. Ralph Thomas provided an overview of NASA’s Small Business Program. He stated that three-fourths of the black caucus and half of the Hispanic caucus now support the space program. This came out of the Agency’s commitment to diversity of workforce and the role of small and disadvantaged businesses. Mr. Thomas discussed how small disadvantaged and women-owned businesses have contributed to Return to Flight and completion of the ISS, and are contributing to the building of the CEV, the return to the Moon, and sending humans to Mars and beyond. The mission of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is to provide expertise on the utilization of innovative small businesses that can deliver technical solutions in support of NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration. The goal is to increase the quantity and quality of contracts and subcontracts going to all categories of small businesses and institutionalize best practices for small and disadvantaged business utilization.

NASA has a training program for small businesses in technology, a science forum for small businesses, a Space Science symposium for small business, a Mentor Protégé Program, and sponsors numerous conferences and seminars. The Office has internal and external oversight, e.g., a roundtable with participants from prime contractors. NASA has set records on awards to small business and minority direct awards. NASA has an 8% small disadvantaged goal, but last year did 18.4%. NASA has received major accolades from a wide array of entities. Mr. Maddox commended Mr. Thomas on the exceptional work that he has provided to NASA over the years. He noted that before Mr. Thomas came to NASA, minority and women-owned businesses in the U.S. didn’t have equal opportunity to perform contracts at NASA, and Mr. Thomas integrated minorities and women into NASA’s goals. Mr. Thomas observed that it was a team effort—everyone worked together to make it happen.

In response to a question, Mr. Thomas noted that there is a large subcontract base, and NASA has started a uniform methodology for determining the percentage of subcontracts on prime contracts. NASA subcontracts a higher percentage (slightly over half) of contract dollars to small, minority, and women-owned businesses than any other agency. NASA has had a high success rate of 8(a) graduates, exactly the opposite of the government as a whole. Gen. Lyle observed that in many cases, the real workforce in the minority business does not fall into the minority category. This is a concern. Mr. Thomas agreed that his organization has been concerned about that and it is something to focus upon. Sometimes the Agency is a driver of the staffing. However, many minority owned companies work hard to bring minorities in.

Ms. Angela Diaz discussed NASA’s Education Program. NASA is not the Department of Education or the National Science Foundation, but has a unique niche for its education activities. NASA is taking a very strategic look in terms of workforce, and the ultimate goal of NASA Education is the future workforce. NASA’s unique niche in terms of capturing individuals is inspiration. NASA is recognized around the world for doing exciting things. NASA works closely with other mission agencies and the White House to increase capability and capacity in science and technology. Ms. Diaz showed the Office of Education funding by program for FY 2006. The investment is predominantly higher education. The other mission directorates have a comparable amount invested in education and outreach. The Administrator has charged the Office of Education (OE) to put together a detailed implementation plan that will provide a look at NASA’s education program. It will be aligned to the Strategic Plan, have clearly aligned goals and objectives, and inventory what exists in the portfolio today. This comprehensive inventory should be available to the Council early next year.

Ms. Diaz showed the growth in the number of designated projects (earmarks) over the past 10 years. The two major challenges are developing the education portfolio—aligned with NASA’s Vision, and the Congressional priorities and working with them to align their interests with NASA’s Vision. In response to a question regarding what NASA has been doing during the “stand-down” phase, Ms. Diaz discussed the Pathfinder program (educator/astronauts) and the NASA Explorer Schools (middle schools, working with educator teams). Similar activities are planned for the robotic side. Most of the schools are identified through competition. In response to a question, Ms. Diaz indicated that NASA has a relationship with the Challenger Learning Centers. NASA tends to work with major organizations, e.g., the National Science Teacher’s Association, and other national and state affiliates to provide content that they can apply to their curriculum. A number of the states’ governors are convening science and technology (S&T) education summits. They recognize the importance of engaging NASA and other players to inspire their students in science and technology. NASA has a “strategic communications group” that includes the offices of legislative affairs, public affairs, external relations, and education.


Dr. Lisa Porter, Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, provided an overview of the activities in the Aeronautics Program. She discussed the “big-picture” implementation strategies: conduct long-term, focused, cutting-edge research that is strongly integrated; have long-term research with milestones and short-term products; and get away from “stove-piping.” Research should be leveraged across projects and across Centers. The new program names are: Fundamental Aeronautics, Aviation Safety, and Airspace Systems. Fundamental Aeronautics will invest broadly and deeply in the core competencies of aeronautics in all flight regimes. There will be four thrust areas: hypersonics; supersonics; subsonics: fixed wing; and rotorcraft. It will address both the basic underpinning research as well as multidisciplinary research.

The Aviation Safety Program will focus research in areas appropriate to the unique capabilities of NASA. The projects will be Integrated Vehicle Health Management, Aging Aircraft, Integrated Resilient Aircraft Control, and Integrated Intelligent Flight Deck Technologies. The Airspace System Program is being realigned to address the Air Traffic Management R&D needs of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS).

Aeronautics intends to invest heavily in fundamental, foundation research. The research must be integrated, and the organization is in the process of developing plans across the portfolio, where every milestone is linked to everything else. The research portfolio will be highly integrated and very robust at the base. Aeronautics will reinvest in in-house expertise, form strong partnerships with universities, and shift the industry partnerships from near-term, evolutionary procurements to long-term intellectual partnerships, particularly at the system level. Aeronautics will have much more detailed program plans and will be presenting these plans at the AIAA in January.

Dr. Collaway observed that what universities need is money and stability; what industry needs is confidence that proprietary information is protected. The question is whether there will be enough funds to provide stability, and whether there will be mechanisms to protect proprietary information. Dr. Porter indicated that there will be funds, and proprietary information will be protected. However, any research that the government funds should be broadly available throughout the industry. Dr. Porter indicated that she would call on the Council for help—specifically, recruiting Council members to assist with peer review of proposals for NASA/industry partnerships.

With respect to partnerships with other agencies, Dr. Porter noted that she has met with the Chief Scientist of the Air Force and has a meeting scheduled to display NASA’s plan. Dr. Porter stated that it is her plan to partner with the Air Force and other agencies to the greatest extent possible. She wants to strengthen the alliance with DOD regarding wind tunnels. In response to a question about NGAST, Dr. Porter indicated that Aeronautics is working very closely with the government partners. She stated that she was not aware of problems associated with the ethics rules for government employees vis-à-vis industry partnerships.

Industry consortia will be working with NASA at NASA field centers, but people will be employed by the consortia. In response to a question regarding “stove-piping”, Dr. Porter stated that there have been a serious of workshops with the Centers, and plans have been developed that are dispersed across Centers. The three program directors are working together to help each other to ensure that effort is not duplicated and that there is sufficient coverage. The Directorate is also going to a PI concept. The FY 2006 budget for Aeronautics is $912 million.

In response to a comment, Dr. Porter stated that wind tunnels provide experimental data, and they will not be replaced by computational models as long as she is in the job.

With respect to the budget and whether it is adequate, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is in the process of prioritizing what it needs to do and can address the budget question when that process is complete. Dr Porter indicated that she was concerned about core competencies when she came on board, and has already course-corrected to some degree. ARMD is working with the Centers on this challenge. The intent in working with universities is to be completely open. ARMD will go after the best and brightest wherever they may be. Dr. Porter stated that she didn’t foresee problems with cooperative research programs. NASA, industry, and academia should be able to work together under the research umbrella. At the base of the research pyramid, ARMD is considering what it takes to support the NASA Vision.

In response to a question, Dr. Porter noted that Aeronautics is putting together a strategic plan to address wind tunnels over the long term. The National Aeronautics Policy will address some of the issues raised by the Council members. Congress has given her group a year to put this policy into place.

Senator Schmitt adjourned the Public Session at 12:30.

SpaceRef staff editor.