“Hitler’s Last Days In The Bunker”

Hey, I think that it’s time (long past time) for Mike Griffin to go, but I think that characterization of his behavior in comments at this story is a little over the top. I mean, I don’t expect him to eat the muzzle after his wife takes poison. Though he does seem determined to burn the entire NASA budget to the ground rather than have it turned to some purpose that would actually open up space for the American people…

That said, the title of Bobby Block’s piece is a little understated. If his reporting is accurate (and we have no reason from past behavior of Dr. Griffin or others described to think not) he is being much more than a “transition problem” for the incoming president. This in itself, I think, speaks volumes about Mike and the NASA culture:

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…

…The Bush White House has pledged cooperation, and many agency leaders have told staff to cooperate fully. Griffin himself sent a memo urging employees “to answer questions promptly, openly and accurately.”

At the same time, he made clear he expected NASA employees to stay on message.

For example, transition-team interviews have been monitored by NASA officials “taking copious notes,” according to congressional and space-community sources. Employees who met with the team were told to tell their managers about the interview.

The desperation strong-arm tactics being used here are unsurprising, but are also not in keeping with an agency supposedly responsible to public accountability and the taxpayers. As anyone who has been reading this blog for long knows, I was not (to understate) a huge supporter of Senator Obama as a presidential candidate. But on the issue of space, I was largely agnostic, because I had no reason to believe that Senator McCain would be any improvement, and I was certainly not a supporter of president Bush on the issue, other than the basic concept of the Vision for Space Exploration (and a few bright spots, like White House support for COTS in the face of high-level NASA indifference). In this case, because I personally know some of the people on the space transition team, while I have had some policy differences with them over the years, I think that, relative to the current NASA administration, they are on the side of the angels. So I was gratified to read this:

…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.

At this point, and particularly after reading this, it can’t happen soon enough for me. Here’s the real problem:

The tensions are due to the fact that NASA’s human space flight program is facing its biggest crossroads since the end of the Apollo era in the 1970s. The space shuttle is scheduled to be retired in 2010, and the next-generation Constellation rockets won’t fly before 2015.

Nearly four years ago, President Bush brought in Griffin to implement a plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 as a prelude to going to Mars. Griffin and his team selected Constellation, with its NASA-designed Ares I rocket and Orion capsule, as cheaper and safer than existing rockets. Constellation – especially Ares 1 — is the center of what Griffin sees as his legacy to return humans to the frontiers of space.

He wants to “return humans to the frontiers of space,” but he is perfectly happy to put forth a plan that ensures that it will only be a few humans (government employees) a couple times a year, for many billions per trip. Talk about Apollo on steroids.

It’s the Apollo budget on steroids as well, which is why Apollo was unsustainable financially. This is only one area in which he completely ignored, or even thumbed his nose at, the Aldridge Commission. As I recommended to the transition team, go read the report, and reflect on how much Mike Griffin’s NASA has deviated from its recommendations, and completely blown off the work of the contractors who worked to present options that would have been in keeping with it.

Unfortunately, due to the jobs issue and politics, it’s possible that this disastrous architecture will continue. But if it does, fortunately, it is pretty clear (though little consolation) that it will do so under new “leadership.”

[Thursday morning update]

In another dispatch from Bizarro World, in yet another display of his magnificent superhuman powers in miscomprehension of plain English, Mark Whittington writes that I (as opposed to the commenter at Bobby Block’s site, who I quoted in the post title) am comparing Mike Griffin to Hitler. He also demonstrates that he has no idea what Godwin’s Law is, if he thinks that I “violated” it.

Well, I guess it’s technically true if, by “comparing,” one means pointing out that he is not. I’ll “compare” Mark to Hitler similarly. Unfortunately, I’m less able to “compare” him in the same manner to Bozo the Clown.

[A few minutes later]

A funny (in a sad way) comment over at NASA Watch (I have a couple comments over there as well for Apollo worshipers):

Remembering that Mike Griffin explained his Orion/Ares system as ‘Apollo on Steroids’, and with what we know about steroid use, Mr. Griffin running off the rails like this [2 1/2 year old project two years behind? Don’t you trust what I’m telling you?] can simply be explained as the reaction of his body to heavy steroid use.

Verbally combative, liver damage, shrunken testicles. We’ll get back to you about the latter two effects.

I’ve heard it’s a tough habit to kick.

[Update about lunchtime]

Mark now updates, hilariously and delusionally, to fantasize that “my rage knows no bounds.” Only he would confuse amusement with “rage.”

[Update mid afternoon]

Dr. Griffin claims to be “appalled” at the Orlando Sentinel report. I think that, like people who when they apologize are really only sorry they got caught, he is appalled by the fact that his actions have been reported. I don’t see any denials of the specifics in his protest.

[Evening update (late evening on the east coast — I’m in LA)]

There’s a good discussion in comments on this topic over at Space Politics. “Anonymous.Space” has good commentary as usual, but this is a key point, I think:

…it’s the transition team’s job to ask questions, and Griffin should understand that and know better than to launch unprovoked, petulant attacks on them in a public setting. He, and more importantly NASA, need the transition team on NASA’s side. Griffin should be thankful that the NASA transition team is wholly composed of NASA boosters (most agencies are not so lucky), and work with the team in a transparent manner to develop the best possible set of materials and options for the new Administration. If Griffin is incapable of doing that, whatever the reason, then he should resign immediately. It doesn’t do Constellation, or NASA at large, any favors to have its Administrator engage in such uselessly childish behavior in view of the public eye, the new Administration, and the incoming Congress.

Considering that it was a Democratic administration coming in, this really is the best possible team that he could have expected. In fact, it’s pretty good even in an absolute sense, given their sympathy to both space settlement and NewSpace, which of course could be one of Mike’s problems with them. It’s quite likely that a McCain transition team would be much worse. I never heard any real signs of promise in McCain space policy during the campaign other than that Steidle was one of his advisors. There’s certainly nothing in McCain’s history to indicate that he would do anything interesting in space. It just happens that a lot (though by no means all) of the most devoted space activists are Democrats. Let’s hope they can make more happen this time than they did in the Clinton administration.


24 thoughts on ““Hitler’s Last Days In The Bunker””

  1. Can one call this anything but corruption?

    Griffin can’t do and don’t do this on his own and I hope the Obama transition team as well as Obama and his administration clearly understands how deep the rot must go in NASA’s managerial structure for this to happen more or less openly. One has to do more than just replace the NASA administrator.

    “to develop a strategy for promoting the continuation of Constellation in the next administration.”

    That reads like self-admitted criminal conspiracy to deceive the federal US government, let the FBI raid NASA and contractor headquarters.

    ““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.”

    Griffin outing himself as a liar, priceless. I have zero respect left for Griffin now, only pity.

  2. DIRECT guys over at NSF forums are acting all excited. I dont think thats a good thing for spaceflight, but DIRECT would be perfect ammunition for the transition team.

  3. Yet it was not I who titled a long diatribe about Mike Griffin “Hitler’s Last Day’s In The Bunker.”

    Also, I look nothing like Bozo the Clown, except when I have a cold that turns the nose slightly red.

  4. I agree with Habitat Hermit. There is a clear effort at NASA to keep the Obama Administration ignorant of the situation on the ground. I really hope they don’t fall for it.

    I take it as a given that certain divisions within NASA are under the protection of certain Congress-critters. I wonder if we could somehow break up NASA into two departments – Launch Operations and “Advanced Space Projects” (Mars rovers, asteroid probes, moon bases, etc.). Launch Operations could be the dinosaur and ASP could be a DARPA-like entity that gets things done without any Launch Operations critters like Mike Griffin getting in the way. ASP could buy launch capacity from NASA or the private sector, as it prefers.

  5. If true, this passage is breathtaking:

    “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.

    Time to call in Rahmbo, although the task may be below Emmanuel’s pay grade.

  6. “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.

    Considering that the engine under the hood is apt to shake itself and the occupants into jelly, the steering linkage is so haywire that the vehicle is apt to go anywhere but in the direction that it is pointed, and the fact that there are two existing vehicles that can do the job that you claim that yours can, why would anyone think that you are lying?

  7. Yet it was not I who titled a long diatribe about Mike Griffin “Hitler’s Last Day’s In The Bunker.”

    It was not I who did that, either. As far as I know, no one did so. And do you understand the meaning of quotation marks?

  8. Perhaps the Obama administration will take upon itself the effort to reform NASA. I know it has been said a million times before, but I will say it again. The probes that NASA builds and sends to the various planets are a worthwhile activity. However, it has never made any sense for NASA to be in the space transportation business itself. Why can’t NASA build and run the scientific programs and contract out whatever transportation services it needs?

  9. I read the over-the-top comments (which was most of them) at the Sentinel article as well.

    I am acqauinted with the Space activists of yore as well, including Lori Garver. I consider her inclusion on the transition team to be very much of a plus, and am perplexed at Griffin’s alleged behavior.

    Why not make Lori Garver the next administrator?

  10. So who would you guys want as NASA director? Obama has been plucking people from all over for his Cabinet, at least for parts of it. Can you make a list of 5 good names, no matter how unlikely you think they are?

    (Copied from other thread, and I see that people are already starting to answer the question.)

  11. So who would you guys want as NASA director? Can you make a list of 5 good names, no matter how unlikely you think they are?

    Five? Easy.

    Brigadier. General. Simon. Pete. Worden.

  12. Hmmm.

    1. “…what Griffin sees as his legacy…”

    I think that’s a fairly serious problem right there.

    2. JPL? In charge of NASA? Perhaps it’s me but the frankly disturbing things that I’ve heard and read about the management culture at JPL doesn’t fill me with joy about that concept.

  13. Jim,
    Other than Worden, the other name that recently came to mind is John Marburger. In spite of being Bush’s Science Advisor, he’s actually a democrat. He’s also very good at being non-partisan and somewhat politically saavy. He’s got the big picture of how space development needs to be done in a way that enables safer, more affordable, and more capable operations in the future. He’s even got similar views to the incoming administration on Global Warming (which they’ll care about). The fact that he didn’t quit even though he was constantly being ignored and marginalized by the Bush administration shows he has tenacity, and that this is something he cares about deeply. He would be a bit controversial though with some Democrats, but I think that the Obama team has at least show itself to be open-minded about people.


  14. It’s a pity Feynman is dead.

    Scott Hubbard would be good. He got his career as Ames
    Director ruined for pushing the Columbia accident investigation

    Dana Rohrbacher would be amusing. Former Space Subcommittee
    chair, GOP member so Obama would be “Bipartisan”, rohrbacher
    has no great love for the NASA people.

    The former president of Sealaunch or the current president
    would be good.

  15. Dana wouldn’t take it. He wants to be out of DC after his next term in Congress, for very strong personal reasons.

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