Obama’s nominee to manage contracting and budget at the Energy Department had serious problems doing the same job while she was at NASA.


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The merry-go-round: Obama’s nominee to manage contracting and budget at the Energy Department had serious problems doing the same job while she was at NASA.

A Washington Times review of NASA inspector general reports finds the space agency struggled to achieve austerity under Ms. Robinson’s financial leadership, as cost overruns grew sixfold from $50 million in 2009 to $315 million in 2012. … Audits conducted during Ms. Robinson’s tenure as CFO uncovered that NASA spent an average of $66 per person per day for light refreshments at conferences, shelled out $1.5 million to develop a video game to replicate astronauts’ experiences and reimbursed employees $1.4 million for tuition dating to 2006 for degrees unrelated to their NASA jobs.

But no matter. Her resume lists all these important past jobs, so she must be qualified!

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  • Tom Billings

    “shelled out $1.5 million to develop a video game to replicate astronauts’ experiences”

    The idea that this is some huge sum of money, compared to the possible payback, is a big strike against the article. In fact, that would have barely started what we heard about as a project in the virtual world, Second Life. In general, sims that complicated require far more investment than this small a percentage of the NASA education budget, …such as it is.

    The ultimate purpose we heard about in Second Life was not to *duplicate* an astronaut’s experience, but to build a database with sufficiently accurate photographic/multispectral stereo data that the surface of the Moon, Mars, and other bodies could be simulated, and using the information from that database, be visited in a virtual world, even though no human had ever been there. That would have allowed citizen science on a massive scale, where a citizen researcher, walking the surface of a body in this virtual world, could see something from the visual images on their home screen, and beginning with the thought “That’s funny, …that shouldn’t be there”, …call attention to some rock, cave, dune, basin or other phenomenon that otherwise would have gone unnoticed for, …a long time without being seen by humans directly in Real Life. That is the start of new knowledge about other worlds, which would happen far faster than waiting for a civil servant from NASA to walk by and stumble over it.

    ” NASA continues to operate under a decentralized model that relegates decision making about critical IT issues to numerous individuals across the agency,” the inspector general reported in June.”

    Of course it does! The individual NASA Centers will resist information centralization to the last to retain their ability to withhold information from other Centers and HQ. NASA is a feudal organization, where Centers *know* their future depends *far* more on what their local Congressmen and Senators think of their worth than what anyone at NASA HQ thinks. NASA Centers compete against each other for science missions and other programs, within the whole of NASA. They routinely hide information on concepts and research from other Centers till it benefits them in such competition. I would expect a NASA CFO to be able to change this sometime a *long*time*after* she walks on water, and flies US Astronauts to the Moon under the protection of her superhero cape!

    Here is the key portion of the article, though, which was buried:

    “Ms. Robinson did, however, get good grades for record-keeping. The NASA inspector general said the agency’s financial documents were organized and complete — a marked improvement from before her tenure when inspectors said they often couldn’t audit the department because of problems with paperwork.”

    In fact, NASA has a decades long bad habit of wretched record-keeping, which has made those records essentially not available for any comprehensive auditing. These habits may go all the way back to the Apollo days, when the word was out, …”waste anything but time”!

    If Robinson has done anything to alleviate this, and she apparently has, she deserves a lot from her employers, the US taxpayers! Maybe even a DOE job, if she’s a glutton for punishment.

    Obama has made a disastrous President, who should never have been re-elected. However, he cares so little about Space that in 2010 he let a bunch of his supporters who are lifelong space nerds draw up the basic space plans for the administration. We in the space activist community recognize that, imperfect as they are, the resulting plans are better than anything NASA has been allowed to do by Congress in the 55 years it has been in existence.

    Frankly, this article sounds more like one of Senator Proxmire’s broadsides than anything else. It certainly uses the same tactics, of picking things that are out of context, and highlighting them.

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