If you have not already read this Orlando Sentinel article about conflicts between NASA leadership and the Obama transition team please stop and read it right now. It’s a remarkable situation, from claims that NASA is “scripting” what employees and contractors tell the transition team to reports of a “heated” conversation between the head of the NASA transition team, Lori Garver, and NASA administrator Mike Griffin at a reception last week. (I heard separately about the Garver-Griffin discussion earlier this week, an account that matches up with what was published by the Sentinel.)
One thing is clear: while there had been some discussion about whether to keep Griffin in office for some period of time after Obama takes office (something that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) had requested earlier this month, it now seems exceedingly unlikely that Griffin will be there after January 20, even if his replacement hasn’t been picked yet.
This report has also been picked up in some wider political journalism circles, including a post in The Washington Independent, which brings up another danger of this situation. “It sounds like NASA may be an obvious place for Peter Orszag, Obama’s designee to head the Office of Management and Budget, to look for multi-billion dollar boondoggles to trim from the federal budget,” writes Matthew DeLong.
Update 8 pm: Griffin has released a statement in response to the Sentinel report, calling it “simply wrong”. “We are fully cooperating with transition team members,” he said, adding that he was “appalled” of reports of intimidation of people slated to speak with the team. “The transition team’s work is too important to become mired in unsupported and anonymous allegations.”
Meanwhile, Chris Shank, chief of strategic communications at NASA, tells the Washington Post that neither he nor Griffin considered last Thursday’s conversation between Griffin and Garver to be “heated”. Shank: “He [Griffin] said to me this morning, ‘I sure didn’t think that was an argument. We were having a discussion about stuff.’ ” And as John Logsdon, who was present at the event, told the Post: “No voices were raised. No blows were struck.”