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Surprising Science

NASA’s Asteroid Defense System Deemed a Failure; Leadership & Organizational Structure to Blame

An Inspector General report has determined that poor leadership and a lacking organizational structure contributed to lackluster performance by NASA’s Near Earth Object Program.

Here’s proof that executive accountability and fluid business operations are vital even when dealing with outer space.

An report released by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin has determined that poor leadership and a lacking organizational structure were major reasons why NASA’s Near Earth Object Program has failed to stay on track toward achieving agency goals. Created in 2005, the NEO Program was tasked with identifying asteroids and other objects that could pose a serious risk to the planet. According the report, chronic mismanagement has effectively scuttled chances that the program will achieve its goal of ID’ing 90% of large NEOs by 2020.

From the report:

“NASA has organized its NEO Program under a single Program Executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching Program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress.”

As Jason McLellan at Tech Times notes, the investigation determined that budget cuts, often a thorn in NASA’s back, were not a major factor here:

“The program’s lack of coordination and structure leads Martin to suggest that it would function more efficiently and effectively if NASA were left to manage the program itself.”

So what are the lessons to be learned here? First and foremost, it’s essential that someone with leadership knowledge and ability should take part in structuring programs such as this. Second, the program’s woes teach us that the communication breakdowns we experience in our offices are not exclusive to traditional business sectors. Finally, it’s vital that an organization’s structure suit its unique needs and goals. No one-size-fits-all approach actually exists.

Keep reading at Tech Times

You can also read the entire NASA Inspector General report

Photo credit: sdecoret / Shutterstock


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