Texas Legislator Calls for Investigation of "Politicization" of NASA

Texas Legislator Calls for Investigation of "Politicization" of NASA

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) today called for a NASA Inspector General (IG) investigation of the politicization of NASA.

Rep. Smith is vice chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. In his letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, Rep. Smith cited two studies that he said were done for NASA Administrator Bolden by 4-D Systems and McKinsey. The studies were about “NASA’s management, morale, and trust in its organizational leadership,” according to Rep. Smith.

Saying that NASA had refused to provide the specific inputs to the studies from NASA’s senior career civil servants, Rep. Smith stated that two themes that emerged from the studies were that “Politicos focus on Democratic goals, not national goals,” and “Little trust (3x) from above or discussion on major Agency issues. Two groups, political and career that communicate to themselves.”

Arguing that technical agencies like NASA “need to work freely of political ideology to the greatest extent practical,” Rep. Smith called on the IG to investigate if there have been “improper decisions or efforts…to steer agency funding and contracts, circumvent the civil service hiring process, or fraud, waste, abuse or other mismanagement of agency resources to benefit ‘Democratic political goals.'”

NASA is, of course, part of the Executive Branch of government and reports to the President. The President appoints (with the advice and consent of the Senate) the Administrator and Deputy Administrator of the agency, along with many other officials who do not require Senate confirmation. The National Aeronautics and Space Act states that the Administrator shall work “[u]nder the supervision and direction of the President…”

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