Transcript: Space4U podcast, Lori Garver & Courtney Stadd

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Hello, this is Rich Cooper with the Space Foundation. The conversation you’re about to hear was recorded prior to the events that transpired at the United States Capitol building on January 6th, 2021 — events that would have certainly impacted the discussion. You’re about to hear, although this recording predates those events, the collateral effects they will have on the presidential transition remain to be seen.


Rich Cooper with the Space Foundation, and this is Space4U. A podcast series brought to you by the Space Foundation that captures the amazing people who make our adventures in space possible. If you’ve been a regular listener to Space4U, you know that we often talk with engineers, entrepreneurs, reporters, project leaders and other creative people who work on the various systems, programs and capabilities that make space technology and exploration possible.


We’re going to continue that tradition today, but touch on something that many people may see as closer to the ground here on planet Earth. Our topic today is presidential transition.


And while Space4U is not a political podcast. There’s no shouting and name-calling here. It is a topic that is front and center of what’s happening in America. Today, we are literally transitioning from one presidential administration to another, as one president prepares to leave the oval office at the end of their term.


Another is preparing for the duties of that office. When you become president of the United States, that takes a lot of preparation. That preparation happens in what’s called the presidential transition and it covers everything from foreign and domestic policy and operations and everything in between.


And that includes space today’s space for you is privileged to welcome to veterans, uh, presidential transitions, as well as presidential administrations to share their experiences. They cover both Republican and democratic administration. So we have a balanced perspective to share with you. So it’s my pleasure to welcome to Space4U Lori Garver, who previously served as NASA deputy administrator during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, as well as the Clinton administration, where she served as the assistant administrator for the office of policy and plans at the latter half of 2008 and into early 2009.


Ms. Garver served as the lead for the Obama presidential transition agency review team for NASA. She’s the veteran of Capitol Hill, the commercial space industry, various campaigns and advisor to numerous groups and organizations, including the Brooke Owens Fellowship, which she founded in 2016 to improve the diversity of the aviation and space exploration communities for college undergraduate women.


Joining Lori is Courtney Stadd, who previously served as NASA Chief of Staff and White House liaison during the George W. Bush administration. He’s also a veteran of the Reagan administration and the George H W Bush administration, where he served at the National Space Council and later NASA where he championed commercial space, initiatives and policies.


He too is a veteran of the commercial space industry. Having been an entrepreneur business development officer and program leader for several commercial space enterprises. He’s also advised a number of space organizations on policies and programs to advance commercial space opportunities. And at the latter half of 2000 and into 2001, he served as a lead for the Bush presidential transition agency review team for NASA.


Lori and Courtney it’s a pleasure to welcome you both to Space4U. Thank you for joining us. Great to be here. Thank you, Rich. Courtney, I’m going to begin with you. What defines how a transition is to operate is this shaped by law and regulation. Up until about 1963-64, this may surprise your listeners. It was pretty much an ad hoc situation.


Uh, by and large, the major party of the winning candidate, uh, would pay for transition related costs. And often the candidate himself would pay John F. Kennedy for instance. During his transition, the Democratic party paid for part, and he paid for some of it of his own pocket. For what I think was about $300,000, which I believe is about two and a half million dollars in today’s dollars.


Finally. In ‘63, uh, the Congress came up with a, a formalized statute. The transition act referred to as the transit presidential transition act of 1963. And for the first time provided, um, monies, office space and other authorities for the incoming. Candidate and his team to formally establish, um, the process, uh, for taking over this massive thing called the United States government.


But it’s only been 57 years since those authorities were, were put in place. Lori, when you took over as a transition team leader, going from the George W. Bush administration to the Obama administration, can you explain to us what a transition team does who’s on it and what do they do? Sure. As Courtney stated it has its roots in this act from the sixties.


But I would say sort of each four or eight years, especially during changeover transition period, it’s different. It has evolved. And I know from serving. I’m the outgoing team, which I’m sure Courtney and I will be discussing because as I was leaving the Clinton administration, he was coming out of the Bush administration, but on the incoming Obama transition team, that was quite a bit different for insolence and.


It this time, I think is also evolved. And of course the last administration, the Trump administration, we all know is quite different. In our case in 2008, I had been asked in July to lead. The transition team is something that you keep to yourself and quietly begin planning your work. There are meetings and that case three in advance of the team leads.


And you are asked to get your team together. The focus of what we are asked to do on the agency landing teams is gather information about what is happening at the agency. The agency review team is just that. And I think that’s why this administration in coming as particularly focused on calling them that you are an agency review team.


We were not. Um, even allowed to talk about personnel that led to some confusion, but the agency review team is there to review what the agency has put together for you to have meetings with internal and external stakeholders, and to gather as much information to prepare for the incoming administration that becomes.


Written information and books. We have, um, my goodness in our case, eight volumes of information on things we gathered. And then of course, because I was coming in, I was one of those people to get briefed on the books I helped write, but that really, I think my main message for people to understand is the agency review teams are just that.


When you talk about those transition books, are those basically the how to guides of how to run an agency like NASA? No, the review team books that we put together, where the answers to the questions that we asked throughout the two and a half months of meetings, I mean, large binders that included reviews of this program.


It’s status, where it is in the budget. We in particular, or for our recommendations in a couple of levels, one was day one. What do you recommend be put in place on day one, as far as executive orders that would assist your agency first hundred days, a whole other section, what are the top issues that we need to pay attention to in the first hundred days than we had first year and first time in 2008, 2009 transition, we had some added work that was the recovery act.


So the similar bill, when that came from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. They said the incoming people can put that together. So we also put together the budget for that stimulus bill that normally you are not doing much budget for. Yeah. Well, I may Rich just to augment, uh, Lori’s excellent uh, overview of what’s involved in the review of, of the agency.


I think that the listeners need to know that fundamentally the role of the transition team is to provide the incoming administration. With enough insight, enough detail about program budget, so forth that he or she, that is ultimately nominated to take over the agency.


And as Lori appropriately said, it was not the role of the transition team to get into personnel instead to provide the inputs that could be useful and critical, frankly, for that individual to ensure that he or she. Once nominated once confirmed can literally hit the ground running. The other thing I’d like to emphasize is the transaction that takes place, uh, early on, which is that the, the, the permanent civil service of the agency in this case, NASA provides, uh, a set of, uh, books.


I presume today, Lori, uh, and my day was, um, written, I’m sure today it’s electronic. That essentially is a compiled version of the programs and budgets and an overview of, of the personnel and so forth in the case of NASA, not just the leadership at headquarters, but the Senate directors and what their responsibilities are and so forth.


And that becomes your, sort of your initial research baseline from which you build, uh, the analysis that Lori referred to earlier. So what do you look for in transition team members? Lori, you talked about that, you know, once you are tapped with this, you can’t tell anybody about it until it’s formally announced, but I’m kind of curious as to, and I’m sure listeners are, what are you looking for in people that help you to.


Help set that first hundred-day agenda, uh, deal with the incoming inbox that you’re dealing with. What kind of people are you looking for to help you with that? Sure. That is a question that also, I believe does change from administration to administration. In my case in oh eight, I was asked to reach out to four or five.


People who I felt would be to a transition team. I wanted someone, for instance, who had been on a previous transition team and selected Alan Ladwig because he had served with Sally ride on the transition team for the Clinton administration. You want people who are going to be able to translate what they read and hear during transmission, those books that.


Courtney mentioned. And by the way, NASA does is first rate job of getting those together, which should not be a surprise to anyone and can then interact with both internal and external stakeholders to create recommendations. I had. Also someone who had served on the outgoing transition team or Clinton that was so important.


He worked well with, and therefore I knew he would work well for us. That was our chief of staff. I’d have her name. And then I selected George Whitesides who was at the national space society at the time. And I knew might be able to take a leave of absence. So that’s another thing you’re looking for is someone who is not in a vested conflicting job, which for NASA is a challenge because a lot of really good people are out in industry and that at least in the Obama administration was not.


Allowed you have to sign a pledge that you’re not going to be involved in lobbying that agency for two years afterwards. Again, in our case, you have to be able to volunteer for two and a half months and go without income. None of these are very easy to find and people who really are going to have the experience to, to work on it.


So it was in my case. Something that was left to me to do those people then were vetted by the overall transition team. And we were all set to go and working together as a team. Well, before the actual election. And if he, if Obama had lost, we, you would never have known, we were even going to be on the transition team.


So it’s not until they’ve won that you’re, um, announced. Told we were going to go in the next day, in our case, they decided let’s wait one day, let’s give them a a day to lick their wounds. And then we’ll we’ll comment. Lori, you commended NASA for the materials that they provided to you. And I’m kind of curious again, you’ve talked about binders and all the different materials.


I am curious, how accurate do you find those materials being given to you are, do they, do they really get into the nitty-gritty about challenges and the problems that are there or is it sometimes the materials are giving you are a bit rosier than what is reality? Oh, of course, NASA is not monolithic.


And that is a really interesting aspect to it. I’d be interested in Courtney felt the same. There are certain directorates and programs where they just do a great job at detailing where they are and acknowledging where there might be shortcomings. There are also programs in our case that, you know, you had two pages for a $3 billion program like that.


That’s where, you know, you got to dig deeper and I doubt any, anything like that is going on at this point, but that is why you have two and a half months and, and have meetings. My understanding is that there’s a format now and that the GSA. Is much more involved in preparing the books for the agencies, for the incoming teams.


So hopefully there’s a little more consistency. I never found anything inaccurate. Let me be clear. No, no, one’s lying to you. It’s just, they might not go into the details. Yeah. If I could add to that, what we discovered and it’s human nature, right? You have people who are not engaging in. Deception, but they’re also, in some cases, emphasis some cases protecting, uh, their particular program and we’ll put their particular spin on it.


Now the books from the agency standpoint are supposed to be empirical. Fact-based. But as Lori said, sometimes, um, you know, that these, some of these complex programs are not as deep and that in, in what’s provided and that sometimes can be a red flag. And in the instance of, of our transition, uh, from the Clinton to the George W. Bush administration, we discovered, and when I say we, Scott Pace, who is the current head of the space council, uh, in the, in the Trump white house, he was my deputy on the, on the transition.


And we uncovered about a four and a half billion dollar overrun on space station at the time that was not volunteered to us. So we had to basically through the meetings that Lori alluded to and our own, uh, due diligence did uncover a gap that. Needed to be, uh, dealt with fairly, uh, in the near term with, with the new administration. But, uh, by and large, we found that the civil servants were, uh, very cooperative, uh, disclosive by and large.


And, uh, at least in, in our case, uh, uh, I can say we found no evidence of the so-called deep state. Uh, we, we found in fact very, uh, patriotic and, uh, public servants that were really dedicated to the national interest. But again, as I’m sure Lori can attest to as well, uh, we did find pockets of people who were, uh, holding tight, uh, information that we needed to, uh, take our own steps to, to uncover.


So the example of, uh, different approaches would be JPL and Charles Elachi comes in for his meeting with us and the Mars Lander was. Experiencing technical problems. We’d all just sort of heard rumors about it. But he came in and said he had concerns about meeting the window and it was clear to us that he needed and wanted to ask for an extension to the next window.


And he acknowledged that will cost an extra 400,000,000 over 2 years. And he needed to know if he was going to be able and the new administration have that sort of, uh, support. And because I had been at NASA during sometimes when, uh, programs didn’t go well, because we probably rushed things. I was absolutely supportive of it.


Seven taking the time. On the other hand, we had, I would say constellation. And probably Webb telescope. They just weren’t forthcoming with their cost overruns. And that ended up being a problem as lots of folks who follow state.


Now, Lori, you alluded to this as, did you Courtney that you’ve been on both sides of transition. You’ve been part of the incoming team. And you’ve been part of the outgoing team between administrations. I am curious to hear both of your perspectives about what’s the relationship like between outgoing and incoming administrations during this time period.


And how important is that in the handoff? Well, uh, if I may start Lori, I, I, I can’t overstate how important it is. And I have to say that not withstanding some of the, uh, uh, concerns that people had at the time, in terms of the Clinton administration handoff, you know, there were references to missing W’s and keyboards and some other vandalism.


We never witnessed any of that. And I can only praise the support. Of of the, uh, the people in the administration in helping us, including, um, the administrator red, Dan golden and his staff who really could not have been more helpful in terms of leaning forward is a very complex undertaking, as you know, just take NASA to 18.


I think at the time that I was involved, it was about a 17. Roughly billion dollar, $2,000 equivalent, many, many moving parts, uh, many complex programs. And, and so it’s a, it’s a big undertaking to go in and to try to get your hands around it. And, and so the cooperation. Of of the agency and the public servants, as well as the appointees, uh, that are, uh, uh, associated with the, uh, outgoing administration.


That cooperation is so critical. And that’s why I said earlier that, that every day that, that goes by after the election, that the, uh, transition team for the incoming administration’s not given full access really comes at great cost, frankly, yet. And ensuring that the American people get the, uh, uh, level of, uh, effective transition that, that, that you know, that they deserve.


Lori, do you have anything to add to that? Sure. So that was my experience as Courtney was coming in with on the Clinton administration and I’m leading the policy office, Dan golden set. The intention and follow through that. We were to be as open as cooperative as possible. It did not hurt that. I knew Courtney and Scott quite well.


Previously. I remembered late and, uh, Christmas Eve of with them about some of these issues. I considered jumping and leaving stuff in my office, taped under my desk or something. That’s a little surprising, but it would have all been. You know, very positive. So this is my experience. And, and honestly, I just, you know, in a rough, shorter transition because of the Gore-Bush election and, and nevertheless, you just, I got this sense of pride because we’re a country that transitions peacefully.


And I used to talk about it back then. And again, in 2008, and I think people rolled her up. Well, Pollyanna. I think we now recognized the value of the importance of that when it’s missing. So, uh, in 2001, it was literally an honor and privilege to be part of a transition, even though I was outgoing. Um, that’s why.


When I came in in 2008, I took it so seriously and felt the same in my case as has been widely reported. And the administrator of NASA was not cooperative with us, but. Yes, that would have been wonderful if he had, and he did, we found tell people not to share things with us. And one person was talking to us and wanted to not be seen in the hall, because if you wish.


Told by his boss. If you’re seeing talking to transition team that will be career limiting, this was the kind of thing that made me crazy. It is like, do you think we’re going to vote again? You know, I mean, the Obama election was quite clear, but we had a couple of briefings where people were clearly told you are not to tell them things.


And finally, I just had to get realistic about it and say, you know, you, you don’t want to tell us now if you can tell the incoming people and January 21st. No, because that, that rule you’re not in charge before 12:01 on January 20th. So I was willing to sit back lots and lots of people who operated the, the people who dated they worked with us were amazing.


NASA has a better transition office and more support than anyone else at any of the other agencies. So it was not at all entirely negative, but it certainly was surprising not to have that cooperation. And I’m sure that is not happening now just to add that. And I, it, you know, in case the listeners think there’s too much, uh, mother apple pie here, um, I’m going to pile on and say that, you know, Lori and I have known each other for decades.


And I guess we’re old school, Lori, uh, because, uh, we may have, may have different philosophies in some cases at that point, uh, uh, different, uh, uh, partisan views and so forth. But when it came to uniting, uh, in terms of, of doing our small part to ensure a smooth handoff, uh, country comes first, and the other thing that united us was a passionate, lifelong commitment.


To the space program and it’s specific, it was fortuitous that, uh, Lori was so committed as her history has been to really moving the ball on, on the commercial space front and under her leadership at NASA. She sure did. Arguably wouldn’t have, uh, the SpaceX and some other major ventures, uh, without the level of support that, that Lori and her team provided.


Yeah. I recall Lori, when, um, uh, during the Obama transition that, uh, frankly I, I offered and she could not have been more gracious in, um, our meeting and, and, and frankly my sharing some of the formatting and the approach that we took during the transition period again, uh, given our mutual views about the importance of ensuring, uh, Smooth and effective transitional behalf of the, uh, of the American people.


You both have talked about leadership and the people who you’ve engaged and, and you certainly, and deservedly given credit to the career, civil servants who help NASA, uh, do what it does. But again, key to implementing it. Administration’s vision is having people who can enact it.


What role, if any, does a transition team play in selecting And preparing new leadership to take over responsibilities at the agency. Um, sure. Uh, thanks. First of all, for Courtney, it’s very nice. We have worked together through these transitions and I remember you generously taking your time to reach out to us. And I don’t believe there’s anyone who wanted to speak to the transition team.


By the way who we didn’t make time for. And that is, I think it’s probably harder every time. I don’t know the question of the role sort of first now and selecting new leadership. The agency review teams again are for review teams. You are, I think, generally ask for recommendations on. Political leadership to come in, but there is a separate part of transition that leads personnel and that’s to take your list, ask for your list.


And in my face, again, they do some back and forth on it. Someone might add a person, then they say, well, what do you think here? But I did no way the selection of personnel for those Senate confirmed positions. We were working with a white house liaison that we were assigned later within the period of transition to be able to recruit in some cases, um, and place the political two, we felt would be good at the agency and keep in mined out of 18,000 employees at NASA, we had about 18 political appointees.


So this isn’t, uh, a big job and there’s a handful of positions that are very clearly politically it’s required to be a political appointee head of legislative affairs. For instance, you need to be really advancing the administration. Objective, but there are some roles that change.


Sometimes the general council is political and sometime it’s not, sometimes the head of international affairs is political. Sometimes it’s not. And those are things you can recommend as an agency review team. You also, and I know there’s confusion about this. Assuming there isn’t. NASA nominee in advance of the inauguration.


Certainly not one confirmed. You do recommend who will serve as the acting head of the agency. If you have not, or do not plan to ask the existing administrator to return. This was a problem in my case, because not only did Mike Griffin think he could stay in it. Wasn’t my role to tell him he couldn’t or wasn’t going to be?


And he stated to who would be acting head of the agency and his departure. That was not his due. And we ultimately decided to go ahead and recommend Chris Scolese anyway, but it is generally. I think a little confusing for space people that at 12:01, the people who worked for the previous president, they don’t work at NASA anymore, unless they’ve been asked to stay, so the default is you should be out of a building and there’s just, you shouldn’t be confused about that.


You know, I don’t think in fact sometimes you’ll have hesitancy. Announced their retirement on January 20th. That’s not, that’s not required even on C cam had doing that. That the default is you leave at that time, unless you’re asked to stay with all the political appointees, which isn’t very many at NASA.


So it’s not that big of a shock to the system. And if I could add to that Rich, it’s an interesting. Thread that we have to, we, we in the transition teams, uh, have to deal with that NASA because it’s such a technical agency. And I think Lori would agree. You have to be careful with the handful of political SUD you have, that you not be viewed or, or actually in practice, uh, have, um, be unduly politicize, uh, these programs having said that.


You’re dealing with a new president, uh, an administration that will have likely new priorities, new challenges, NASA after all is a discretionary budget. And when you’re selecting your appointees or suggesting who, who might fill the, these limited slots, you have to take that. Into account that, that individuals, uh, understanding of, of the balance that you need in terms of, uh, respecting the technical integrity of the, of the agency while at the same time, representing a new president, uh, with, with, uh, new, new, new priorities.


So it is a bit of an interesting balancing act. I do want to also insert that. One of the things that, um, I think it was an important, uh, initiative in the, in the 2000s was this associate administrator position that is a permanent position held by a civil servant. And the idea was to give the incoming administration the option that when the administrator, deputy administrator, both of whom are, are political, of course, uh, depart no later than 12:01 PM on January 20th inauguration day, uh, that there be an individual, this civil servant who could step into the breach.


Obviously it’s open as Lori indicated to the discretion of the incoming administration as to who may prefer. But, um, it looks like at this point that, uh, Lori, that Steve Jurczyk, if I’m correct, is holding that associate administrative position will be the acting, uh, until the, uh, president, uh, like Biden, uh, nominates the administrator.


Yeah. There’s been confusion about this. I really don’t think the transition team has decided, but it’s okay. I was going to add something earlier when, um, Lori talked about, um, the openness to meeting with industry, at least in our case, it’s partly driven by the severe truncated nature of the, uh, dress session period that we had only a handful of weeks.


Right. We tended to focus more on the associations than the individual companies, just bandwidth. And I getting the sense, uh, Lori from the current, uh, presidential transition team that they’re doing the same, primarily focused on meeting with associations, which gives them the opportunity to have a one-stop shop and meet with the airspace industry association among others.


Uh, rather than individuals, because I think as Lori can attest, if you meet constantly just with the individual companies, you won’t have time to do the, uh, the hard lifting that, that she referred to earlier, which is ultimately writing the. Uh, the analysis and the transition material for the, uh, incoming administration.


I just wanted to add that as a clarification point. Yeah. That is a difference. And I’m guessing because it’s shorter that may have, you know, as you said, driven you, maybe driving them. We, we did meet with companies individually and I, I just, for one, I probably couldn’t have done any of this. I have to give a shout out to George Whitesides, who I would leave maybe the, the eight o’clock at night and I’d come in at seven in the morning.


And the meetings from the previous day had been written up in a book with colored tab. You know, he was just, I called them data. I don’t think he slept, um, you know, he was such a workhorse, but I really did focus on these meetings because not only did people want to be heard, but they had sometimes.


A willingness to say things that you might not have heard from everyone, obviously just, just to hammer home, those issue of how important these two and a half months are, if you can use, as we got to do every single day of it, it, it benefited the whole.


It’s something else to read that your listeners might be interested in Lori, and I can perhaps share this perspective. So what in the formal transition, you’re actually afforded an office in the agency and that’s where you could meet with your team. And frankly have, uh, uh, as necessary discreet conversations with, with certain of, uh, officials in the agency and the material that you were compiling, uh, You would bring the material back to the GSA, uh, authorized office for transition the actual transition headquarters in our case, uh, downtown, uh, actually across the street from the world trade center at world bank at the T at the time.


And there was an amazing phenomenon, which was that. You’d look around at these cubicles, the sea of cubicles, and they’d have handwritten signs, national security council, state department, Congress department, uh, Pentagon. And it really was quite phenomenal to watch the, essentially the emergence of an entire intact federal government.


And, and I was, uh, took great pride in how that the birthing, if you will, of, of a new administration was really quite something to, uh, to watch. And we had in our case, um, Uh, Rich and Lori, uh, a huge whiteboard that would basically score how cooperative the agencies were being. And NASA, frankly, um, usually got a pretty, pretty high score.


Although, as I mentioned, there were a few oversights that we had to deal with, but it was just fascinating to watch. Uh, the, the emergencies has had a birthing of a whole new, uh, administration. Both of you have talked about, uh, leadership and you both have had the fortune of working for and working with a lot of different NASA administrators.


With both your experience, transition hats on, but then also as observers and operators and practitioners, I would be, I think it’d be great for our listeners to hear from both of you. What are the qualities that an incoming Biden administration needs to look for in a new NASA administrator? I, I find it buys the Biden administration at this point on that.


My view is the transition team is fed a good handle on their recommendations. I do want to follow up on what Courtney said, because that is one of the things that has evolved over time, but I felt the same way. And when you, as the lead of transition, have an office with the other transition team leads, it is particularly important because that is where you are seeing.


And I’ll turn the center, answer to your question. Rich, the administration’s priorities taking shape, if you will. So. We had graduated two of those Courtney from your cubicle experienced by 2008. I shared an office with Tom Khaleel. He was leading the OTP. Transition team next to us was Jim Colin Berger, who was leading Noah on the other side, Sally Erickson reading, doing NSF.


I think those are actually switched. We had our RO, which were the science and technology agencies, DARPA and FCC were across the hall. And every week we had meetings, no whiteboard on cooperation, NASA unfortunately would have been. The lowest, uh, we had, um, we did discuss these overarching and in our case science and technology advances that the Obama administration was going to feel strongly about investing in technology and innovation.


For instance, to advance the economy. That was something that I took into the team. As we worked into our recommendations. Obviously the Biden administration has these as well. They’re quite clear this time and I think Napa would do well to be a part. Have those broader conversations about how that’s a, really is a tool for this nation to advance its objectives.


And we have geopolitical objectives. You know, we’re talking a lot about that these days we have climate change. We have, um, the kinds of things that a new administrator. Should be able to work with their counterparts in the cabinet and so forth to allow NASA to be a bigger part. I think of the discussion, the more NASA is separated and not seen as contributing to the overall policy goals for the nation, I think the less they’re going to be useful.


Yeah. And let me just add to that. I, I, um, although I’m. We mentioned earlier that the transition was prescribed from getting into personnel Scott Pace. And I did note in our, looking at the history of NASA leadership that for over half a century, it had been exclusively a white male domain up on the ninth floor.


And. That seemed, um, really out of step with, uh, the state of the nation, the demographics, and we pushed in our transition recommendation, uh, for appropriate, uh, diversity. There was no shortage of very, very able men and women of color to take on that. Uh, formidable. Job. And I take pride in the fact that Gregory, who was a pioneering, uh, black astronaut, uh, shuttle commander was, uh, appointed, uh, confirmed as, as deputy administrator and, um, Lori herself and subsequent administration was, uh, one of the first woman to take on the deputy administrator position as a father of two grown the executive daughters.


I’m hopeful that, uh, uh, this, uh, incoming president will consider, uh, uh, the first woman, frankly, administrator deputy administrator, certainly, uh, I think that would reflect, uh, both the changing demographic, uh, and, and an incredible number of very competent, uh, woman candidates. If I may be so bold, I think you’re interviewing one of them on the phone, uh, Rich, uh, that could, uh, provide, uh, an important, uh, pool of talent and be at an enormously important role model for, uh, for young ladies in, in, in, uh, this country that may be looking at a career related to the aerospace.


If I may be allowed, I I’d like to say that, although it is perilous waters to speculate on candidates for that job, I do think that. My sense of having worked with, uh, administrators over many decades is that individual he or she has to be capable day. One of walking in and scaling to the complexity of an asset.


There’s a lot of moving parts. Uh, it’s not just space, but aeronautics. You’ve got a lot of, uh, science and, and, uh, and, and so forth involved with that, uh, agency and the budgets are important, but your political moxie, the ability to, uh, work with the, uh, uh, Congress and the oversight committees.


And interact with the, uh, uh, sometimes interesting challenges of the white house, west wing oversight, the office of management budget and so forth. There’s a lot that goes in to, uh, that portfolio. And, um, I, I, uh, there’s no shortage of candidates who could take on that position. Uh, and, and I just hope that, uh, you know, and, and have it every expectation that this incoming administration will, will choose accordingly.


Last question to wrap up. What’s been a great conversation. What guidance or words of wisdom would you offer to either the current transition team or future transition teams to help them in their job?


Oh, I think last of us. So given last of advice for the transition team, I guess I would. Uh, agree, coordinating made a good last point about the necessity and the complexity of NASA, because it is primarily a filled with career civil servants. You really do need to have those people on board and understanding your approach.


I think the agency review team itself is gathering information, as we said, not involved much in personnel and the transition itself often for NASA goes longer because you don’t have the new leadership confirmed, but I think it’s really important for the transition teams too. Be close with the science and technology teams from the other agencies to make sure NASA is, um, understanding its role as part of the administration.


It takes a lot of time for these transitions. Then as we saw with the last president, I don’t think he had his administrator for nearly two years. And the deputy longer than that, these are, these are things that ideally should be done more quickly. And so I would, or transitioned teams to, as I think they have been doing, uh, this time for sure, getting, getting their work done in a productive way and being a part of the overall national policy discussion.


Courtney final words. Very much agree with everything Lori just said. And I, I really think that the current makeup of the, of the, uh, Biden team is very, very, very credible. And, uh, the leadership, uh, brings, uh, a lot of credibility, technical credibility experience with the agency and. I would only say that, uh, listening, truly listening to, uh, the concerns of the, uh, people that are managing the programs, uh, is critical and ensuring that they’re comfortable in conveying, um, you know, what their expectations.


And again, concerns, frankly, in our case, it, it took, uh, uh, a couple of months to develop the trust. Once we were in the administer, once we were in the agency, so that some of the groups that are working on Mars architectures and so forth, who’d been sort of in a stealth mode, came out of the woodwork and began to debrief us.


So building that credibility is so critical, but my sense is looking at the backgrounds of the people on the current. President Lex transition team. They have what it takes to, uh, establish that. And I do want to reinforce Lori’s point that, uh, speed is really important. I think dragging out the nomination and ultimately confirming the NASA head for what traditionally has been six months, sometimes up to a year plus.


I think, uh, I’m hoping we won’t witness that again, that I realized the incoming administration has a breathtaking set of, of, of challenges. But, um, I’m hopeful that they’ll, they’ll get to the, uh, national leadership issue sooner than later. And with that Lori and Courtney, thank you very much for both of your perspectives here.


Uh, we appreciate that. We appreciate what you have done for the space community, Space Foundation very much values the friendship and the relationship and the counsel you’ve offered us over the past number of years and looks forward to continuing that work with you. And with that. That’s going to be a wrap up with this Space4U podcast.


Looking at transition again, want to thank Lori Garver and Courtney Stadd for sharing their experience and expertise with us. Please stay tuned for more Space4U podcasts coming in 2021. Uh, if we have seen anything in 2020, it was a great space year and 2021 is also shaping up to be another stellar year and as always follow us on our social media outlets on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as our Space Foundation websites, because at the Space Foundation, we will always have space for you. Thank you.

Listen to the Podcast

Space4U Podcast: Lori Garver & Courtney Stadd — Former Presidential Transition Staff Members