GRC Outreach and More on Future Forums

This Week

I spoke to the 3rd Annual Space Exploration Conference in Denver on Tuesday. Given that I am so often in front of aerospace crowds these days, it was a unique opportunity to involve the aerospace community in what we’ve been doing in outreach, particularly the Future Forums, and what is planned for the Future. I also introduced the new feature on NASA’s website, NASA Home and City, where you click on a particular item — on an airplane, at the grocery store, in the hospital, etc. — and see how it was derived from NASA technology or cooperation. It’s a fun tool.

With the rollout of the FY2009 budget, Mike Griffin testified last week before the House Science & Technology Committee. Next week he testifies before House Appropriations and April 4 before Senate Appropriations.

Governor’s Remarks from Columbus Future Forum

Ohio Governor Strickland’s remarks at the Columbus Future Forum last week were fabulous [(read transcript (PDF)]. He said, “NASA’s space exploration and research efforts have not only opened corners of the universe, they have improved life on this planet. NASA’s countless advances affect our daily lives and energize our economy. In materials, medicine, biology, fuel economy, aviation, information technology, and telecommunications NASA has sped our path to the future.”

Washington Lt. Governor Owen’s remarks at the Seattle Future Forum were similarly striking [read transcript (PDF), listen to speech (MP3)]. He said, “NASA, more than any government organization, has been the seed of inspiration and imagination for millions around the country and the world. The seeds that NASA has planted in its space programs have sowed nothing short of miracles and accomplishment, reaching far beyond the extraordinary technology that launched men and women into space time and again.” You can see from both speeches that these leaders understand the importance of space to communities in their states. That is the goal of the Future Forums and these forums are proving to be very effective.

Introduction of John Hairston’s Posting

John Hairston, Director of External Relations at Glenn Research Center, participated in the Columbus Future Forum. Under John’s leadership, Glenn has been out in front in thinking of innovative means to reach out to local communities in Ohio. John’s posting on some of these planned and ongoing activities is below.

Glenn Outreach by John Hairston

Since listening to Shana Dale’s keynote address about the space economy at the Columbus Future Forum, I’ve been thinking about how NASA’s Glenn Research Center contributes to the space economy through outreach to government officials, businesses, educational institutions and the general public. As Glenn prepares to coordinate its 2007 Economic Impact study, we’re reflecting on the many ways that our Center adds value to Ohio. I’d like to share with you a few of the unique outreach opportunities we’re pursuing this year with four key audiences.


Ohio is unique in the nation. It has a vast aerospace industry that is supported by an outstanding higher education system, but it lacks a state-wide aerospace strategy. To address this issue, Glenn is collaborating on the planning and execution of the first-ever Ohio Aerospace Day. The event will gather government, industry, academic and economic development institutions to increase awareness of Ohio’s aerospace industry among key federal and state leaders and to exchange ideas on public policies and strategic partnerships.


Visitors look at instrumentOhio companies have always been involved in the space program — over 52 of them have supplied the space shuttle — and we expect them to continue to play a strong role in the Constellation Program.  To make sure that happens, on May 16, 2008, Glenn will host area businesses for a series of workshops designed to introduce them to the U.S. Space Exploration Policy and help them identify potential roles for their companies. 

This fiscal year, Glenn also entered into NASA’s first inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Navy to help companies accelerate the commercialization of technologies funded by the Small Business Innovative Research Program. The companies will present their technologies in a NASA Showcase at the 8th Navy Opportunity Forum on June 2-4 in Crystal City, Virginia.


Glenn’s Education office has joined forces with the Cleveland Municipal School District to open a school that is like no other public school in the United States. At this science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) high school, students will participate in an integrated curriculum that fosters critical thinking, creativity and communication. Academics will emphasize how math, science and technology shape our world. The school is named MC2 STEM, and it will open in the fall of 2008. We’re also collaborating with several educational organizations to provide classroom and online content for an Ohio Department of Education professional development plan for science teachers.


The Office of Community and Media Relations engages the community both outside and within Glenn’s gates. On the Third Saturday of every month, Glenn’s Visitor Center staff invites the public to join them for a full day of presentations, exhibits and activities for the whole family. The Third Saturday events bring more than 9,000 guests to the Visitor Center every year. 

Outside of Glenn’s gates, Glenn’s Speakers Bureau reaches more than 60,000 people a year and is comprised of scientists, engineers and other Glenn employees who educate the public on topics ranging from NASA careers to space exploration. This year, under the direction of Center Director, Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., Glenn’s senior management team is joining the Speakers Bureau.


National Association of Women Business Owners

National Association of Women Business Owners

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale at National Association of Women Business Owners - Silicon Valley, Feb. 19, 2008On Tuesday, I spoke at the National Association of Women Business Owners, Silicon Valley Chapter (NAWBO-SV), first annual awards luncheon in San Jose, California.

There are some recurring themes in this speech and the Future Forum speeches. They are powerful messages and resonate well—particularly with business groups. As I mentioned in my speech to the group, there are many similarities between the pursuit of innovation by these business owners and the way innovation is integral to NASA’s mission.

It was an enthusiastic crowd of highly accomplished women and a few highly accomplished men. They were impressed by the benefits they receive from America’s space program. They also found it surprising that for all the work we do—aeronautics research, earth science, space science, and human space flight—it is on a budget that is less than 6/10ths of 1 percent of the federal budget. I got the impression that they thought NASA generates a good return on investment.

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale at National Association of Women Business Owners - Silicon Valley, Feb. 19, 2008Ms. Cecelia (Ceil) McCloy, President and CEO of Integrated Science Solutions, Inc. (ISSi), received the NAWBO-SV Public Policy Advocate of the Year Award for 2008. In a previous blog, I mentioned that ISSi was named 2007 Small Business Administration Region IX Prime Contractor of the Year. This award honors small businesses that have provided the federal government with outstanding goods and services as prime contractors. ISSi, a certified woman-owned science and engineering firm started in 1999, supports NASA Ames by performing the Environmental Support Services Contract at the Center.

This group is energized, motivated and now engaged with the NASA mission. I look forward to my return to the Silicon Valley the week of May 12 for a Future Forum to continue the dialogue.

Columbus Future Forum

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale at Future Forum, Columbus, Ohio, February 19, 2008 On Thursday, I gave the opening keynote speech at NASA’s second Future Forum in Columbus, Ohio at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). COSI, led by David Cheseborough, provides an interactive atmosphere for people of all ages to learn about science, industry, and health. This hands-on science center was a great venue for the Future Forum, allowing us to touch on the three themes of innovation, inspiration, and discovery.

Like the first Future Forum in Seattle, the Columbus Future Forum relied heavily on our partners in the local area. The panel sessions included a mix of NASA officials and local leaders from business, academia and education. Our industry and university speakers included Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, former astronaut and now Director, Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy; Dr. Anthony Dennis, President and CEO, BioOhio; Dr. John Stanford, Executive Assistant for Education Policy, State of Ohio; Dr. Kim Kiehl, Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships, COSI; Brig. Gen. David A. Herrelko, USAF (Ret.), University of Dayton; Ms. Dorothy Baunach, President and CEO, NorTech; Dr. Jeffrey A. Schmidt, Senior Manager for Corporate Business Development, Ball Aerospace; and Dr. Gerald T. Noel, Sr., Associate Director, NASA Ohio Space Grant Consortium. I would like to thank these participants. They were enthusiastic and informative, and made the event a great success.

The agenda highlights also included a presentation from astronaut Carl Walz and a taped downlink from ISS Commander Peggy Whitson. Carl is also the Director, Advanced Capabilities Division at NASA Headquarters. He gave a presentation on the Constellation Program. Other NASA participants included Woodrow Whitlow, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center; Glenn Director of External Relations, John Hairston; and Dr. Geoffrey Landis, also from Glenn. I appreciate the time and effort of our NASA participants in the Future Forum as well as the NASA and partner teams behind the scenes who worked so hard on this event.

The Columbus event included a luncheon keynote address from The Honorable Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio who touched on the theme of NASA’s relevance to everyday life. Also, on behalf of NASA, I received a Reading of Proclamation by Mr. Mike Mentel, President, Columbus City, honoring NASA’s 50th Anniversary. There was considerable media coverage of the event as well as local interest in NASA’s exhibits. Early in the morning, I did a live shot with the statewide news service Ohio News Network. Carl Walz, David Cheseborough and I held a press meeting in the morning with several local television affiliates. Later in the afternoon, I did an editorial board with the Columbus Dispatch. COSI staff held a number of events for the public and extended their hours to handle the crowds.

To coincide with the Future Forum, NASA, along with its partners, arranged for 1,500 square feet of interactive exhibits on space exploration and science at the museum. For more details, please visit


MSIW – GAO High-Risk Corrective Action Plan

Long-Term Issue for the Agency


NASA continues to be on the contract management High-Risk List of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This is a long-standing issue because NASA has been on the list since 1990, when the first High-Risk List was published. In the most recent GAO update to the High-Risk List, issued in January of 2007, GAO acknowledged NASA’s progress in addressing contract management issues highlighted in previous high-risk reports, but called for further improvement.


A Team to Solve the Issue


I am determined to find a solution to the continuing high-risk situation. I know the challenge inherent in the effort, but through a more concerted cross-agency effort we can make improvements and work towards getting off a list we have been on for too long. Contract management is very broad, incorporating elements such as project management, earned value management, and financial management, as well as procurement. Due to its unique integrative role, I tasked the Office of Program and Institutional Integration to assemble a team to lead the effort at making improvements in contract management. Our approach involves multiple organizations in an integrated fashion, including the Offices of the Chief Engineer, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Information Officer. The Offices of Procurement and of Program Analysis and Evaluation also are key participants, and the Mission Directorates and Centers are important to help identify and implement improvements in an operational sense.


NASA Corrective Action Plan


The team has been developing a comprehensive corrective action plan (CAP) to address GAO’s concerns. The team is coordinating its efforts with GAO with the goals of opening the lines of communication and obtaining GAO’s agreement with the CAP. This approach sharpens our focus on the necessary improvement activities, and it improves the effectiveness of our communications with GAO because both parties are working from the same baseline.


OMB Oversight


Meanwhile, the GAO High-Risk areas caught the attention of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as well. As part of OMB’s mission to lead federal agencies to improve their performance, OMB launched a new approach toward their own oversight of GAO’s designated high-risk areas. OMB directed all agencies with high-risk areas to formulate a formal corrective action plan and to coordinate with GAO, just as NASA had already begun to do. OMB also instituted periodic three-party meetings (including the agency, OMB, and GAO) regarding each high-risk area to monitor agency progress.


In developing the CAP, our cross-functional team worked with GAO and OMB to ensure that their concerns were identified and addressed. I approved the final version of the CAP in October of 2007, and it now serves as the baseline against which our progress will be measured.


Five Focus Areas


As a starting point for the CAP, the cross-functional team analyzed GAO’s January 2007 update to the High-Risk list and broke it into five subjects, or focus areas. These are the five broad areas within which improvement is required: program/project management, the cost reporting process, cost estimating and analysis, standard business processes, and the financial management system. GAO reviewed the team’s analysis and agreed that these focus areas are correctly identified.


Next, the team sought to identify agency initiatives, or plans of action, that would address the focus areas. They found that the most meaningful plans of action would logically address more than one of the focus areas. For instance, a good plan to improve project management training would result in improvements in four focus areas: cost reporting, cost estimating and analysis, standard business processes and program/project management. This kind of interrelationship further demonstrates the critical need for cross-functional integration on the NASA team.


Seven Initiatives to Address the Focus Areas


In the end, the team agreed on a set of seven initiatives. For each initiative, the CAP identifies a Lead Executive, supporting organizations, objectives, milestones and metrics. As an integrated whole, these seven initiatives address the entirety of the High-Risk issues, and both GAO and OMB have agreed with this course of action.


The seven initiatives are:


1. Program/project requirements and implementation practices

2. Agency strategic acquisition approach

3. Contractor cost performance monitoring

4. Project management training and development

5. Improve life-cycle cost/schedule management processes

6. IEMP process improvement

7. Procurement processes and policies


By working together to accomplish the actions set forth in the new Corrective Action Plan, I am confident that NASA will make significant improvements in contract management and will successfully resolve the issues identified in the GAO high-risk report. I would like to thank Rick Keegan, Director of the Office of Program and Institutional Integration, and Rita Svarcas in his office who are spearheading the effort to move NASA on the path toward improvements in this area. They have put a lot of hard work into this effort and it is appreciated.


FY09 Budget Rollout

FY09 Budget Rollout


I’ve been spending a great deal of time this week preparing for the rollout of the President’s FY 2009 budget request. The rollout will occur on Monday, February 4. As part of the rollout, I will be talking to the media to explain NASA’s budget request and to answer questions.


Today, I participated in a press conference along with the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We announced that NASA is working closely with NOAA & OSTP to support the flight of critical climate measurements that were removed from the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) platform following the Nunn-McCurdy recertification of the program. Specifically NASA will be flying the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) on the NPOESS Preparatory Project, and is working to remanifest the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) instrument to follow the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) now preparing to fly on NASA’s Glory mission.


We also discussed what will be a big deal for Earth science and for NASA: the Administration’s FY 2009 plan enables NASA to vigorously embark on the recommendations of the first ever Earth Science Decadal Survey. NASA’s budget will allow for five total new mission starts, over the next six years, with the first Decadal Survey mission launch planned for 2012. NASA plans to start work on the first two missions in FY 2009: SMAP and ICESAT-II. SMAP is the Soil Moisture Active/Passive mission and it is designed to measure soil moisture. ICESAT-II, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, is designed to precisely measure the heights of ice sheets, sea ice and forests. The President’s budget plan for NASA also secures continued implementation of the current set of seven systematic measurement missions and Earth System Science Pathfinder missions. All of these seven missions were endorsed by the Decadal Survey. Further, we will continue to fund operations and data production for NASA’s 14 Earth Science Missions currently in orbit.


OSTP has issued a press release.


Future Forums — Introduction by Shana


Last week I mentioned the Seattle Future Forum. I think it was very successful and was another step forward on the path to get out beyond our typical stomping grounds and talk about what NASA is doing with other parts of the United States. It was an extremely well-run event and the bar is now raised for the next Future Forum event in Columbus on February 21. I would like to extend my appreciation to the team who worked so diligently to make the Forum a success, including Bob Hopkins, Chief of Strategic Communications; Janet Kavandi, Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office; Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program Manager; Bonnie Dunbar, CEO of the Seattle Museum of Flight and her staff; Kristen Erickson, Deputy of the Office of Communications Planning (OCP); the OCP staff; Ames Research Center staff; and everyone else who worked on this event. I’ve asked Bob Hopkins to do a posting this week with more information about the Forum.


Future Forums by Bob Hopkins


Last Friday, NASA held its first Future Forum in Seattle at the Museum of Flight. The Seattle Future Forum was the template for the six more to come, so a great deal of planning and organization went into putting this first one together. The result was a great success for NASA, the Museum of Flight, Seattle and the State of Washington. We’re sure that it will serve as a successful formula as we hold these events in locations around the country. For more information on upcoming Future Forums visit


Future Forums are a series of one-day events that highlight the benefits of space exploration through the themes of Inspiration, Innovation and Discovery. These three themes that capture what NASA does and how our exciting missions benefit life here on Earth. Inspiring students to pursue science, engineering and math fields is critical to economic growth and global competitiveness. NASA helps drive U.S. innovation that, in turn, builds our economy. We are challenged to push the very limits of technology through the challenges our complex missions present and through this process we realize a variety of innovations. NASA’s pursuit of discovery pushes the extremes of science to answer fundamental questions about who we are and where we come from; to achieve a greater understanding of the universe; and to determine what is happening to the Earth’s climate and why.


The Future Forums offer a discussion of benefits derived from NASA’s work and exploration of space from a local, regional and state perspective. They also provide a venue to educate the public about the future of space exploration through a presentation on the Constellation program and the building of America‘s next generation of space-faring vehicles — Orion and Ares — that will replace the Shuttle and take us to the Moon, Mars and beyond.


The Seattle Future Forum, as they all will, relied heavily on our partners in the local area. The Museum of Flight in Seattle was our host. Under the direction of retired astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, the museum was a perfect venue and Bonnie’s team did a great job in getting the museum ready and supporting the event. We also had considerable support from other organizations in the community, including Google, Boeing, Raytheon, University of Washington, Washington Space Grant Consortium, and WSA – Washington‘s Technology Association. These partners played a critical role in making the event a success. We’re truly grateful for their contributions.


The agenda highlights included a presentation from astronaut Dr. Janet Kavandi, Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office at JSC, including a taped downlink from ISS Commander Peggy Whitson. Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley gave a presentation on the Constellation Program and Deputy Administrator Shana Dale gave the opening keynote speech. Shana’s speech discussed the Space Economy and NASA’s contributions to it through inspiration, innovation and discovery. Read Shana’s speech. You can view the Future Forum on video.


The themes of inspiration, innovation and discovery were also the themes for the panel sessions held during the day. The panel sessions included a mix of NASA officials and local leaders from business, academia and education. They included representatives from Google, Microsoft, Boeing, and prominent scientists such as Dr. Donald Brownlee from the University of Washington and the PI from the Stardust mission. We also had leaders from the education community including former astronaut Dr. George “Pinky” Nelson from Western Washington University and Dr. Bonnie Dunbar from the Museum of Flight. The full agenda can be found at


The enthusiasm of our panelists definitely seemed to influence the audience. Audience members were heavily engaged throughout the panel sessions, enabling a free flowing back and forth with panel members and a lively discussion ranging from the role of space flight in driving innovation to how NASA contributes to climate change and leveraging NASA’s unique mission to advance STEM education. The three themes of inspiration, innovation and discovery provided a useful framework for discussing NASA’s contributions to education, the economy and science. The theme that seemed to get the greatest attention throughout the day was inspiration. The STEM education issue and NASA’s ability to inspire students to pursue studies in science, engineering and math was the hot issue of the day, getting attention from every panel and sparking dialogue with the audience.


The Seattle event also included a luncheon keynote address from Lt. Governor Brad Owen. Deputy Administrator Dale was presented a proclamation from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels honoring NASA’s 50th anniversary. While Governor Christine Gregoire was unable to attend the event due to conflicts, she was able to meet with Deputy Administrator Dale the afternoon before the event. The meeting provided a constructive dialogue that touched on areas of mutual interest including the role of innovation in driving a high-tech economy such as Washington State‘s, the importance of STEM education to sustain growth, the State’s thriving aerospace sector, and NASA’s contributions to enabling more sustainable management of the environment.


There was also considerable media coverage of the event as well as local interest in an exhibit arranged through NASA of a Mars meteorite in the Museum of Flight. Deputy Administrator Dale did live local interviews with a morning news program (Sorry for that early wake-up call, Shana), an editorial board meeting with the Seattle Times, an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a press conference, and the event featured a live broadcast by KOMO-4 News weather anchor Steve Pool.


Lastly, education was a key component of this event and all of the Future Forums. Teacher training and student activities were conducted the day before and the day of the event. In addition, NASA, along with its partners, arranged for 1,500 square feet of interactive exhibits on space exploration and science at the museum.


Bottom line — this was truly a team effort. I’d like to extend special thanks to folks (you know who you are) from the NASA Strategic Communications team, the Innovative Partnerships Program, all the Mission Directorates, the Office of the General Counsel and Ames Research Center for your dedication and hard work in making this a great event. And especially a big thanks to NASA leadership — Administrator Griffin and Deputy Administrator Dale — for enabling us to move forward with this idea and see it to fruition. This was a great start to a busy and exciting 50th Anniversary year. For more information on NASA’s 50th anniversary activities, please visit