NASA Field Centers Under Scrutiny
Space News is reporting that an “ad hoc” panel of the National Research Council (NRC) is looking into possible NASA Field Center closures. This is a codeword for “downsizing”. If NASA is to survive this must happen sooner rather than later. Here is a brief portion of the article:
The ad hoc panel of the National Research Council (NRC) has its origins in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2112), which funded NASA and other federal agencies. The law set aside $1 million for the NASA inspector general “to commission a comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.”
Congressman Frank Wolf deserves credit for starting this process. It is very difficult to try and make the federal government shrink in size and power, but that is exactly what Frank Wolf did. It takes courage to start the process of telling some portion of t he government that you need to downsize.
So now the question becomes, which field centers should be retired? How do you quantify that, what metrics should be used? How do you measure the value of our ten centers and how do you say to a field center, “sorry, you didn’t pull your load.” Luckily for NASA, the incestuous relationships for programs divvy out a piece of the pie to every center. Just look at this graphic from www.nasa.gov:
Let us compare that to the closest thing that has been built, flown to space twice, berthed with the International space station, and survived re-entry delivering about 1,000 pounds of cargo back to NASA, SpaceX’s Dragon:
It doesn't take a Rocket Economist to realize which model is more economical...
Now before people say its not human rated and it cannot survive a BEO re-entry, I would kindly remind our friends of Appendix B Part One and Appendix B Part Two. I have also included states where NASA Field Centers have supported Dragon Development, mainly Johnson Space Center in Texas, Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, and Ames Research Center in California.
We know there are cheaper ways to do things. The real question is, do we have the chutzpah to admit we can do things in a more cost effective manner? Do we have the intellectual honesty to call ourselves onto the carpet and admit there is a better way to conduct the taxpayer's business in space?
The real question is what metrics do we use? I will refrain from lobbing any (more) grenades into any bureaucrat’s Monday morning coffee...