Kavandi, Morrow Retirements Mean More Change at NASA

Kavandi, Morrow Retirements Mean More Change at NASA

Two of NASA’s field centers will be getting new Center Directors in the next few months.  Janet Kavandi, Director of Glenn Research Center, and George Morrow, Acting Director of Goddard Space Flight Center, have announced their retirements.  Coupled with other resignations, by the end of this year at least half of the leaders of NASA’s 10 nation-wide centers will be new to the job since Jim Bridenstine became Administrator.

NASA has nine civil service field centers and one Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) located around the country in addition to its Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Since April 2018 when Bridenstine came on board, Jody Singer has taken on the Director’s job at Marshall Space Flight Center and Mark Geyer at Johnson Space Center.  Both previously had been Deputy Directors.

Bridenstine announced this week that Langley Research Center Director David Bowles is retiring and will be replaced by his Deputy, Clayton Turner, effective September 30.

George Morrow, Acting Director, Goddard Space Flight Center. Credit: NASA

Goddard Director Chris Scolese left in July to become Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).  His deputy, George Morrow, was named Acting Director, but he will retire from NASA at the end of this year.  He told SpacePolicyOnline.com that he informed NASA HQ of his plans in July and shared the news with Goddard colleagues in the past few weeks.  He added that he will remain “fully engaged” until a new Director is on board and “do everything possible to keep folks and the mission moving smartly forward.”

This week, Janet Kavandi added her name to the list of retirements.  She will leave Glenn at the end of this month.  In a press release, the former astronaut said it was a “difficult decision” to retire from the agency just as it is getting ready to return humans to the Moon and she will be following that effort closely “as I transition to the next phase of life, personally and professionally.”

Janet Kavandi, Director, Glenn Research Center.  Credit: NASA

With the departures of Kavandi and Morrow, only four of the Center Directors who were in place at the beginning of Bridenstine’s tenure will still be in place, as well as the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the FFDRC that is operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.

NASA’s civil service field centers are:

  • Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA);
  • Armstrong Flight Research Center (Palmdale, CA, formerly Dryden Flight Research Center);
  • Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, OH, formerly Lewis Research Center);
  • Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD), which also operates Wallops Flight Facility (Wallops Island, VA), the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (New York, NY) and the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, WV;
  • Langley Research Center (Langley, VA);
  • Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX), which also operates White Sands Test Facility (White Sands, NM);
  • Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, FL);
  • Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL), which also operates the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana; and
  • Stennis Space Center (near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi).

Still in place are the Directors at Ames (Eugene Tu), Armstrong (David McBride), Kennedy (Bob Cabana), Stennis (Rick Gilbrech) and JPL (Michael Watkins).  Most have worked at NASA for decades and have held their leadership positions for quite a few years. Time will tell if other retirements are in the offing.

Cabana took over Kennedy in 2008 after more than 20 years as an astronaut, then Deputy Director of JSC, and then Director of Stennis.  McBride has headed Armstrong since 2010 and was Acting Director for almost a year before that.  Tu was appointed Ames Director in 2015 after many years in other positions at Ames.  Gilbrech was Director of Stennis for the first time from 2006-2007 and, after several career moves within and outside NASA, was reappointed as Director in 2012.  JPL Director Watkins is the newest, taking over JPL from Charles Elachi in 2016.


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