Stakeholders or suppliers?

Over at NASAWatch.com, Mr. Cowing tempts us with an interesting tidbit from a press conference which focused largely on the March launch date, and the Minority Opinion addendum which raises grave doubts about NASA management and its structure.

Griffin: “…I think that as NASA we do a disservice to ourselves and to our stakeholders, and frankly, to the taxpayers by creating an appearance that we do not wish to hear what people have to say if it should be negative…”

Aside from my personal feeling that NASA just doesn’t want to hear what people have to say, period, irrespective of appearances, something else about that line caught in the back of my brain. I went back and looked it over, and it soon became clear.

With regards to not hearing negativity, Mr. Griffin indicated that would be a disservice to three groups:

NASA
Stakeholders
Taxpayers

It’s an interesting way of looking at it, probably because I regard the nation and the taxpayers as the Stakeholders in NASA. We are investing the taxed part of our nations wealth in the commonweal, those things that are of benefit to everyone. We are, in effect, the equity holders in the government because we’re where the capital comes from.

I get the feeling that Mr. Griffin is refering to the industrial concerns Boeing & LockMart and various smaller concerns in their orbit. They do have a stake in the space program as a buyer of their products (so they are actually suppliers, and not true stakeholders), but there is no more obligation to them than to any other company in the U.S. of A.

Except to the extent that NASA boxes itself into a corner by how it manages its mandate, delivered to it by the representatives of the true stakeholders: the taxpayers.

Personally, I think we’ve passed the equilibrium point of aerospace consolidation and are desperately in need of a period of shedding of assets by the big guys (and not just transfering Rocketdyne to an allied industrial concern) and careful nurturing of the entrepreneurial efforts of the little guys. This will allow a flowering of results that may truly turn the U.S. into a space-faring, and not just space-visiting, society. This would be a very, very good thing for our future prosperity and commercial competitiveness.

But that’s not the path we’re headed down, and I have serious misgivings about the path that we seem to be on. I’m getting an uncomfortable feeling of way too much quid pro status quo going on behind the curtain.

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2 Responses to Stakeholders or suppliers?

  1. Michael Mealling says:

    Zactly!

    Give me these three any day:

    Suppliers
    Customers
    Onwers

  2. Kelly Starks says:

    NASA has been, and Griffen sees it as, a big good old boys club. A group for mutual support. Space is mearly a means to a end.

    HOWEVER, I think the stake holders he refers to are the towns and districts the big centers are in. NASA, and Griffen, have often refered to ther importantance of maintaining the labor force at the centers. Like when Griffen mentioned shuttle derived vehicles were better because they eased the transition of the workforce at the centers. Those employees and the political districts and interests they support, are stakeholders.

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