IT Reform at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The NASA IT community has worked diligently during the past year to implement meaningful IT reforms to better serve our Agency’s mission and the American people. These reforms represent the start of a journey that affects our very culture by changing the way we do business, innovate, and use technology to the benefit of our diverse customers. Improved investment management practices, the use of cloud services when appropriate, and the use of shared services as a provider and consumer are core tenets in our IRM Strategic Plan released in June 2011. To underscore the importance of this shift, I identified a Deputy CIO for IT Reform, Gary Cox, in 2012 to provide an integrated focus on IT innovation and service delivery to ensure that our services are effective and efficient from our customers’ perspectives.
In the area of investment management, we collaborated across NASA during two TechStat evaluations in the past year. The TechStat for the Integrated Collaborative Environment (ICE) in March 2011 resulted in actions that improved the governance and usability of the robust management software capability for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. In April 2012, we held a TechStat for our IT Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) to ensure that the requirements were aligned with Agency business needs and that the investment should continue as planned. The outcome was that the critical capability should continue but more focused governance and performance measures were necessary to improve user acceptance. Two Center-level TechStat investment evaluations are being planned for later this summer.
Our use of cloud technologies has benefitted NASA as well as the public. To engage the American people in space exploration, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) loaded 250,000 pictures of Mars into a Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform. This “Be a Martian” initiative has been very popular, serving over 2.5 million data queries from crowd-sourcing applications and proving that the cloud can be a terrific way to reach and engage the public and support STEM activities in our schools. NASA is the midst of deploying SERVIR, a project in partnership with USAID, to a cloud-based geospatial information technology infrastructure. SERVIR integrates satellite and ground-based data with forecast models to monitor environmental changes and improve world-wide response to natural disasters.  Finally, NASA shifted to a new web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure. This cloud-based model supports a wide variety of web applications and sites using an interoperable, standards-based, and secure environment while providing almost a million dollars in cost savings each year.
We have also implemented several other major reforms. During the last 18 months, we laid the foundation to streamline and improve transparency into our IT operations by deploying centrally-managed end user services, communications services, web services, and enterprise application management and development capabilities. We also launched a central business office and working capital fund to support several major IT contracts and we have been integrating the industry-best Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process guidance into our service frameworks. In parallel, we have closed 20 data centers to date as we continue optimizing our computing capabilities.
We also implemented new, innovative technology to support our scientists and engineers so that they can work from anywhere, any time.  Our Chief Technology Officer for IT, Dr. Sasi Pillay, is also working with industry partners to expand our mobile strategy and improve our ability to attract young employees by allowing them to use their own technology devices on our networks.  And, our Center for Internal Mobile Applications is developing mobile applications that expand our employees’ ability to develop new scientific and engineering breakthroughs for the nation’s space program.  
Finally, while I serve as the co-Chair of the CIO Council’s Strategy & Planning Committee to facilitate improving Federal IT management, I am committed to ensuring that NASA is an avid consumer of idea sharing and best practices from other Agencies. For example, NASA’s Strategic Investments Division (SID) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Treasury to implement Performance Measure Manager to drive efficiencies by facilitating the input of Agency performance data and providing a consolidated archival capability. Only by working together, collaboratively and in an open environment, can we continue to achieve long-lasting Federal IT reform.
Linda Cureton, NASA CIO

4 thoughts on “IT Reform at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”

  1. To dance ballet is based upon turns like the planets or the stars that is why a person who practice dance classical ballet is always young

  2. If the space were ordered they woulb be with colour ?

    Who orders the sky the Sun ?

  3. This is a nice summary of IT transformation.

    A question re the statement: “In parallel, we have closed 20 data centers to date as we continue optimizing our computing capabilities.” Q: When data-centers are closed, were they merged/consolidated with other data-centers? Were any of the functionalities dropped altogether? Are any of the consolidated data-center uses cloud services?

    Thanks in advance for answers!

  4. Dear Guest June 09, 2012 05:24:33 –

    Our data centers that have closed were largely consolidated into other data centers.  In subsequent planned life cycle management events for each project and program that has assets in one or more data centers, the functions and contents of the data center assets can be reviewed in the context of the mission they support and determination can be made whether to discontinue services/functions or continue to modernize the function.

    Linda Cureton

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