Doing What The President Says

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An interesting post by Jeff Foust of SpacePolitics.com, A Look Back at NASA’s Goldin Age about former NASA Administrator Goldin’s comments at a NASA astrobiology symposium.

According to Foust,

    Goldin…recalled the unpopular ‘zero-based review’ of the agency that took place while he was administrator. “But the fact of the matter is, the President of the United States said, ‘This is what you gotta do,'” Goldin said. “So every time a NASA administrator gets skewered in the press, think about the fact that that person is being a loyal American and listening to the President of the United States.” He continued: “The administrator, if they’re good, does what the President asks him, what the Congress asks. You can argue, but when the argument is over, say yes and do yes, or say no and leave. There’s nothing in-between. And I say this because I see the frustration, as I read the newspapers, across NASA.”

Certainly, there’s been a great deal of effort lately by some both in the traditional press and in the blogosphere in pillorying current NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. The current fixation on Bolden to the exclusion of the rest of NASA’s executive, politically appointed leadership team by such critics is curious since Bolden, et al. are marching to the same orders–those of the President. This isn’t just the opinion of a former NASA Administrator, but of Wayne Hale who, in the comments noted,


    The NASA Administrator’s job is to do whatever the President tells him (or her) to do. The Administrator must defend the President’s plan as if it were his own, admitting no flaws no matter how bad the plan may be. Loyalty to the President is highly valued by the White House no matter which party holds office. Meanwhile, everybody below the senior (political, appointed) leadership does what they are told and even though there are some furious fights behind closed doors, people either shut up and go along in public or resign and look for a new job. That is how it works.

It is also interesting to note that, though Congressional members strongly criticized the President’s now-dead proposed changes to NASA’s human space flight program, never once did those same members not praise the service that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden has given to his country. Members of Congress understand that NASA Administrator Bolden has a job to do and is going about it as best he can under the circumstances…as he follows the President’s orders.

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