NASA Administrator Responds to ‘IT Archaeology: A Word from the Dig Site’,

By SpaceRef Editor
November 5, 2002
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Thanks to SpaceRef.com and the LESA Bulletin for printing Dr. William H. Jones’ entertaining, witty commentary “IT Archaeology: A Word from the Dig Site.” It’s a terrific piece to spark debate around our agency on the information technology strategy we’re pursuing. But, the content of the commentary seems to be based on incomplete information that doesn’t match the quality of the prose. In sharp contrast to Dr. Jones’ assessment, the current state of NASA’s information technology capability is expensive, fractured, incompatible, but remarkably accessible to those who like to use sensitive design and personnel information for personal gain, not public advantage. Those who disagree with this finding should also realize that NASA annually spends about three times as much on information technology operations and systems as the industry or public sector averages. For that kind of regular investment, you’d think we’d have systems that are the envy of the IT world. Among the views registered by our colleagues, that hasn’t shown up yet.

But rather than debate the state of our current capabilities, our information technology strategy moves forward to capitalize on the very best elements of the existing infrastructure, ease the access to information within the agency, reduce the cost to operate and maintain these essential information services and install necessary security regimes to protect our systems from intensifying cyber-terrorism activities. Any strategy depends on leadership, and NASA benefits from the information technology expertise of a widely recognized expert in the field. Our chief IT strategist is Paul Strassmann, and while Dr. Jones doesn’t think much of him, fortunately a good portion of the information technology community does have a high regard for his expertise.

Paul Strassmann is our Chief Information Officer with wide ranging experience as a senior information executive at multinational corporations, including General Foods, Kraft and Xerox, and with the ultimate public conglomerate, the U.S. Department of Defense. He’s also widely published and recognized universally for his pioneering efforts to advance information management capabilities. He’s got plenty of practical experience as a computer programmer since 1954 before the parents of most of today’s programmers were born! Maybe most important, Paul is tenacious. He develops an integrated plan and he sticks to it. My bet is his persistence, drive, and his insistence on results began with his young adolescent experience as part of the Czech resistance during World War II. Having survived that experience, every other challenge is comparatively easy and he’s taken on our NASA information management portfolio with the zeal of a driven patriot.

Our IT challenges are many, but not insurmountable. Indeed, the solutions are within our grasp and the results just around the corner. We all need to be persistent in addressing these issues, keep and open mind and be confident that we’re led by a serious, talented expert in the field who shares our passion for NASA, public service and doing things right.

Sean O’Keefe

NASA Administrator

SpaceRef staff editor.