Date:  Dec. 5, 2012




National Disagreement Over NASA's Goals and Objectives Detrimental to Agency Planning, Budgeting Efforts


WASHINGTON — Without a national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA, the agency cannot be expected to establish or work toward achieving long-term priorities, says a new report from the National Research Council.  In addition, there is a mismatch between the portfolio of programs and activities assigned to the agency and the budget allocated by Congress, and legislative restrictions inhibit NASA from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure.  The White House should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA's future in order to more closely align the agency's budget and objectives and remove restrictions impeding NASA's efficient operations.


"A current stated interim goal of NASA's human spaceflight program is to visit an asteroid by 2025," said Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the committee that wrote the report.  "However, we've seen limited evidence that this has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA's own work force, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community.  The lack of national consensus on NASA's most publicly visible human spaceflight goal along with budget uncertainty has undermined the agency's ability to guide program planning and allocate funding."


The committee that authored the report was not asked to offer views on what NASA's goals, objectives, and strategy should be; rather it was tasked with recommending how these goals, objectives, and strategies might best be established and communicated. 


The report recommends establishing a national consensus on NASA's future with the executive branch taking the lead after technical consultations with potential international partners.  The strategic goals and objectives chosen should be ambitious yet technically rational and should focus on the long term, the report says.


To reduce the discrepancy between the overall size of NASA's budget and its current portfolio of missions, facilities, and personnel, the report says, the White House, Congress, and NASA, as appropriate, could pursue any or all of the following four options:



Regardless of the approach or approaches selected, the report recognizes that eliminating the mismatch will be difficult.


Because future human spaceflight or large-scale Earth and space science projects will likely involve multiple nations, the U.S. should explore international approaches to such projects, the report says.  To do so, the U.S. must have a program that other countries want to participate in and must be willing to give substantial responsibility to its partners.  The U.S. must also demonstrate its reliability and attractiveness as an international partner. 


The study was sponsored by NASA.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit  A committee roster follows.



Lorin Hancock, Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail


Additional resources:

Report in Brief

Project Website

Pre-publication copies of NASA’s Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

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Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board


Committee on Evaluating NASA's Strategic Direction


Albert Carnesale1 (chair)

Chancellor Emeritus and Professor

University of California

Los Angeles


Ronald M. Sega (vice chair)

Vice President and Enterprise Executive for Energy and Environment

Ohio State University; and

Professor of Systems Engineering and Vice President for Energy and the Environment

Colorado State University Research Foundation

Colorado State University

Fort Collins      


Mark R. Abbott

Dean and Professor

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Oregon State University



Jacques E. Blamont2

Adviser to the President

Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales



John C. Brock

Aerospace Consultant

Northrop Grumman Space Technology (retired)

Hansville, Wash.

Robert L. Crippen1


Thiokol Propulsion (retired)

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


Joseph S. Hezir

Managing Partner

EOP Group Inc.

Washington, D.C.

Ann R. Karagozian


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

University of California

Los Angeles


Mark J. Lewis


Science and Technology Policy Institute

Institute for Defense Analyses

Washington, D.C.


Marcia S. Smith


Space and Technology Policy Group LLC

Arlington, Va.


Michael S. Turner2

Rauner Distinguished Service Professor, and


Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

University of Chicago



Warren M. Washington1

Senior Scientist

Climate Change Research Section

Climate and Global Dynamics Division

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Boulder, Colo.




Dwayne A. Day

Study Director


1 Member, National Academy of Engineering

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences