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NASA Aeronautics Research—An Assessment
Defining, achieving, and maintaining an appropriate balance between in-house research and external research (by academia and industry) in each project and task, recognizing that the appropriate balance will not be the same in all areas.
Maintaining core competencies in areas consistent with (1) the highest-priority R&T challenges from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics and (2) NASA’s role in the National AeronauticsResearch and Development Policy and the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure.
Supporting the continuing education, training, and retention of necessary expertise in the NASA civil servant workforce and, as appropriate, determining how to encourage and support the education of the future aeronautics workforce in general.
Developing, integrating, and applying foundational technology to meet NASA’s internal requirements for aeronautics research.
Defining and addressing issues related to research involving multidisciplinary capabilities and system design (i.e., research at Levels 3 and 4, respectively, as defined by ARMD).
Ensuring that research projects continue to make progress when NASA works with outside organizations to obtain some of the requisite expertise (when that expertise is not resident in NASA’s civil servant workforce).
NASA should use the National Research Council report Building a Better NASA Workforce (NRC, 2007) as a starting point in developing a comprehensive ARMD workforce plan.
NASA has a unique set of aeronautics research facilities that provide key support to NASA, other federal departments and agencies, and industry. With very few exceptions, these facilities meet the relevant needs of existing aeronautics research. NASA also has a dedicated effort for sustaining large, key facilities and for shutting down low-priority facilities. However, some small facilities (particularly in the supersonic regime) are just as important and may warrant more support than they currently receive. In addition, at the current investment rate, widespread facility degradation will inevitably impact the ability of ARMD projects and other important national aeronautics research and development to achieve their goals.
Recommendation. Absent a substantial increase in facility maintenance and investment funds, NASA should reduce the impact of facility shortcomings by continuing to assess facilities and mothball or decommission facilities of lesser importance so that the most important facilities can be properly sustained.
NRC. 2007. Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at <www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11916>.