NASA Plans Major Restructuring of NASA Advisory Council

NASA Plans Major Restructuring of NASA Advisory Council

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden has decided to significantly restructure the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), which provides independent external advice to the agency.   Three of the NAC’s eight committees will be eliminated, including the Education and Public Outreach Committee, and the activities of a fourth — the Commercial Space Committee — will be merged with another.

NASA just renewed the NAC charter in October, making only minor changes to the number of times a year it meets (three instead of four) and reducing its level of funding.  That renewal kept the same committees NAC has had since Bolden became Administrator:  Aeronautics; Audit, Finance, and Analysis; Commercial Space; Education and Public Outreach; Human Exploration and Operations; Information Technology Infrastructure; Science; and Technology and Innovation.

A blog post by NAC Chairman Steve Squyres posted on NASA’s website reveals a decision to eliminate three committees:  Audit, Finance, and Analysis; Education and Public Outreach; and IT Infrastructure.  Squyres distinguishes between the elimination of those three committees and the fate of the Commercial Space Committee, which he describes as being “merged” with the Human Exploration and Operations Committee. 

The new committee lineup will be:

  • Science
  • Aeronautics
  • Technology, Innovation and Engineering
  • Human Exploration and Operations
  • Institutional

NAC will also set up two task forces — one on STEM Education and another Big Data.  They will have “a focused task and limited duration.”

NAC reports to the NASA Administrator and every iteration of the NAC structure and membership reflects each Administrator’s personal preferences on how he obtains advice.  During Bolden’s tenure, the membership of NAC has been the NAC chairman plus the chairs of the eight NAC committees he created.  (The chairs of the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board are ex officio members of NAC as well.) 

Now, with only five committees, several ‘at-large’ members will be added. They are to provide “strategic insight and expert advice across the work of the entire Agency” according to Squyres.

Squyres says the decision was made after “a recent internal review” by Bolden.  “The restructuring process … will begin immediately and will be fully realized over the next several months. As Chairman of NAC, I’m looking forward to putting this new structure in place.”

NAC’s next meeting is at Kennedy Space Center, FL on December 11-12.  A detailed agenda has not yet been posted, but an overall agenda posted in the Federal Register shows that it will discuss topics in each of the areas of the original eight committees except for commercial space. 

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