Supporting Missions

Mission Support Activities

One of my responsibilities as Deputy Administrator is to lead the Agency in its mission support activities. Mission support offices provide the foundation for almost any type of organization in areas including information technology, financial management, legal analysis, human resources, public affairs, property and facilities management, and security.

To accomplish its missions, NASA must maintain and advance unique skills and capabilities. We also must seek to achieve management and institutional excellence to support this technical excellence, which we do through our mission support organizations. “Mission support” helps determine institutional requirements to meet a mission’s needs; maintains capabilities and resources necessary for success; creates institutional flexibility to respond to changing mission needs; and addresses external requirements and expectations to optimize the missions of the Agency.

Soon after I came to the Agency, I held a meeting with the leaders of all Headquarters’ mission support offices, as well as the heads of mission support at the Centers, with the goal of sharing information on primary objectives. I noticed that what the Agency needed was better integration and communication among mission support offices and a way to show how these offices enable and advance the missions of NASA. I also noticed through my meetings on Capitol Hill and with other external audiences, many of which know a great deal about NASA, that what occurs in the mission support world is not known to many.

Cross-Cutting Management Strategies

The NASA Strategic Management and Governance Handbook and NASA’s Strategic Plan describe Agency-wide, cross-cutting management strategies that support NASA’s programmatic and institutional operations and guide the Agency’s investment decisions and performance. To ensure efficient and effective support, I asked the mission support offices to prepare a document that identifies six cross-cutting management strategies that support the missions set by NASA and help NASA achieve its strategic goals and carry out its overall Mission. This document will outline the objectives and actions necessary for successful support and describe possible risks associated with those efforts and what NASA can do mitigate those risks.

The following are the six cross-cutting strategies of mission support:

  • Human Capital Management ensures that NASA’s workforce can meet current and future mission needs. As NASA’s history demonstrates, it is our people — armed with the requisite skills and training and led by individuals with a clear commitment to excellence – that enable mission success.
  • Infrastructure Management ensures that Agency infrastructure assets and capabilities are available to meet the requirements of NASA’s programs and projects. Infrastructure includes: facilities, real and personal property, aircraft, environmental management, logistical support and shared-use assets.
  • Information Technology Management ensures the Agency aligns information system investments with its mission needs; efficiently implements, operates and integrates its information systems; and appropriately assures the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information within these systems.
  • Financial Management ensures Agency fiscal resource requirements are met for mission goals, ensures operating costs are controlled, and institutes accountability for the financial resources used.
  • Strategic Communications Management allows NASA to effectively communicate with key partners and stakeholders, including elected public officials, the media, the public, academia, other government agencies, and international space agencies to enhance the understanding of the Agency’s programs, policies, and plans.
  • Security and Program Protection safeguards institutional capabilities and resources through policy formulation, oversight, coordination, and management of Agency security, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, emergency preparedness and response, and continuity of operations programs.

When complete, I will expect mission support organizations to manage to the objectives and actions outlined in the “cross-cutting strategies” document and report back to me on progress. This “cross-cutting strategies” document also will provide essential information on our mission support activities to interested parties on Capitol Hill, to the White House, and to other external stakeholders.

The bottom line is closer integration and communication among our mission support functions. Ultimately, Mike and I wish to instill a pervasive philosophy across the Agency that each mission support office excel not only in their particular area, but just as important, that each office excel at reaching out to the Mission Directorates and supporting the missions of NASA.

The “cross-cutting strategies” document will be important to communicate to the outside world about the objectives, actions, risks, and means to mitigate those risks of our mission support strategies. However, the integration and support of mission that I mentioned is already happening. For example, the Office of Infrastructure and Administration that is responsible for property management has created a Transition Manager position and the Assistant Administrator routinely attends Shuttle/Exploration transition meetings. This enables a much more robust integration and discussion by bringing in issues that the Agency needs to consider at the front-end on what assets and facilities should be kept and refurbished and which should be retired.

Issues such as: operational life cycle cost; externally driven environmental requirements as well as clean-up that will take place as we shut down facilities and equipment; considerations of the historical importance of NASA assets and how best to preserve them for future generations; government-wide property management; and disposal requirements are factored in and considered in the initial discussions allowing for more logical, cost-effective resolutions to issues. This close integration also provides insight of requirements for both the programmatic and institutional communities and supports a more robust future integration of the institution and programs.