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NASA LaRC Memo: CD COMM # 2005-5 Center Transformation Project

Status Report From: Langley Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2005

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From: "Roy D. Bridges, Jr." Center-Director@larc.nasa.gov
Subject: CD COMM # 2005-5 Center Transformation Project
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 15:00:23 -0400

CD COMM # 2005-5
Center Transformation Project

To: All Contractor and Civil Service Employees at Langley Research Center

April 5, 2005

In an email to all employees March 4 in which the senior leadership team summarized its recent off-site retreat, it was noted that new teams would be formed to ensure a viable future for Langley. In that email the team said, "We must design a significantly changed Langley to become more relevant to customer and funder needs, reduce over-capacity in work force and facilities and develop greater agility and flexibility in our work force."

That conclusion holds true. Langley's projected budget is declining significantly and rates are rising because of unfunded work force under full-cost accounting. In fact the same e-mail cited the following information:

"Based on the President's budget, the total work force reduction could be approximately 1,000 work years in a mix of 700 civil servants and 300 contractor positions. The FY 06 transition year is particularly challenging as significant procurement dollars must be identified to fund our over-capacity and that could cause additional disruptions in the contractor and out-of-house work force."

These are the minimum changes in work force needed to deal with our financial situation. Even more drastic action may be required to deal with the skill-mix issues the Center faces. Directed funding is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Competition is the model of the future -- and the future is here.

In order to deal with these realities Agencywide, the Aldridge Commission recommended that NASA Centers be converted to Federally Funded Research and Development Centers and subsequent NASA teams are recommending that centers restructure to a "hybrid" form consisting of both civil service and non-governmental components. For research centers it was recommended that the non-governmental partner be a university-based entity like an institute or a University Affiliated Research Center. The new Langley that is born of this recommendation will have fewer employees, less infrastructure, and a smaller base budget.

I would like to bring you up to date on the status of Langley's efforts to transform along these lines, specifically through the work of the new team.

First, the team is working within a full-fledged project called the Center Transformation Project (CTP) managed by Doug Dwoyer, Langley's Associate Director for Operations. The deputy project manager is Mark Shuart, of the Innovation Institute. The full team assembled March 23 for the first time.

The goal of the project is to restructure Langley in order to:

  • Create and test a viable and robust research and development laboratory model
  • Develop a transition plan, budget, and schedule
  • Survive the FY 06 budget consistent with the laboratory model

Four major elements in the project work breakdown structure are designed to create and integrate the strategic technical content of our business plan and Center restructuring.

The Strategy and Business Base Team element is focused on:

  • Developing a Langley vision as a set of long-term programmatic outcome goals
  • Projecting the Center five-year business base including product lines and customer value proposition, funding levels by product line, roadmaps for all Center technical activities, and key strategic business partners and their roles
  • Providing a strategic context for the entire Center Transformation Project.

The lead for this element is Bruce Holmes, Director of the Strategic Partnership, Planning and Management Office (SPPMO) and the deputy lead is Rich Antcliff, Deputy Director of the innovation institute (ii).

The FY 06 Tactics Team element is focused on developing an initial step toward final transformation and some degree of budget flexibility making FY 06 more manageable in light of significant budget reductions that are likely. The team's effort will assure the ability of the Center to function and produce mission results in FY 06. The Center is involved in this effort already with the 25 percent cost-reduction being put into effect across Langley. The teams work will provide:

  • Short-term downsizing
  • A cost-reduction plan

The lead for this element is Carl Gray of the Office of Director (OD).

The Operational Model Team element is focused on developing a new hybrid structure along with a plan to be operating in it by the beginning of FY 07. Products will include:

  • Work force skill mix and size based on the business base
  • Physical plant and other fixed assets
  • Concept of operations
  • Procurement options
  • Financial model and pricing structure
  • Governance model
  • Transition plan

The lead for this element is Steve Jurczyk, Director of the Research and Technology Directorate (RTD) and the deputy lead is Steve Sandford, Director of the Systems Engineering Directorate (SED).

The Communications Team element is focused on keeping you informed of goals, plans and progress toward restructuring. Additionally the element is focused on keeping the public and stakeholders informed of how and why the Center is restructuring and seeking their support. The lead for this element is Christine Darden, Director of the Office of Communications and Education (OCE).

Some of you have expressed concern about how project participants would be selected and have encouraged casting a wide net Centerwide to get fresh faces and new ideas. For this project we solicited volunteers from the entire civil service work force at Langley. Thirty-three people applied and twenty-one were selected as full participants, providing the teams with representation from a cross-section of the Center in terms of organizations and skills. Of those who were not selected for full participation some will support the project in a consulting role while others may well be invited to assist at some point. After the selection process the Project Manager and Element Leads looked at team skills and decided to solicit additional members who had critical missing skills or knowledge.

The Center Transformation Project reports to the Strategic Leadership Council (SLC). The timeline includes delivering a draft conceptual plan to the SLC in May of this year -- a very short fuse. In the course of developing and implementing whatever plan is developed, we face numerous challenges. These include procurement and legal issues; coordination with and buy-in from NASA Headquarters, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management; and interaction with the local community, the state, and Congress. Any misstep in this extremely critical process could cause the effort to fail and significantly diminish Langley's ability to survive and thrive in the future.

Therefore, to enhance prospects of success of this project, I am reducing the risks as much as possible. Because of the sensitivity of information being discussed, the Center Transformation Project is operating in an environment with many of the characteristics of a Source Evaluation Board. The project is working in a secure area of a building with its own intranet, and all participants have signed non-disclosure agreements. We will communicate project information to the Center when possible, but there will be periods in which no information is available to anyone outside the project.

This is an extremely fast-paced, challenging initiative with a very short timeline -- and arguably a higher degree of criticality than anything ever attempted of this nature by Langley. Many of the project participants are devoted to the project full-time and are under intense pressure to ensure the project succeeds, because the future of Langley is at stake.

I ask you to support this effort, and to bear with us when you feel frustrated by a lack of information. I want to assure you that no decisions have been made, and we will communicate decisions as soon as possible. I pledge to you that I will share our progress with you whenever I can. If you have any suggestions to contribute, please do so through the SLC web site at http://slc.larc.nasa.gov/feedback.cfm

Cordially,

Roy D. Bridges, Jr.

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