|NASA Ames was nearly shut down two years ago, but is now poised for major growth, according to a presentation made last month by Director Pete Worden to NASA Ames employees.
Worden's "All hands on deck" presentation, obtained by the Voice, indicates NASA is about to make radical changes in how it does business, including efforts to attract major new projects, improve employee trust of management, implement cost-cutting measures and continue to celebrate and encourage private partnerships as it builds its massive research park at Moffett Field.
When Worden arrived two years ago, he found a slashed budget at Ames. Its astrobiology institute, which plays a key research role nationwide, had been cut in half. Aeronautics programs at the Ames wind tunnel had also become unpopular.
"We were a research center when NASA wanted to end research," Worden said in his presentation. "Ames was tangential to the agency's goals. We could have easily been closed."
Since then the research programs have made significant turnarounds, but still NASA Ames' budget is expected to be cut from $793 million for 2007 to $624 million for 2009.
"Our projected institutional support budget" -- which is determined by NASA headquarters -- "is inadequate to meet the current way we do business," Worden said.
To strengthen its position among NASA's 10 centers across the country, Ames hopes to attract new projects and become NASA's leader in small spacecraft missions, intelligent robotics, information technology and biotechnology.
The ambitious plans require a committed workforce, and a recent national survey showed that while NASA employees are some of the most satisfied federal employees, those at NASA Ames are some of the least satisfied in the country.
"Ames is near the bottom," Worden said, mentioning a lack of trust by employees of NASA leadership "at all levels." "We will fix this, we will completely turn it around," he said, with a "new culture" that is "inclusive, transparent, trusting, trustworthy, meritocratic, empowering and meaningful."
Worden added that "every problem is an opportunity in disguise."
An employee at NASA Ames, speaking on condition of anonymity, talked to the Voice about the presentation. "I think the agency has a tendency to present the situation as being more optimistic than it actually is," the employee said.
"A lot of the employees are very unhappy. They don't like the way the situation is being managed."
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