international competitiveness and to U.S. universities to improve science and engineering education. NASA has been extremely successful in both of these areas. This transfer, when combined with the large investments in industrial space technology by DoD over the past quarter-century, has shifted leadership in many cutting-edge technologies from NASA toward industry and academia. NASA now possesses centers of excellence in particular technologies, but none of the NASA field centers is a world leader in every space technology.
NASA's culture has not evolved with these realities. The flight centers are insular, and flight projects are overly dominated by resident technologies and methodologies. The ethos of “not invented here” can go so far that technologies are not shared between GSFC and JPL and these flight centers do not seek technologies from NASA's research centers such as Lewis or Ames. When centers do not voluntarily communicate and work with each other, contractors with jobs at two or more centers often provide the only effective transfer of technologies among centers. The NASA Administrator is attempting to move this insular culture toward a recognition that NASA is now part of a larger technology community, that NASA is obligated to contribute to that community, and that it is wise to draw from it for its own programs.
Because NASA has not had an agency-wide technology planning effort since the 1991 Integrated Technology Plan, there has been no forum to involve industry or academia in global technology planning for the agency. In the past, NASA has tended to place its far-term technology investments in-house while allocating specific tasks associated with near-term development to industry and to the universities. The University Space Engineering Research Center program was an exception to placing far-term technology development in-house, but that program was mandated by Congress and ceased after only five years.
The management of science at NASA presents several challenges in today's environment. With the recent downsizing of Headquarters and the relocation of program management to the field centers, the potential exists to diminish both Headquarters' knowledge about the status of programs and its ability to defend them in the political arena. A second potential problem is conflict of interest, where centers could favor in-house capability over that existing in universities and industry. Assurances must be built into the evolving system that the entire procurement and selection process will be conducted without bias.
Another potential problem is that the crisper organizational division that now exists between NASA's strategic enterprises increases the possibility of greater fragmentation of the overall NASA program, leading to inadequate cross-enterprise cooperation and coordination. This would be especially detrimental to the relationship between the space science enterprise and the human exploration and space transportation enterprises, both of which have direct connections to the space sciences but could evolve in directions less supportive of the conduct of science.
The NASA strategic plan, which was updated in February 1995, provides important information on the agency's place in the nation's R&D environment and its planned contributions to national goals; it also explains the enterprise-based strategic planning framework that NASA has adopted. More recently, the office of the Chief Scientist has released a draft for comment of a new science policy document.3 This guide gives an overview of agency policy on a number of topics that are also discussed in the following chapters of this report, including the roles of the various participants in NASA's science programs and the agency's approach to assessing and maintaining quality.
NASA, Science in Air and Space: NASA's Science Policy Guide (Draft for Public Comment), July 1995.