Farewell NASA: The Circular CIO

When I was aschool-aged math student, I always held a special fascination for circles.  I loved trigonometric functions and wouldplay with identities just for sport.  So,here I am now, a more “seasoned” girl and I find myself thinking again about mylove for circles. 

First, let’sdefine a circle.  It is a set of pointson a plane equidistant from another particular point which is its center.  It has no beginning and no end.  It just goes around, and around, and around –from beginning to end to beginning again. 

And here Iam at the end.

Again, atthe beginning.

I’m leavingNASA.  Retiring actually.  Well, kinda. Ending my Federal NASA career and starting a new post civil servantadventure. 

Way back inMay of 1980, I started a nearly 34-year professional career at NASA at GoddardSpace Flight Center.  I was a GS-7 1520Mathematician.  I was in the professionalinternship program (PIP) and had to have great grades to get in and do greatthings to get promoted.  I met anotherGS-7 1520 Mathematician – a shy young girl named Stephanie Gayle Henry who endedup being a BFF for life.  I was a systemsprogrammer on the IBM 360/95 working in Code 500 for Jack Balikirsky.  IBM Assembler Language was fun.  Not for wimps, for sure.

But I leftNASA.  Got married (the first time), to aguy who wanted to move to Seattle.  Twenty-fiveyears, 4 additional Federal agencies, and stint at Boeing Computer Services…later, I divorced and came back to an agency I never wanted to leave.  I came full circle.  Now, I am leaving again – at the end of thecircle.  Again.

As I beginand end, I want to mention a few great NASA leaders that I had the pleasure ofserving under this time.  They all havesomething in common – they are tough … some perhaps in some cases rather mean. 

 I willmention them in pairs, which are almost as good as circles.

Ed Weilerand Rob Strain.  They were pretty toughand mean.  On the surface, they werequite different – in stature and in academic background.  But, at the end of the day, Ed was a thugfrom the South Side of Chicago shaped by the hope and despair that surroundedhim;  and Rob was a thug form Flint,shaped by the hard work and long hours of the tireless men and women in theauto industry.  Both men are tirelessleaders whose love of space made NASA a better place.  One focused his telescope on heavenly bodieslight years away and the other focused his on Earth objects and businesssystems that just kept things running. Thanks Ed and Rob.

Lori Garverand Charlie Bolden.  Pretty tough andmean – well, maybe some think Charlie isn’t mean – but he is a Marine.  Get it. Hoorah.  So, Charlie is anastronaut and Lori is a policy wonk. Yet, this Odd Couple often accused of not getting along have the mostawesome thing in common.  Greatleadership and love of EVERYTHING space. Thanks Lori and Charlie. 

A quickpersonal story.  My husband’s first wifewasn’t especially fond of me.  And Istayed clear of her.  Then our mutuallove, her grandson, broke his foot and was in severe pain.  We were both in the orthopedic surgeon’soffice crying – because this little boy we both loved was in a bad way.  We loved the same thing.  Therefore, we loved each other – the associativeproperty of love.  That’s the real Lori and Charlie. 

So, I’m atthe end again.  Really at thebeginning.  What am I doing next?  Just Google that.  But, I sign off on my last NASA CIO blogsaying that I am leaving and agency I love to start a new beginning again. 

NASA, thanksfor being at my center.  Cureton Out.

LindaCureton, NASA CIO

The End


The Out of This World Reality of the Virtual NASA

Well we are on our way.  We launched a pilot of a large meeting of NASA senior executives.  This is a precursor to Administrator Bolden’s a virtual Executive Summit – all remote using collaborative technologies.  While the pilot contained up to 80 participants, the real virtual summit will have well over 600 executives agency-wide, nation-wide – perhaps even in low Earth orbit.  
We had 9 speakers from across the country
 who shared 10 different files consisting of documents, spreadsheets, videos and presentations. Nine speakers across the county shared documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  We even looked at a movie clip of Apollo 13. We were able to see each other on video and web cameras in our new desktop ACES desktop, laptop, and mobile device environment.
Using chat and webcams, we were able to get a reasonable sense of the mood of the attendees.  After we worked through some of the idiosyncrasies of the technology, we navigated pretty well by asking questions and making comments for the records.  We even got a few good jokes in to loosen up the room and saw a great close up shot of the administrator’s tie. 
As the CIO, I nearly had a nervous breakdown (occupational hazard).  The technology was new to the participants and the headquarters wireless network was in a bouncy mood that day.  But at the end of the day, we were one giant leap closer to implementing Administrator Bolden’s vision of an anywhere, anyplace, anytime organization.  
We also demonstrated several of the fundamental tenets of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy.  In reminding us about the need for a mobile environment, the strategy states: 
“Mobility” is not just about embracing the newest technology, but rather reflects a fundamental change in how, when, and where our citizens and employees work and interact. Mobile technology – the devices, infrastructure, and applications required to support a mobile citizenry and workforce – is a critical enabler of mobility, but is only part of the profound environmental shift that mobility represents.
Technology will not (yet?) replace the human contact required to build trust nor the complex interactions typically used in multilateral problem solving.  But we got one step closer to augmenting the ability to collaborate in a virtual if not more cost-effective way.  
Linda Cureton CIO, NASA

Mobility: Now That's Rocket Science

NASA Kennedy Space Center Office of Launch Services in partnership with the Center CIO Mike Bolger (pictured here) developed this cool little educational app that teaches kids (and old CIOs like yours truly) about rocket science.  It’s called Rocket Science 101 and is a great example of how these technologies make things like science a more personal experience.  
When I found out about it, I started playing with it … er …. evaluating it. Kennedy Space Center CIO Mike Bolger with NASA CIO Linda Cureton with Space Shuttle in background I launched a mission (successfully) with a Delta IV and an Atlas rocket.  Before I knew it, I got caught up in it and felt like a genius.  Mike lamented that his 12-year old daughter got excited and started asking him all kinds of questions.  Well, Mike, at least now “there’s an app for it!” 
Innovative use of technology like this is encouraged in the US Federal CIO’s recently announced 21st Century Digital Government Strategy.   It gets the information to citizens in a very intimate way.  
NASA IT is also developing a Mobility Strategy to complement our Administrator’s “Work from Anywhere” initiative.  This strategy seeks to create an experience for our workforce that will be enhanced by the use of mobile technology allowing them to function more efficiently or effectively from wherever they are and whatever device they are using.  Supporting this, we developed a tightly-managed way of delivering internal in our apps store, while external mobile apps will be made available using existing commercial sites.  As new services are developed, they will be done so with mobility in mind and in a device agnostic manner to the extent practicable and securely.  
Mobility is all the rage now with an ever-increasing amount of hype.  At the end of the day, when all the hype settles down, it will simply be about getting information out to those who need it, wherever they are, any time, any amount, securely.  Now I have to run – I need to go intercept an asteroid.  
Linda Cureton, NASA CIO

Sourcing Strategies and Innovation – Diversity and Inclusion Create Big and Strong Organizations

We mostlythink of diversity and inclusion issues as it relates to people andorganizations.  The benefit of thinkingin this dimension comes from bringing in groups of people with a broad range ofexperiences, styles, and approaches to solve organizational problems increative ways.  

The sameapplies to sourcing strategies for plugging in outside organizations with ourown.  This is relevant to contracting,partnerships, and strategic alliances. Sourcing strategies give us the opportunity to reflect on the strengthsand challenges of our organizations and be intentional about what kind ofoutside company can provide the biggest advantage.  These successful strategies are key tobuilding an organization that is constantly learning and organicallyinnovative. 

ClaytonChristensen in “Innovator’s Dilemma: WhenNew Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” talks about the factors that affectan organization’s ability to be creative and innovative.  These three factors which “…affect what an organizationcan and cannot do [are] its resources, its process, and its values.”  He goes on to say that large companies usuallyreject promising opportunities because smaller companies are better positionedfinancially, culturally, and process-wise to pursue them.  

Many of usspend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that it is so difficult to innovate orleverage technology in government because of how we budget, procure, and bureaucratize. But is it really that bad?  

The Officeof Management and Budget (OMB) put out an intriguing memo.  For those non-bureaucrats, we live and die byOMB memos – we even give them names and numbers.  It’s sort of like when your mother tells youto do something – always listen to your Mom. This memo is commonly known as Mythbusters. Here, myth #10 tells that tells us tothat getting broad participation from a variety of vendors is good for us.  If we do this, we’ll grow up to be big andstrong – Mom, uh… I mean OMB has a point here. Here’s the fact: 

”The government loseswhen we limit ourselves to the companies we already work with. Instead, we needto look for opportunities to increase competition and ensure that all vendors,including small businesses, get fair consideration. “

Successfulleaders will create an ecosystem where strategic partnerships exist in whicheach partner or vendor has an important role to play.  Consider a shipping analogy – after all, forthose who know me, it’s all about cruising. 

Large shipstend to be slow and difficult to maneuver. They are like agencies or large companies with entrenched culturaltraditions and a heritage of processes. These ships need the help of pilot boats or tug boats to help them maneuvertight channels or clear reefs in order to have a successful journey.  These smaller ships are like smaller agenciesor small businesses that are able to go into places the big guys can’t fit andare nimble, quick, and flexible.  Finally,we have yachts and other small pleasure boats that can run circles aroundeveryone – like the tender boats that ferry people back and forth to shore muchmore effectively and safely than the big guys can.  

Whether you’rea Harvard Business School professor, a Mom, or a frequent cruiser, the value ofthe variety and capabilities that we apply to sourcing work in organizations isa key to success.  

LindaCureton, CIO, NASA



International Space Apps Challenge: Carbs, Caffeine, and Coders

NASA’s OpenGovernment Team saw a great turnout in citizens from around the world gatheringfor 48 hours to develop software code, technology, and solutions.  Teams from every continent gathered to solvechallenges that were relevant to both space exploration and social need.   From4/21-22, 2,083 collaborators from 111 organizations in 25 cities and 17countries addressed 71 challenges.  They created101 unique solutions in 48 hours with 50 submitted for global judging.

I had thepleasure of manning the San Francisco site. It was unseasonably warm in SFO – a sweltering 85 degrees.  The coders consumed massive quantities ofwaffles, bagels, and pizza to fuel their passion for space and their strongdesire to contribute to outcomes that improved life for all of us on this amazingblue marble.  Tech Shop, which gives the initialimpression of a high school shop class, provided the perfect atmosphere for themakers and shakers. 

Collaborators working on solutions

Here are afew examples from some of the sites:

 ·        SatelliteData Correlation System

·        LunarTerrain Roughness Mapper

·        WaterSampling System

 Challengeslike these engage citizens in a meaningful way. It taps into the collective creativity of the crowd and fostersco-creation that quickly and cost-effectively helps agencies advance theirmission. 


LindaCureton, NASA CIO


Geek Power

After my last blog, it was clear that I needed to acknowledge the unsung heroes also known as Geeks.  From his book Leading Geeks, Paul Glen defines them (…uh, us) as “… the highly intelligent, usually introverted, extremely valuable, independent-minded, hard-to-find, difficult-to-keep technology workers who are essential to the future of the organization.” Another characteristic of Geeks, according to Glen is that they lots of love, caffeine, carbohydrates, and saturated fat.  Picture courtesy of Efrain Fernandez


Maybe it is no surprise that these workers are hiding in data centers, heads down developing web sites, or fixing problems on laptops – drinking Red Bull and eating pizza, of course.  Yesterday’s Geeks are masquerading today as CIOs, CTOs, or some flavor of manager or executive (before Red Bull it was coffee or Mountain Dew and pizza). And what of this thing called programming?  Who does it now?  Well, Geeks did and they still do!


I found a blog from a retired Geek who can’t get programming out of his system and furthermore understands the value of the skills needed to support heritage code that solve celestial mechanics problems for NASA.  Yes, his name is David Eagle, he’s still going a bit of work for NASA Kennedy Space Center and he is a Geek.  He loves to do the things that Geeks love to do – which is to solve problems.  He admits: 


“The computer programming I do is not all about making money. It’s a way to keep my mind sharp (and to prevent it from totally turning to mush!) and it’s fun, too. I’m currently semi-retired, working part-time at Kennedy Space Center.  After 30+ years in the business, it can be hard to just walk away. I love to solve problems, especially those that involve optimization of space flight mechanics problems.”


A Geek after my own heart.


Geeks are people who deliver technology innovations no matter what era you are from.  When you find them, give them a hug.  You may in fact wonder if you are a Geek.  Here are some clues (feel free to add more).  You know you’re a Geek if …


…you see the world in 4K pages.

…you have an iPhone, a blackberry, an iPad, a laptop, a PC, and a MAC. 

…you know what thrashing is and believe it is inherently evil.

…you know what ASP, HASP, and JES are but can’t remember your kids’ names.

…you loved Geometry and hated the prom.

…you can’t remember phone numbers but you remember IP addresses.

…you use the terms do-loop and no-op in non-technical contexts.


More …?


Linda Cureton, Geek CIO




NASA Launches apps@NASA

NASA launched apps@NASA (http://apps.nasa.gov), a website where NASA employees and contractors can download mobile apps that securely access NASA systems.  These apps enable our users to perform critical job functions at anytime from anywhere via personal and NASA mobile devices.  

This is part of a full suite of services that is provided by the NASA Enterprise Applications Competency Center (NEACC).  The NEACC resides at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  It is supported by SAIC under the Enterprise Applications Service Technologies (EAST) contract of our Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P).  The NEACC’s role is to help NASA improve business processes and to deploy enabling technology needed to implement our Agency’s strategic plan. 

A wide range of services are available under NEACC’s Center for Internal Mobile Apps (CIMA).  This includes the ability to host, distribute, and provide support for internal mobile applications; the ability to develop internal mobile applications for NASA mission needs; and the ability to provide secure NASA-approved methods for authentication and access to Agency internal resources. 

Even though apps@NASA is only available to NASA employees and contractors (don’t you wish you worked at NASA?), the use of internal apps stores has a broad interest.  There’s a lot of debate in the IT community relative to the use of mobile devices in the workplace in general.  Whether or not IT providers are ready or not, mobile devices both enterprise-issued and personally-owned are in the workplace.  This service advances us a bit further beyond debate and into the world where IT service providers must enter – a world where the driving force of technology and customer expectations advance faster than policy and procurement cycles and the restraining force of security and legal issues like e-Discovery and records management keep our feet firmly grounded in reality. 

Managing diversity like this is where CIO’s tread carefully.  apps@NASA is a first small step for the mankind that work at NASA into a daunting world where customer expectations are measured in hours or minutes and not in 18-month software develop lifecycles. 

Linda Cureton, NASA CIO



Week One: NASA on Google Plus

Guest Blogger: Deborah Diaz, Deputy CIO of NASA


Information overload? How many accessible and scalable communication techniques in social media can be utilized effectively to collaborate … and in NASA’s case, push the frontier of space exploration? It’s now been one week since we launched the NASA Google+ account and NASA has seen an overwhelming positive response. We were impressed with the rapid growth of the NASA presence on the Facebook and Twitter platforms, we do have the data for each platform at the 20,000 mark. It took #NASA 469 days to reach 20,000 followers on Twitter, 276 days on Facebook, and only 4 days on Google+. As of this morning, between the three platforms, NASA has a combined reach of 2,264,854 (1,605,159 on twitter, 625,459 on Facebook, 34,236 on Google+). With NASA’s almost 35,000 followers on Google+, NASA is the third most popular non-Google page (http://socialstatistics.com/top/pages).


What’s more interesting than the number of followers on the Google+ platform, is how active the community has been. In the first week of use, NASA posted 53 times to Google+. These posts generated 18,854 +1’s, 7,969 shares and 1996 comments. The most popular post was the time lapse video from space (https://plus.google.com/u/0/102371865054310418159/posts/Bpb9wRt7SDp?hl=en).


There are a lot of possibilities for innovation through social media at NASA and this level of activity on this new media platform confirms there is still space to experiment and grow. In the next few weeks, NASA will continue to share our amazing and iconic imagery, but we are also planning on hosting hangouts with our scientists, engineers, and maybe even Astronauts! Our first hangout will be on Monday November 21st at 3pm ET with our Open Government Initiative. We’ll be discussing Open Source, Open Data and Social Media.


We’d love to hear what ideas you have on how NASA uses social media and invite you to share your thoughts here or on any of our NASA social media platforms.


Deborah Diaz




NASA on Google Plus

 Guest Blogger: Deborah Diaz, Deputy CIO of NASA


Our world population has doubled in the past 50 years.  We had three billion in 1959, four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987 and six billion in 1998.  A little over one week ago, the human population on planet Earth reached seven billion. This marks an important milestone for our species. Fifty years ago, shortly before John F. Kennedy issued his challenge to reach the moon, we had just crossed the three billion mark. This expansion is a testament to our ability to produce, grow, and connect. Perhaps the most important innovation tying us together since then has been the advent of the public Internet. As we’ve grown and become more dispersed over the planet, the Internet has allowed us to instantaneously connect and communicate in new and exciting ways.

Although we may still see the Internet largely as a productivity tool, or as a way to access information, it’s become so much more than that. It’s a collaboration platform that is bringing us together.  With the acceleration of digital convergence and increasingly pervasive use of digital devices to access all manner of information, the Internet has become a platform for participation.  Each second, the world’s information is increasingly sorted, sifted, and combined in various useful and creative ways by communities of people from all corners of the world.  Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+ are reshaping human interactions and helping us connect to one another.  

As an agency trusted with charting the universe and expanding human knowledge, NASA has long been at the forefront of using the Internet to communicate with and involve citizens in our mission of space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. NASA had one of the first websites on the Internet in the 90s, obtained one of the first accounts on Twitter in 2007, and began Tweeting in late 2008.  We have now launched our NASA presence on Google+ as the first government agency on the platform.

This is an exciting step for NASA and we have already seen enormous interest from the Google+ community – we had over a thousand new followers in the first hour!  We look forward to exploring this new engagement platform and innovating how NASA shares information.  


Deborah Diaz

NASA Deputy Chief Information Officer


Getting High on ACES

Man Holding up a Shining Ace

ACES is theend-user Services component of NASA’s InformationTechnology (IT) Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P) Program.  It provides a consolidated solution fordelivering end-user services across NASA to achieve increased efficiencies andreduce costs though standardization and commonality.  Efficiency is balanced with effectiveness in providingthe means to build specialized solutions when mission needs require them.  Services provided include computing and mobilebundled seats, Enterprise-wide email, directory and printing services, andperipherals.

Talk aboutthings that scare a CIO, nothing scares a CIO more than transitioning from oneservice provider to another.  And Isuppose nothing is scarier than to blog about it just a few short days beforethe risky transition is about to take place. ACES, the $2.2 billion 10-year contract, was awarded to HP EnterpriseServices (HPES) of Herndon, VA.  We willtransition from services provided through the ODIN contract and Lockheed MartinInformation Systems and Global Solutions (LMIS&GS). 

Both membersof the much-maligned “ITCartel” are up to the task and more than capable of doing the heavy liftingneeded for success.  Thank goodness,because as the government seeks to streamline operations, we rely on our contractingcommunity more and more.  Developing andnurturing a professional camaraderie is critical to having an ecosystemconducive to meeting government IT challenges. 

If all goeswell, this will be one of the biggest non-events since Y2K.  If it goes poorly, then the scores oftechnicians and program managers who have worked feverishly over the last fewmonths will kick their contingency planes into gear.  This is another example where failure here issimply not an option. 

ACES movesus one step closer to addressing one of OMB’stop 25 issues by positioning NASA to enjoy economy of scale relative tocommodity desktop IT.  This will also putNASA in a position to securely leverage trends in virtualization and consumer experiences.   Morethan that, it gives the mission a way to get technology when they need it sothat they can focus on their specialized challenges. 


LindaCureton, NASA CIO