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NASA Chief Denies Rift With Transition Team

By Joel Achenbach
NASA Adminstrator Michael Griffin today denounced an Orlando Sentinel report that he and the space agency had been uncooperative with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team. The story, headlined "NASA Has Become a Transition Problem for Obama," stated that Griffin had obstructed efforts by the transition to get information and had recently told a transition team leader that she was "not qualified" to analyze plans for rocketing humans into space.

"This report, largely supported by anonymous sources and hearsay, is simply wrong," Griffin wrote in an e-mail to NASA employees.

Not known as a diplomat, and fierce in a debate, Griffin had a very public face-off last week at a book party at NASA headquarters with Lori Garver, a leader of the Obama transition team assigned to the space agency. According to the Sentinel story, the encounter became heated and Griffin became "red-faced." The article quoted a snippet of conversation based on the account of unnamed eyewitnesses.

"Mike, I don't understand what the problem is. We are just trying to look under the hood," Garver reportedly said.

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

Chris Shank, NASA chief of strategic communications, told The Post that Griffin and Garver are friends and Griffin did not perceive their encounter as heated: "He said to me this morning, 'I sure didn't think that was an argument. We were having a discussion about stuff.' "

Shank said the two were discussing the merits of Griffin's plan to develop a new rocket, Ares I, to put people into orbit after the space shuttle is retired. The alternative would be to upgrade an existing rocket, not yet rated as safe for human flight. Shank confirmed that Griffin questioned whether the Obama transition team had the engineering qualifications to analyze the merits of the different rockets.

John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University, said he could see but not hear the conversation as he signed books across the room.

"No voices were raised. No blows were struck. It was an eyeball to eyeball in the sense of two people having an intense discussion, people gingerly walking around them," Logsdon said. "These kind of conversations are going on all over town now. But almost all of them are behind closed doors. What's different on this one is that it was in a public setting."

Garver said she was not permitted to comment.

Griffin's e-mail today declared that NASA would be fully cooperative with the Obama transition team.

"I would like to reiterate what I have stated in a previous email to all NASA Officials: we must make every effort to 'lean forward,' to answer questions promptly, openly and accurately.

"We are fully cooperating with transition team members. Since mid-November, the agency has provided 414 documents and 185 responses to 191 requests.

"There are six outstanding responses, and the agency will meet the deadline for those queries.

"Also, we strongly urge full and free cooperation by companies performing work for NASA. I am appalled by any accusations of intimidation, and encourage a free and open exchange of information with the contractor community."

By Lexie Verdon  |  December 11, 2008; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

As I said, I am not leaving until the Good Lord calls me home ; )

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

JakeD needs to get a life! Ignore him and maybe he'll go away.

Posted by: skimom27 | December 12, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

JakeD Two, Flipkid Zero.

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

From the U.S. Constitution, Twentieth Amendment, Sec. 3: "If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have ... failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified ..."

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Unwashed_masses:

It's just an informal blog -- no need to worry about proper grammar -- however, for those of you keeping score at home, from Dictionary.com:

QUALIFIED –- adjective

1. having the qualities, accomplishments, etc., that fit a person for some function, office, or the like. (how Flipkid was using the word)

2. having the pre-requisites, accomplishments, etc., required by law or custom for getting, having, or exercising a right, holding an office, or the like. (how I was using the word)

3. modified, limited, or restricted in some way: a qualified endorsement. (how Stephen Colbert endorsed Obama ; )

JakeD One, Flipkid Zero.

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

My life (until the Good Lord calls me home) will be to keep a check on Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Jr. (assuming his father was even Obama, Sr.).

Posted by: JakeD | December 11, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

=======================================

the former slave master has become a slave... to his own insecurities.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | December 12, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, grammar checker went tilt.

If ... in the Sentinel are trues, it's

Should be:

If ... in the Sentinel are true, then it's

Posted by: Unwashed_Masses | December 12, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

If the statements in the Sentinel are trues, it's not that they are wrong. Sadly, they are all too true. Griffin would have just been saying things while wearing his impolitic engineering hat.

Lori Garver is a Poli Sci hack, and a space wanna be. She is a nice lady, but a very poor choice for this transition team job. Because if understanding of engineering and it's trade-offs were wind, she couldn't blow out a candle.

Unfortunately, being that straight forward is more (not less) likely to get the program Griffin's interested in protecting killed, if he hurts the wrong feelings. Because that's what these decisions are going to be based on, not engineering.

Let's face it. Obama is NOT interested in space. Griffin is wise to guess that Clintonian cutting of NASA budget's (while pretending to support it) is at hand.

So Griffin's in a tough spot. I feel for him. I don't think there are any right answers to make the transition team see anything different than what they've already decided before they even came in.

And anyone who isn't drinking kool-aid should fear for manned spaceflight. We may have just lost the Moon and Mars again...

Posted by: Unwashed_Masses | December 12, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

PJF311:

Why did YOU capitalize nasa?

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Even worse -- I was trying not to be inflamatory -- look the definition of that up too, grammar police.

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

My God, Jake D, if you're going to insist on going off your nut about whether or not Obama can be President, at least get your grammar straight. Even if your rapture-induced arguement had an ounce of merit (which it most emphatically does not), it would not be that he is not QUALIFIED to be President per the Constitution, but that he is not ELIGIBLE to be President because of non-citizenship. His qualifications speak for themselves, genius.

Posted by: Flipkid | December 12, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I first read about friction between Griffin and Grover at Orlando Sentinel website. I blogged enough their to express my opinion and now I see washingtonpost.com chiming in this issue.

Here is my two cents of what washingtonpost needs to do:

1) Get all facts sorted out what happened between these two "G's".

2) Give detailed explaination to its readers what constellation project is and how it is important to lead in new world of space race.

3) Analysis of Griffin's superior educational qualification combine with his great skill to motivate technical people at NASA. Second, imcompetence of Obama's transition team at every level to understand complexities in dealing with NASA technocrats.

3) Publish article in conjuction with NASA to highlighten offshoot technologies that prop up because of NASA's various projects.

4) Emphasize and poke NASA to promote technocrats to become NASA leaders.

5) Share light on all people who interfere in NASA management decisions.

It has been said (I disagree )that space transition team has good administrative & policy skills but that what exactly leads a institution like NASA to fail in its mission. What it boils down is that "policy wonks" would like to see technocrats be subservient to them.


NASA being a premier science organization in world, it is important that produce technical leaders from organization and share it with other firms.

Griffin has excellent ethics and moral valve to lead NASA. Provide him not only encouragement but also his organization some money to bring space glory to its good days.

Posted by: varunmahajan | December 12, 2008 5:52 AM | Report abuse

I assume this Griffin guy is a Bush/Cheney appointee. Any one appointed by Bush/Cheney is suspect until proven otherwise. No benefit of any doubt should be given to any of them.

Remember "a heck of a job Brownie"?

Posted by: steviana | December 12, 2008 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Hi JakeD,

What'll you have?

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 12, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

addendum:

Make that 'Griffin'. Who's Griffith? Oh, yeah, Emile, that great prize fighter from the . . . never mind.

Posted by: free9604 | December 12, 2008 12:02 AM | Report abuse

ex_Washingtonian:

CHANGE You Can Believe In.

Posted by: JakeD | December 12, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

It seems that Griffith was handed an unfunded mandate by POTUS the PITIFUL: send some guys to Mars. And, oh yeah, set up a manned base on the Moon--FIRST.
NASA could save a whole bunch of money by throwing in the towel on that worthless turkey, the ISS. Yes, Virginia, black holes exist and the ISS is a prime example. Greenbacks disappear into the ISS, never to be seen again. The world's largest orbiting white elephant. If any agency needs a serious refocus effort, it's NASA. And I would suggest Mr. Griffith start sending out his resume if indeed he hasn't already.

Posted by: free9604 | December 11, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Lori Garver is a very poor choice for this job. She is known as a space gadfly with no technical background. And, her husband works for Lockheed Martin that would benefit if the current Ares program were cancelled.

Posted by: ex-Washingtonian_in_NH | December 11, 2008 11:47 PM | Report abuse

SGall23241:

I will stay here. The topic is whether someone The One has selected is "qualified". I think it's relevant whether The One is qualified in the first place. Deal with it.

Posted by: JakeD | December 11, 2008 11:14 PM | Report abuse

It sounds to me like top levels at NASA need to learn what the armed forces of the United States are taught with their mother's milk:

This program is governed by elected civilians who are not a part of your agency and may not be particularly credentialed in your field of expertise.

This is how the spending of tax dollars is supposed to work, get used to it.

Posted by: officermancuso | December 11, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, why don't you take your grievance to a board that has that as a subject? This is about the space program, not whether Obama is a natural born American citizen (which he is). When you bring this out of right field (pun intended) here under this subject, you make yourself look like a frustrated, raving conservative lunatic. Go over to the board that has the subject of whether Obama's a citizen, and look like a frustrated, raving conservative lunatic there.

Posted by: SGall23241 | December 11, 2008 10:36 PM | Report abuse

The problem at NASA is that Bush wanted to give a speech there as big as Kennedy's speech about going to the moon, so Bush went there and gave a speech about aligning NASA towards a manned landing on Mars, with a return to the moon first.

Griffin has been doing his duty but no one could do what this president asks. Bush gave NO additional funding for this monumental effort. NASA, which to this point has been feeding the space station and shuttle, now has to take funds and make plans for a moon landing and eventually Mars. In the meantime, smaller projects are doing very well. The Webb telescope is coming and the rovers are still going.

As I see it NASA is being pulled in a bad direction and underfunded by Bush's agenda and lack of leadership. Obama needs to come in and give Bush's Mars manned landing the heave-ho and get NASA back on track as the National AERONAUTICS and Space Administration. Time for some real science, not glitzy, but real science to keep America 1st in aeronautics. Also, more rovers, more probes to the outer planets. More science. As for the space station, think about attaching some rockets to it. Its time to think about building an interplanetary ship, one that will be reusable and not only take men to the moon but also mars. And it would be an international endeavor and a real goal, unlike Bush's political speech that sent NASA in a bad direction, like everything Bush directed.

Posted by: bevjims1 | December 11, 2008 10:18 PM | Report abuse

JakeD,

You are an interesting person.

I read the Keyes suit (well, skimmed) and I get the drift.

I honestly have to say that I can't find a reason not to have the legislature define procedure for verifying eligibility of candidates. It's OK by me if a suit forces the issue into relevant law...after the fact.

But since it IS after the fact of 64 million votes cast for the President elect, under terms accepted by every state and territory, I wonder how anyone has standing to delete the votes already cast.
Especially when the motives are suspect.

The Constitutional argument (and yours) would have worked better if Keyes and the AIP had been serious about defending The Constitution under Bush.

Here's the thing. Ideologically speaking, Independent Conservatives like Keyes and perhaps you yourself, have a real problem with the way Obama reads the Constitution.

Example:

"Its not just absolute power that the founders sought to guard against," he writes. "Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth — the infallibility of any idea or ideology, or theology, or 'ism', any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course."

- Barack Obama

That doesn't mean you're wrong but what I see shaping up for you is a frustrating quest to demand absolutes from a guy who doesn't believe in them.

I was often appalled by Bush blindly picking absolutes in the face of contrary evidence so I prefer Obama's approach.

This is a fundamentalist argument as old as the founders.

Finally, I'll argue with you all day long for entertainment and maybe a little sharpening of my own ideas. I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing I have to say here is really very important.

Regards,
JQ

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 11, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

And I think people get his middle name is Hussein. He is going to say it at the inaugaration. Why do we need to CAPITALIZE it like its some crazy secret.

9 more million people voted for b. HUSSEIN o. than John SIDNEY McCain

Posted by: PJF311 | December 11, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Thats the whole nations job and he has asked us to all do that, but reality is also something to believe in before the Good Lord takes you.

Reality, like REAL things.... like a terrible economy, long wars, global climate crisis, debt owned by China, NOT a birth certificate that a conservate leaning supreme court thought was silly season.

Reality Jake... reality

Posted by: PJF311 | December 11, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

"Griffin questioned whether the Obama transition team had the engineering qualifications to analyze the merits of the different rockets."

Garver's education:
- BS Political Science and Economics
- MS Science, Technology, and Public Policy

Griffin's education:
- BS Physics
- MS Aerospace Science
- MEng Electrical Engineering
- MEng Civil Engineering
- MS Applied Physics
- MBA
- PhD Aerospace Engineering

Posted by: WylieD | December 11, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

My life (until the Good Lord calls me home) will be to keep a check on Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Jr. (assuming his father was even Obama, Sr.).

Posted by: JakeD | December 11, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

JakeD needs to get a life. B. Hussein Obama (haha the voters will not vote for him once they know his middle name.... oh wait...) is doing great with his appointments and a MAJORITY of republicans appprove of his choices. NASA needs to get on board with B. Hussein (haha- we got him again!!! - oh wait he won).

Posted by: PJF311 | December 11, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

If Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Jr. was not born in the State of Hawaii (as stated by his paternal grandmother), he is not QUALIFIED per the Constitution to become President of the United States.

Posted by: JakeD | December 11, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Griffin needs to go. His manned space flight ambitions are unrealizable, and he doesn't have the confidence of his own agency. NASA needs to return to realistic expectations, rather than gut its most valuable science programs to pay for a fantasy.

Posted by: PutDownTheKoolaid | December 11, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

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