An Absence of Space Goals But Not of Conflict of Interest: What in the World is Going on at NASA?
Okay, maybe we should consider privatizing our space program, as President Obama has proposed. There’s something a bit disconcerting about the idea but we certainly can talk about it. Does that mean that the entire concept of space has to be removed from the top three goals, as set by President Obama, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? From NASA Watch. (Thanks, Michael Graham.)
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.
Can the US Department of State file a grievance because another department is markedly infringing on their duties?
Speaking of duties, the aptly named (… well, aptly for the time, up until about a year ago, when NASA was charged with doing bold things) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, seems oblivious to the fact that his duties do not include using his office to jack up the value of stock in his personal portfolio.
As the Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday, Bolden weighed in against NASA’s participation with the U.S. Navy in a project to develop ocean-based biofuels. He wrote in a series of e-mails that he did not think NASA should be the lead federal agency looking at alternative fuels.
On its face, this is a defensible position. NASA is under tremendous budget pressure, and its leader is right to be wary of taking on commitments when the agency doesn’t have enough money to adequately fund its core, space-related activities. NASA shouldn’t spread itself too thin – especially now.
But Bolden registered his opinion after running the biofuels project past Marathon Oil Corp., a Houston-based company that has invested in a different biofuels venture. Marathon advised against it.
An oil company recommending that NASA not get behind a competing project: Who saw that coming?
It gets worse. Bolden sat on Marathon’s board until Obama named him NASA administrator last year. While he was on the board, the company invested $10 million in the other biofuel project.
And he still owns as much as $1 million worth of stock in the company.
Yikes! As the June 24 editorial in the Orlando Sentinel goes on to observe
It is dumbfounding that Bolden would not only seek the view of an oil company about a competing project, but go to the one on whose board he served, in which he still owns a significant stake. Yet he not only saw nothing amiss in his actions, he even called attention to them. “I continue to have doubts about the viability of this project, especially after discussions with representatives of the Marathon Oil Corporation,” he wrote to other NASA leaders on May 2.
NASA’s Inspector General is investigating this conflict of interest.
It’s not clear who can look into President Obama removing the “S” from NASA …