Chair Force Engineer

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Jem of an administrator?

The hunt for a NASA administratorgot even messier today, with the nomination of retired Major General Scott Gration to the position of envoy to Sudan. Formerly the rumored front-runner for the job, his position has been taken by astronaut Mae Jemison in the rumor mill's pool of candidates.

I take the Jemison rumor with more than a grain of salt. My personal preference is still for Lester Lyles or Steve Isakowitz, of the people whose names have been floated. But with that being said, I'm interested in the Jemison rumors because I've actually met Dr. Jemison during a lecture and a Q&A session. I came away highly impressed with her intellect, but she definitely struck me as a scientist moreso than a manager or a leader. Maybe it was just the subject of her lecture which blinds me to the possibility of her as an administrator, but she strikes me as somebody who takes a very global view of utilizing human technological prowess to solve social problems and alleviate human suffering. These goals are very admirable, but they're not completely aligned with the NASA mission.

Service as an astronaut does not qualify one to be NASA administrator. At best, it should be viewed neutrally for an administrator candidate. Management acumen is the key here, and that's the reason why I view General Lyles or Steve Isakowitz so highly compared to the other rumored candidates. That might not mean the others are bad managers, it's just that they haven't had the opportunities to demonstrate it on a large scale. With the agency in a precarious position, I'd like to see a proven track record before supporting a candidate.