A September 6, 2013 account at NASA Watch of a farewell reception to the outgoing Deputy Administrator of NASA, Lori Garver, including a description of remarks she made in reflection of her tenure as number two at the Space Agency. It was, perhaps inadvertently, very illuminating of her role in the decline of NASA under the Obama administration.
“Garver said that she had three personal objectives while at NASA: ‘to try and align NASA with national objectives; to provide value to taxpayers; and to try and be a consistent leader.’”
She would seem to have failed in at least two of these three objections, and that only if by “national objectives” it is understood to mean the Obama administration space agenda. The report of the National Research Council suggests that value has not been provided to the tax payer. Garver herself has been inconsistent, especially in regards to the question of whether or not American astronauts should go back to the moon.
“Responding to criticism she said that people had characterized her as just pushing change for the sake of change, being the ‘commercial crew girl’ or ‘asteroid girl’. She chalked this off as being the outcome of having worked to advance her overall goals.”
This was actually a nonresponsive response, since it did not address the question as to whether the administration’s approach to commercial space is the best one and whether the every changing mission to an asteroid is to be preferred to a return to the moon.
“Garver reflected back to her efforts before being nominated to be Deputy Administrator - specifically leading the Obama transition team in 2008 following the election. She noted that she and her team had a ‘rocky start’ and that she was "the only member of the entire transition team that had to deal with an agency head (Mike Griffin) who was openly hostile to the team and who had instructed his folks not to share information with us." Garver noted that Griffin "had a campaign headed by his wife that sought to try to keep him in his position." She joked that this whole drama ended up giving her more visibility within the senior leadership of the transition team than might otherwise have been the case.”
“Rocky start” was putting it mildly. Griffin, while he has his critics, is generally considered in the aerospace community to have been an effective, talented NASA administrator who was handed a tough job of trying to advance the Constellation program with a less than promised budget. He was well respected compared to his successor Charles Bolden, whose gaffes about subjects like the purpose of the space program being to make Muslims feel better about themselves have become legendary. If Griffin was hostile to Garver and her transition team, he doubtlessly was prescient about what was to come.
Garver ended with the ten things she learned as Deputy Administrator of NASA.
“10. Most people love NASA
“9. Most people do not like change.
“8. NASA really does not do anything all by itself and partners with a variety of organizations and institutions on virtually everything
“7. You can't choose the time you asked to serve. It was not easy to serve at a time when the shuttle was being shut down and large programs were being cancelled.
“6. There are only a thousand or so days until the 2016 election.
“5. Nothing is more important than our people.
“4. Women have come a long way at NASA but they still have an even longer way to go
“3. Not everyone seems to like politics as much as I do.
“2. The job of the NASA Deputy Administrator is not to make decisions but rather to try and influence these decisions.
“1. NASA is that the part of the human spirit that exists in all of us.”
Garver probably knew all of these things long before she got her office at NASA Headquarters, consisting as they are of pabulum and clichés. Number 3, however, does illustrate something many people have long observed about Garver, that she is a politician through and through.
In closing it should be noted that Jim Muncy left a post in the comments section favorably concerning Garver. Muncy had served as an advisor to Newt Gingrich during his abortive presidential campaign and is widely thought to have influenced his decision to announce a moon base as a national goal. The announcement was bungled because it did not actually provide a list of easily understood justifications and Gingrich was left with no answers when his rival, the eventual nominee Mitt Romney, savagely attacked the moon base idea as “zany.”