NASA

O’Keefe update

Florida Today, the Houston Chronicle, and the Orlando Sentinel all offer some more details about what appears to be NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe’s impending departure from the agency. All three get the same LSU spokesman to say on the record that the university’s board of supervisors has “actively recruited” O’Keefe; Florida Today notes that O’Keefe “formally applied” for the job Saturday afternoon. An announcement on O’Keefe’s departure could come as soon as Monday.

As for O’Keefe’s replacement, Florida Today, citing an unnamed source “familiar with the selection process”, reports that retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish is at the top of a list that also includes former Congressman Robert Walker and former astronauts Ron Sega, Charles Bolden, and Robert Crippen. (SpaceRef first reported Kadish as the prime candidate to succeed O’Keefe on Saturday.) Sega is considered to be second behind Kadish, according to Florida Today, with a final selection to be announced by Thursday.

And from the curious timing department: Houston Chronicle columnist Craig Hines wrote Sunday that O’Keefe’s insistence on a robotic Hubble repair mission, despite reports suggesting that a shuttle repair mission would have better odds of success, is grounds for dismissal: “Hasn’t NASA chief Sean O’Keefe been so wrong and so duplicitous in his attempt to kill the gloriously successful project that he should quit in embarrassment or be fired?” Nothing in any of the published reports suggests that this had anything to do with O’Keefe’s impending decision to leave.

18 comments to O’Keefe update

  • Robert G. Oler

    Actually there are several bouts with incompetence that Okeefe should have to answer for.

    Starting with seven folks on a shuttle orbiter.

    Robert

  • Dogsbd

    Houston Chronicle:

    “O’Keefe’s tenure has been marked by triumph and tragedy, none more pivotal than Columbia’s breakup. He embraced the reforms outlined in the often critical findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Investigators concluded that O’Keefe inherited rather than instigated the safety and management lapses the led to loss.”

    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/space/2942982

    Inherited the safety and management lapses the led to loss, inherited from Dan Goldin.

    Give it up Oler, you’re simply being a bitter looser.

  • Toro

    Is there even one forward thinking bureaucrat in DC? The FDA missed 8 or so opportunities, as the CAIB would say, regarding the flu vaccine, even though the system was blinking red, as the 9/11 commission would say of the baker’s dozen or so intelligence(?) agencies. A few months before Columbia O’Keefe states he is impressed by the NASA institution can do safety culture, a few months after states the culture is to blame. Where is a Joseph when you need him or her – 7 fat cows and 7 starving cows equals people 3,000 years ago who could even back then plan 14 years into the future for the pharoah. There is no such thing as a forward thinking DC bureaucrat. All re-”act”-ionaries – good ones at that, indeed. The key part is the “act” ing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Give it up Oler, you’re simply being a bitter looser.

    Posted by Dogsbd at December 12, 2004 10:20 AM

  • Gary Charab

    “Investigators concluded that O’Keefe inherited rather than instigated the safety and management lapses the led to loss.”

    It would help if the reporters at the Houston Chronicle actually chose to read the report. From pages 131-132 of the CAIB report, Volume 1:

    “Employees attributed the Node 2 launch date to the new Administrator, Sean O’Keefe, who was appointed to execute a Space Station management plan he had proposed as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. They understood the scrutiny that NASA, the new Administrator, and the Space Station Program were under, but now it seemed to some that budget and schedule were of paramount concern. As one employee reflected:

    ‘I guess my frustration was… I know the importance of showing that you… manage your budget and that’s an important impression to make to Congress so you can continue the future of the agency, but to a lot of people, February 19th just seemed like an arbitrary date… It doesn’t make sense to me why at all costs we were marching to this date.’

    The importance of this date was stressed from the very top. The Space Shuttle and Space Station Program Managers briefed the new NASA Administrator monthly on the status of their programs, and a significant part of those briefings was the days of margin remaining in the schedule to the launch of Node 2 – still well over a year away. The Node 2 schedule margin typically accounted for more than half of the briefing slides.

    [CUT]

    These charts illustrate that both the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs were being managed to a particular launch date – February 19, 2004. Days of margin in that schedule were one of the principle metrics by which both programs came to be judged. NASA Headquarters stressed the importance of this date in other ways. A screen saver (see Figure 6.2-3) was mailed to managers in NASA’s human spaceflight program that depicted a clock counting down to February 19, 2004 – U.S. Core Complete.”

    O’Keefe did not “inherit” all the problems that led to Columbia. He initiated some of them.

  • Toro

    “The CULTURE of this (NASA) institution is one of safe accomplishments of its missions”

    That’s basically it, in writing, about six months prior. I can dig out the exact date, exact quote, document, etc, but it matters little.

    It’s not solamente NASA. The FDA, CIA, FBI … They’re all letting us down. No Josephs, and no Josephitas. Who can do something about all of this? Who can fix these? Who do we have to represent all of us in these matters? Oh, yes.

  • John Malkin

    Are there any candidates to replace OíKeefe? Maybe someone from the Moon, Mars and beyond committee would make a good replacement.

    OíKeefe didnít have time to evaluate all of NASA. The report for ISS came out shortly before the Columbia accident. He would have depended mostly on his managersí evaluations and procedures. It typically takes someone three to four months to take over a department. I would say that most of the blame goes on the Shuttle operations manager, since he should understand the big picture.

  • Dogsbd

    John, you’re being entirely too logical. ;-)

  • Robert Oler,

    I have to say that I agree that you’re not being fair here. As you know, I am no friend of the Bush Administration, but, much to my surprise, I think Mr. O’Keefe has been a pretty decent administratior — though not a great one — not least because of any input he had in the “pay-as-you-go” exploration strategy. A self-described “bean counter” with vision is exactly what NASA needs, and I am saddened to see him go.

    – Donald

  • Dogsbd

    >> A self-described “bean counter” with vision is exactly what NASA needs, and I am saddened to see him go.

    I find myself in agreement with you more and more, maybe I really am a Democrat at heart? ;-)

  • mrearl

    Whatever you think of the VSE one would have to admit that O’Keefe able to guide NASA through what could have been disastrous time for manned space flight. He was able to turn a tragedy into a new mandate for manned exploration of the solar system thru some masterful political infighting.
    My one concern is the next administrator will not have the president’s ear the way O’Keefe dose. I think that history will show that O’Keefe was second only to James Webb in his influence on NASAís future direction.

  • Dear Dogsbd,

    Or, maybe we’re all Americans (or even humans) at heart. I try to keep my non-space politics out of my space politics.

    Actually, to break the rule I just stated, in many ways I am a natural Republican. I’m upper middle class (by definition, since I can afford to live in the nation’s second most expensive city), I own my home, I run a personal business, et cetera. If the Republicans would lose the social agenda and the “Imperial” forign policy, and stick to their economic agenda, I might even vote for one someoday.

    – Donald

  • Robert G. Oler

    OíKeefe didnít have time to evaluate all of NASA. The report for ISS came out shortly before the Columbia accident. He would have depended mostly on his managersí evaluations and procedures.

    Posted by John Malkin at December 13, 2004 03:07

  • Dogsbd

    >>> At launch the media makes a big deal of a big piece coming off the external tank and hitting the orbiter.

    Except the media did no such thing, it was barely mentioned. And if they had made a big deal, O’Keefe was no expert in foam/orbiter contact. The ones who were experts said “it will be OK”, should O’Keefe have said “You’re wrong!”?

  • Robert G. Oler

    The ones who were experts said “it will be OK”, should O’Keefe have said “You’re wrong!”?

    Posted by Dogsbd at December 14, 2004 08:03 AM

  • Dogsbd

    Your 20/20 hindsight is working fine Oler, but you first say O’Keefe was unaware anything was amiss (even with the “big deal” the media made, ahem) and then you expend a great deal of of virtual ink detailing what O’Keefe should have done about the very problem you say he didn’t know about.

    Which is it?

  • Gary Charab

    Did anybody here actually READ what I wrote before engaging in petty he did/he didn’t sniping?

    From pages 131-132 of the CAIB report, Volume 1:

    “Employees attributed the Node 2 launch date to the new Administrator, Sean O’Keefe, who was appointed to execute a Space Station management plan he had proposed as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. They understood the scrutiny that NASA, the new Administrator, and the Space Station Program were under, but now it seemed to some that budget and schedule were of paramount concern. As one employee reflected:

    ‘I guess my frustration was… I know the importance of showing that you… manage your budget and that’s an important impression to make to Congress so you can continue the future of the agency, but to a lot of people, February 19th just seemed like an arbitrary date… It doesn’t make sense to me why at all costs we were marching to this date.’

    The importance of this date was stressed from the very top. The Space Shuttle and Space Station Program Managers briefed the new NASA Administrator monthly on the status of their programs, and a significant part of those briefings was the days of margin remaining in the schedule to the launch of Node 2 – still well over a year away. The Node 2 schedule margin typically accounted for more than half of the briefing slides.

    [CUT]

    These charts illustrate that both the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs were being managed to a particular launch date – February 19, 2004. Days of margin in that schedule were one of the principle metrics by which both programs came to be judged. NASA Headquarters stressed the importance of this date in other ways. A screen saver (see Figure 6.2-3) was mailed to managers in NASA’s human spaceflight program that depicted a clock counting down to February 19, 2004 – U.S. Core Complete.”

    Translation: O’Keefe gets some of the blame for creating “schedule pressure” before the launch of Columbia. He is not entirely blameless. Nor is he entirely culpable.

  • Dogsbd

    >>>O’Keefe gets some of the blame for creating “schedule pressure” before the launch of Columbia.

    There always has been and I imagine there always will be a certain amount of “schedule pressure” with respect to spaceflight, manned or unmanned. Did O’Keefe apply “out of the ordinary” pressure?

    Evidently the CAIB decided the answer was no, he did not.