Star Wars

According to the Orlando Sentinel NASA is being uncooperative with Obama’s transition team.  Sources say that NASA admin Mike Griffin has called the transition leader “not qualified” to obtain agency information:

In a heated 40-minute conversation last week with Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator who heads the space transition team, a red-faced Griffin demanded to speak directly to Obama, according to witnesses.

In addition, Griffin is scripting NASA employees and civilian contractors on what they can tell the transition team and has warned aerospace executives not to criticize the agency’s moon program, sources said.

Griffin’s resistance is part of a no-holds-barred effort to preserve the Constellation program, the delayed and over-budget moon rocket that is his signature project.

A NASA Communications flack denied the tension, not surprisingly.  The story goes on:

And this week, Garver told a meeting of aerospace representatives in Washington that “there will be change” to NASA policy and hinted that Obama would name a new administrator soon, according to participants.

Those who spoke for this article, including a member and staff in Congress, NASA employees, aerospace executives and consultants, spoke only on condition that their names not be used.

Garver’s team is one of dozens of review panels that over the last few weeks have descended on every government agency. Armed with tough questions, they are scrutinizing programs, scouring budgets and hunting for problems that may confront a new president.

Though their job is to smooth the transition between administrations, their arrival also brings a certain level of anxiety, particularly when programs face tough questions, as at NASA.

Said John Logsdon, a George Washington University professor who co-wrote the book honored at the NASA party, “There is a natural tension built into this situation… Mike is dead-on convinced that the current approach to the program is the right one. And Lori’s job is to question that for Mr. Obama. The Obama team is not going to walk in and take Mike’s word for it.”

The interesting thing is how much we’ve heard about the so-far smooth transitions at the top level agencies (Hillary Clinton had dinner at Condoleeza Rice’s, and Robert Gates is staying on at Defense).  This is really the first inkling of a Bush-era program (the new Land on the Moon program) that has come under this type of scrutiny — which naturally leads to two questions: 1) If Griffin believe so heartily in the moon program, why is he so worried it won’t look good to his successors? and 2) Why is NASA brewing this tension rather than the, oh, I don’t know, far more controversial issues of the Bush Presidency, like torture and Guatanamo Bay?

Update: Steve Benen points out a few problems with the way NASA has been run these past eight years:

It’s reportedly muzzled scientists who disagree with the Bush agenda, and it’s led by an administrator who isn’t sure if global warming is real, and believes we should ignore the crisis, even if the evidence is right.

It stands to reason, then, that Griffin might be inclined to give Obama’s team a hard time, but if this Orlando Sentinel report is right, his obstinacy is rather extreme.

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