Author Topic: Should the other nine NASA Centers become or host FFRDCs?  (Read 947 times)

Offline AncientU

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Interesting @NASA center tidbit in government reorg docs:
“Establish an accelerated process for determining whether one or more of 9 NASA Centers should be converted to, or host, a Federally Funded Research Development Center (FFRDC).”

In today’s digital age, the Federal Government is not suited to meet the needs of its customer, the American people. Outdated technology, organizational constructs, and antiquated processes keep citizens and small businesses tied up in bureaucracy, leaving the American people and Federal workforce frustrated.

Yet another government reorganization plan... (Recall 'Faster, Better, Cheaper?')
Page 85 of 132 for the NASA bit.

The missions and programs of NASA are conducted across 10 geographically-dispersed Centers, augmented
by several testing and support facilities.  While nine of the Centers are Government owned and operated, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is operated by the California Institute of Technology as an FFRDC. In 2004, the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy found that NASA Centers: 1) needed to modernize their infrastructure; 2) lacked institutional incentives to align them with new policy; and 3) utilized often ossified personnel practices.  The Commission recommended that NASA Centers be reconfigured as FFRDCs to enable innovation, work more effectively with the private sector, and stimulate economic development.  With the advent of the President’s National Space Strategy, a renewed look at the FFRDC operating model is warranted as part of NASA’s broader strategy to meet the Administration’s ambitious space objectives.  This proposal would establish a process for determining whether one or more of NASA’s other Centers should be converted to, or host, an FFRDC.

Is this a reform plan or approach that could benefit the Nation?  Improve NASA Center productivity?
JPL is a standout among the NASA Centers with respect to getting the job done -- just a coincidence that they are the only FFRDC?

NOTE:  To keep this topic apolitical, let's not get into whether this Administration is right or wrong one to make these changes...
« Last Edit: 06/22/2018 06:56 pm by AncientU »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Should the other nine NASA Centers become or host FFRDCs?
« Reply #1 on: 06/22/2018 11:04 pm »
I think everyone would agree that JPL is an example of where a FFRDC approach has worked. The unanswered questions are:

1. Is JPL an exception or the rule?

2. Does anyone know how to turn a NASA center into a FFRDC successfully?

3. Does anyone know how to choose what centers are candidates for becoming FFRDC's?

I've advocated in the past that NASA should go through a review of it's responsibilities and assets, but doing it based on a recommendation from the OMB is the wrong way to do that. We were down this road back in 2004 with the Aldridge Commission - which provided a lot of relevant data about the pros and cons of making changes - and nothing happened.

I think this is a poorly executed attempt at making sizable changes that could affect our nation's premier space organization in negative ways for decades to come.

If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?