A Special Message from the NASA Administrator

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

To the NASA Family:

Before we start this holiday weekend, please consider these thoughts.

It has been a very busy week. There are many things I would like to communicate to our NASA family relating to the recently issued Columbia Accident Investigation Report. To that end, I intend to have frequent NASA Updates to permit all of us to comment on the report and its implications for all of us, indeed, the agency as a whole. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I feel it is important to communicate to you on a very important matter raised in the report. Having heard from many of you directly, either by email or in conversation, I am convinced there are some folks here at NASA who feel that if dissent on any technical or program matter is offered, someone will subject the dissenter to retaliation. Certainly, the Board contends that they witnessed this tendency themselves and the investigation demonstrates that this happened on occasion.

I want to assure every member of the NASA family that retaliation against any employee for dissent cannot and will not be tolerated. Each of us has a responsibility to speak up if we feel that some action or condition is not safe. And to permit each of us to follow through in this responsibility, we cannot permit anyone to suppress this responsibility. Every reported instance must be thoughtfully analyzed, and then we must make a decision on how to proceed. That isn't possible if we don't permit folks to be heard.

If you feel you have been retaliated against, you have the responsibility to report such instances to supervisors, managers, safety officials, the Inspector General, or any member of the agency leadership. And if, for any reason, you wish to remain anonymous, please use the NASA Safety Reporting System (NSRS) to report concerns and any retaliation that may have occurred. The NSRS can be accessed on the NASA Homepage at with one simple keystroke on the heading "If It's Not Safe, Say So." You may also call the NASA Inspector General hotline at (800) 424-9183.

To be sure, the Board's report addresses many observations on the factors involved in this terrible accident. The part we all have a hand in fixing is how we treat each other. I've often talked about Paul O'Neill's trilogy of factors that make up truly great organizations. Remember that the first one is that each member of the truly great organization treats other colleagues with professionalism and respect, and expects to be treated that way, too. That says so much about the importance of communication and professional responsibility.

We are capable of being a truly great organization. Let's get about the business of making it so.

Sean O'Keefe

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