NASA Administrator Muzzles Employees From Speaking Openly With Obama Agency Review Team

ap05041801616.jpg In order to ensure a smooth transition, President-elect Obama has set up numerous agency review teams charged with completing “a thorough review” of government agencies. One of the teams’ tasks is to interview agency employees, offering them “a chance to share their knowledge and pent-up grievances about programs that have run into funding difficulties or about bosses they did not like.”

However, over at NASA, this process is running into a roadbloack: NASA administrator Michael Griffin. He has gone after agency review leader Lori Garver, who once served as an associate administrator at NASA, calling her “not qualified” to judge his rocket programs. After a “heated 40-minute conversation” between the two last week, a “red-faced” Griffin reportedly demanded to speak directly to Obama.

But even more disturbing is the Orlando Sentinel’s report that Griffin has been muzzling NASA employees from speaking openly to Obama’s review staffers, “scripting” them “on what they can tell the transition team.” He has also reportedly “warned” aerospace executives not to criticize his pet project — NASA’s “delayed and over-budget” moon rocket program:

[T]ransition-team interviews have been monitored by NASA officials “taking copious notes,” according to congressional and space-community sources. Employees who met with the team were told to tell their managers about the interview. […]

According to industry officials, Griffin started calling heads of companies working for NASA, demanding that they either tell the Obama team that they support Constellation or refrain from talking about alternatives. The companies, worried that Griffin may remain and somehow punish them if they ignore his wishes, have by and large complied.

One consultant said that when Garver invited “several” mid-level aerospace executives to speak to the team, their bosses told them not to go and warned that anything said had to be cleared first with NASA because Griffin had demanded it.

ThinkProgress spoke to an official on a separate agency review team, who described a process quite different than Griffin’s tactics. This person told us that at the agency they are reviewing, the team’s experience has been positive: political appointees have generally stayed out of their way and they haven’t had people looking over their shoulders.

Last year, Griffin faced heated attacks for saying that he wasn’t sure whether or not global warming was a “problem.” He also “quietly altered” NASA’s mission statement to remove any reference to the agency’s responsibility to protect the earth against global warming