Ames Federal Employees Union complaint: "slandering NASA's civil servant workforce"

Status Report From: Ames Federal Employees Union, IFPTE Local #30
Posted: Friday, October 8, 2004

Subject: slandering NASA's civil servant workforce
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004

September 28, 2004

Ms. Vicki Novak
Chief Human Capital Officer
NASA Headquarters

Dear Ms. Novak,

Last Monday, you stated that one of your legislative priorities would be to seek expanded Demonstration Personnel System authority to allow management to deal with poor performers. broadcast is archived at

This plan is wrongheaded for at least two reasons.

First, NASA does not have a poor-performer problem. Your statement demeans the hard working men and women of this Agency who have dedicated their professional lives to NASA. You owe NASA's rank-and-file workforce an apology. It is outrageous that NASA's Chief Human Capital Officer would imply that poor performance is a major problem at NASA without any evidence to back this up. If you believe that poor performance is such a problem that it should trigger a request for additional legislative relief, why then did you not mention this in your Senate testimony on July 20th about NASA's workforce planning?

Second, NASA does have a documented problem of management retaliation and intimidation targeting dissenters. The CAIB report blamed, in part, this management culture problem for the death of the Columbia astronauts, so this is no small problem. As you are well aware, Title V gives management plenty of authority to handle those rare instances of poor performance, but it does so with proper safeguards against abuse of power and with proper protection of the due process rights of employees. Any attempt to weaken these protections at this time is particularly inappropriate given management's ongoing propensity for retaliation. The fact that civil servants cannot be disciplined/fired arbitrarily or capriciously is one of the reasons that civil servants can speak up about critical issues such as "foam shedding", while contractors are often forced to remain silent because they can be fired at will.

Furthermore, NASA management has recently begun describing its civil service employees with offensive euphemisms. NASA employees should never be referred to as "excess capacity" or "legacy FTEs" as though they were mere lifeless cogs in management's wheel. They are scientists who turned down tenure-track jobs at prestigious academic institutions to serve the cause of exploration. They are engineers who turned down lucrative private sector jobs to dedicate themselves to the public good. They are talented and dedicated support staff who have devoted their careers to NASA and their country. NASA's civil service employees deserve the respect they have earned from their years of service to our Agency.

NASA is facing a morale crisis which, in large part, has been created by the overt hostility and disdain some senior managers have displayed for NASA's civil-servant workforce. Their attitude and associated actions are seriously harming the Agency. It is especially important for NASA's Chief Human Capital Officer to show greater respect for NASA's civil servants and to pay greater attention to the cancerous culture of casual contempt still pervasive within NASA's management.


Marc Cohen, President
Lee Stone, Vice President for Legislative Affairs
Paul Davis, Vice President for Negotiations
Suzanne Meyer, Vice President for Membership
Roger Ashbaugh, Vice President for Publicity
Monty Bailey, Vice President for Safety (acting)
Mark Hightower, Secretary (acting)
Chris Knight, co-chair Partnership Council

Ames Federal Employees Union
International Federation of Professional and Technical< Engineers, Local 30

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