NASA administrator stonewalling Obama team

Mike Griffin is reportedly "obstructing" the Obama transition team's efforts to get information, and has been pressuring contractors to back him.


Alex Koppelman
December 11, 2008 8:10PM (UTC)

Apparently, the relationship between the Bush administration and the Obama transition team could still use some work, at least when it comes to NASA. The Orlando Sentinel has a pretty amazing report about the conduct of the agency's head, Mike Griffin, who is reportedly fighting hard against the Obama people, with the goal of protecting his pet program.

From the Sentinel's report:

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NASA administrator Mike Griffin is not cooperating with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, is obstructing its efforts to get information and has told its leader that she is “not qualified” to judge his rocket program, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.

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...

Chris Shank, NASA’s Chief of Strategic Communications, denied that Griffin is trying to keep information from the team... However, Shank acknowledged Griffin was concerned that the six-member team -- all with space policy backgrounds -- lack the engineering expertise to properly assess some of the information they have been given...

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.”

...

According to industry officials, Griffin started calling heads of companies working for NASA, demanding that they either tell the Obama team that they support Constellation or refrain from talking about alternatives.

The companies, worried that Griffin may remain and somehow punish them if they ignore his wishes, have by and large complied...

Tensions were on public display last week at the NASA library, as overheard by guests at a book party.

According to people who were present, Logsdon, a space historian, told a group of about 50 people he had just learned that President John F. Kennedy’s transition team had completely ignored NASA.

Griffin responded, in a loud voice, “I wish the Obama team would come and talk to me.”

Alan Ladwig, a transition team member who was at the party with Garver, shouted out: “Well, we’re here now, Mike.”

Soon after, Garver and Griffin engaged in what witnesses said was an animated conversation. Some overheard parts of it.

“Mike, I don’t understand what the problem is. We are just trying to look under the hood,” Garver said.

“If you are looking under the hood, then you are calling me a liar,” Griffin replied. “Because it means you don’t trust what I say is under the hood."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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