aerospace research activities is “to enhance the competitiveness of Germany and Europe’s aerospace and air transport industries and to achieve governmental and societal objectives.”1

In addition, NASA no longer plays a major role in fostering developments in national security aviation. Both the National Aeronautics and Space Act of December 18, 2010 (P.L. 111-314, 124 Stat. 3328) and Executive Order 13419, “National Aeronautics Research and Development” issued in December 2006, substantiate the purpose of a broader role for the agency. The Space Act itself states that NASA will “contribute materially to one or more of the following areas: … the improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles.… [and] the making available to agencies directly concerned with national defense of discoveries that have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency” (Section 20101). Executive Order 13419 states that “continued progress in aeronautics, the science of flight, is essential to America’s economic success and the protection of America’s security interests at home and around the globe.”

By establishing research programs that leverage government resources, NASA can achieve technology breakthroughs that are capable of leading to the development of competitive products that can be viable in a global economy. Specific objectives could be developed, including potentially adopting a research portfolio management approach that measures the economic impact of specific innovations driven by NASA-sponsored flight research on a fair and consistent basis. Clearly this is a senior-level policy decision.

During the course of its deliberations, the committee became aware of numerous opportunities available to NASA for collaborative partnerships. The committee consulted with U.S. industry, the Department of Defense (DOD), and international aerospace research organizations and specifically asked them for recommendations for collaborative flight research opportunities. The committee also was aware of relatively recent policy decisions that have limited NASA’s ability to effectively collaborate with DOD and other organizations. In the past decade, as NASA aeronautics budgets were being reduced, executive managers were encouraged to cut collaborative projects first based on the argument that DOD was better funded than NASA and that DOD should be viewed as a source of funding rather than a collaborative partner. Although such policy decisions are rarely written down, their effects can be witnessed in recent reductions in collaboration between NASA and DOD. The committee believes that such policy decisions have been short-sighted and could potentially weaken U.S. leadership in aviation and aeronautics and fail to enhance U.S. national security.

This chapter focuses on the barriers to effective prioritization of flight research dollars, people, and flight assets, including organizational and management issues, and barriers to collaboration and communication. Finally, it offers some opportunities for a way forward. Changes in these areas will be critical to the effective use of limited NASA aeronautics resources and create an environment that, once again in the words of Hugh Dryden, encourages people to “make the impossible, possible.”

IMPEDIMENTS TO PROGRESS

Insufficient Strategic Planning Coupled with Micro-management at NASA Headquarters

The current approach to budget allocations within NASA aeronautics results in insufficient resources for flight research. This leads to incomplete technology development and internal competition for flight research funding rather than effective teamwork within NASA. Inter-center teamwork is reduced as each center is forced to compete for its share of the diminishing NASA aeronautics budget.

As mentioned in previous chapters, the organizational structure of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) includes many fragmented groups with common and overlapping interests. This fragmentation has caused limited resources to be spread over many different segments within these groups instead of being focused on a small number of specific goals. In addition, during the past decade, NASA Headquarters has reduced its

________________

1 German Aerospace Center, “Aeronautics Research,” available at http://www.dlr.de/dlr/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10195/337_read-279/, accessed on March 12, 2012.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement