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Rep. Lamar Smith Seeks Investigation on the Politicization of NASA

Press Release From: Rep. Lamar Smith
Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2011

image WASHINGTON - Congressman Lamar Smith, the vice-chair of the Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, today called for NASA's inspector general to investigate the politicization of the agency. This stems from a NASA-internal report showing that Obama Administration political appointees "focus on Democratic political goals, not national goals," creating a dysfunctional and hostile work environment for NASA's career civil servants.

"I am disturbed by the findings in this report, as scientific and technical agencies like NASA need to work freely of political ideology to the greatest extent possible. We should not play partisan politics with our nation's space program. I am calling for an investigation to see if any improper actions have been taken to steer agency funding and contracts, circumvent the civil service hiring process, or if other mismanagement of agency resources has occurred to benefit 'Democratic political goals.'

"NASA represents the best of America's ingenuity, exploration and discovery. As Neil Armstrong testified before the Science Committee two weeks ago, the current condition of NASA's manned spaceflight program is 'lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable', and this internal NASA study provides disturbing insights into the tension between NASA's senior career managers and Obama Administration political appointees. All of NASA should be working together to strengthen our space program and bolster America's human space exploration."

Smith asked that a report on the investigation's findings be submitted to the Science Committee within four months.

*****

October 5, 2011

Mr. Paul K. Martin
Inspector General
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
300 E Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Mr. Martin.

At a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing on July 12th with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, I requested copies of two independent assessments of NASA's management, morale, and trust in its organizational leadership conducted for Administrator Bolden on behalf of 4-D Systems and McKinsey. I finally received these reports on September 22nd,

While NASA refused to provide the specific inputs from NASA's senior career civil servant managers to the 4-D Systems survey, the executive summary provided some disturbing insights about a dysfunctional and hostile work environment created by Obama Administration political appointees toward NASA's career civil servants, including two themes:

- "Politicos' focus on Democratic political goals, not national goals"
- "Little trust (3x) from above or discussion on major Agency issues. Two groups, political and career that communicate to themselves"

NASA is one of the best agencies in the Federal government and respected throughout the world, so NASA's dedicated senior career managers deserve a professional work environment. Such technical agencies as NASA need to work freely of political ideology to the greatest extent practical, not "focus on Democratic political goals."

In providing these executive summaries, Seth Statler, an Obama Administration political appointee in charge NASA's Office of Legislative Affairs, chose not to provide the agency's Congressional oversight committee with the specific inputs from NASA's senior career civii servant managers which contributed to the 4-D Systems' assessment. Therefore, I ask that your office conduct an investigation about specific allegations surfaced in this study, or subsequent to this study, to see if any improper decisions or efforts have been taken to steer agency funding and contracts, circumvent the civil service hiring process, or fraud, waste, abuse or other mismanagement of agency resources to benefit "Democratic political goals." This investigation should focus primarily on any potentially illegal acts, but also any mismanagement of agency resources and personnel.

Your investigation should be delegated to a senior career investigator on your staff who may act independently without any interference from Obama Administration political appointees. I recommend the investigation start by interviewing the current and former NASA senior managers interviewed for the 4-D Systems report. I ask that your office provide a final or preliminary report on any findings to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology within four months of receiving this letter.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Lamar Smith
Member of Congress

cc: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

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