OK, I pledged to be nice to the NASA administrator until after Christmas. Now that it’s two days after, first let us consider his mighty fan club, including (shockingly) his adoring wife. Who would have thought?
When the petition originally went up, I wish that I’d captured a screen shot of the signatures, because some of them were a hoot. I particularly liked the second one from Marsha Ivins, that said something to the effect of “I have to suck up to keep my job.” Unfortunately, the more entertaining ones have disappeared down the memory hole, because Dr. Horowitz decided that they weren’t entirely in keeping with the intent of the exercise, once again demonstrating the fabled openness to criticism always and proudly displayed by this NASA management team.
Imagine, as an anonymous commenter over at R&S (perhaps Rocketman himself) posted in comments, the (hopefully) outgoing administrator as a housing contractor and architect:
First, take all the plans you’ve paid competing architects to devise to meet your stated needs and shred them, and decree that they will build a 6-bedroom Greek-revival mansion on a 1000sqft lot in a marshy brownfield area that you just happen to have gotten a sweetheart deal on.
Then, after decreeing the size and shape of the shell of the house and choosing a builder, mandate on said builder that the home contain all manner of luxuries, amenities, and frivolities, all of which are to come with multiply-redundant safety features and backups. Then comes the punchline: these features can’t take up any of the limited living space, can’t use any power, and can’t add to the home’s purchase or maintenance costs.
Then let your extended family members have their say. Give pushy and dramatic Cousin Marsha a kitchen and bath for every room, lest your guests die for the lack of them. Let scatterbrained Cousin Glenn redesign the basement and utilities services again and again to suit his whims, because it gives him something to do. Put Cousin Ken in charge of redesigning the entire house around the garage door and opener he already has and wants to unload on you. And put Cousin John in charge of building himself the pretty but extravagant Corinthian columns on the front and continually reimagining the interior decor.
Ignore all the while your soil geologist’s anxious whispers that the swampy lot you’ve committed to using can’t support the weight of the house you’ve decreed. There’s no foundation problem a few extra tons of concrete and rerod can’t fix, after all. Tell the county inspector that everything is hunky-dory, and call the home builder and tell him to reduce the weight of the house by deleting the smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.
To silence the critics of your DIY architectural talent, build a “demonstration” house by reusing the foundation of an abandoned tenement that only cosmetically resembles your dream palace. Use it to show off the fire escape design you’ve long since changed, and that the abandoned foundation of a different structure can support the weight of a completely different home than what you’re actually building. Dismiss criticism that the test is being staged for political reasons and to wow the mortgage lenders, and poo-poo as ignorant and uninformed any concerns that it will do nothing to allay fears about the earthquake survivability of the real thing.
Then, after blowing most of your budget on supporting the cousins in their accustomed style and paying the contractors to make unending whim-driven changes, cut the contractors’ budgets. When they complain that there is too much work and too little resources, mandate a bunch of new major changes. That’ll shut ’em up.
Continue to make fundamental changes even as the walls go up. Why not? It’s not like you have to pay for them, since everything you do is “in scope,” by definition.
And then finally, when move-in day comes in spite of your brilliant multi-degreed architectural leadership, you and your cousins can watch from the cookie-cutter ranch houses across the street as the new owners, financed up to their eyeballs and left without alternate accommodations for five years, carry in all their worldly possessions only to have the castle crumble around them and sink into the mire.
Of course by then you’ve moved on to other concerns, like being the HOA president, so you neatly avoid blame for the tragedy and expense.
Must be a descendant of Don Miguel de Grifo.
Anyway, is such a petition by a former AA in favor of his former boss proper? Well, as Frank Sietzen points out, it’s no more improper than anything else Doc Horowitz has done:
Why hasn’t anyone questioned how “Doc” got his ESMD job in the first place? Gee, let’s see, he was a senior corporate official of the company promoting a shuttle booster solution for the CLV and “presto”! Griffin chooses said design, awards a multi-billion-dollar no-bid contract to the same firm and then HIRES the same “Doc” who was promoting the idea to run that part of the agency that contracts with industry (his former employer) to build the vehicle. Had this sorry record been FEMA there would have been dueling Congressional investigations in both the House and the Senate. And now poor old “Doc” — awarded for a time a NASA consulting contract after he left NASA — has organized a web site to urge that Obama reappoint the one man in all of the federal system that has publically questioned his transition team?
“Doc” should be grateful Santa didn’t bring him a summons to testify before a federal grand jury.
I have to say that I’ve always been a little astounded at the media’s (including the space media’s) seeming lack of curiosity about what seems clearly to be a conflict of interest in the Horowitz revolving door. I guess they’re only interested in astronauts in diapers.
In response, scrooge Ferris Valyn didn’t wait until after Christmas to start a counterpetition: Ditch Mike. Unfortunately, it is tainted by the fact that the first signature on it is that of Tommy Lee Elifritz. I have to say that I’m personally unwilling to sully my name, or viewpoint, by associating it with his, despite the old saying about a stopped clock being right twice a day. And as the second anonymous signer points out, it’s unlikely that very many current (or even retired, if they’re still consulting) NASA employees or contractors are likely to sign on to it, regardless of their personal views, just as few were willing to speak ill of George Abbey publicly, even after the end was near at the beginning of the Bush administration, because the stake was not yet through the heart.
And of course, on the Horowitz petition, it’s hard to sift out the sincere but misguided supporters from the suckups, so there’s very little value to either one, other than as a demonstration of the depths to which some of those most benefiting from this programmatic disaster in the making will descend to keep the zombie plodding forward.
[Sunday morning update]
Here is another petition: Remove Mike Griffin Now. I don’t think that this part is quite right, though:
VSE Goal: Develop a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), that will start testing by 2008 and will conduct its first manned mission no later than 2014.
Griffin: Griffin cancelled the CEV and replaced it with the Orion crew capsule, which will not start flight tests until at least 2014, and will not fly operationally until at least 2015 (and there is only a 65% probability of meeting that schedule).
CEV wasn’t canceled. Orion is the new name for CEV. What was cancelled were Steidle’s original plans to provide multiple contracts and have a “fly-off” among prototype concepts (by 2006, if I recall correctly). Instead, Mike reverted to a traditional competition of cost-plus study contracts which culminated in a phase C/D award to Lockheed Martin, at which point the name was changed from CEV to “Orion.” And of course, since then, the requirements have been in continuous flux, partially driven by performance issues on the new unneeded launch system.