Back to Top

Ask OCE — February 8, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 3

By Chris Scolese

When Administrator Griffin selected me to serve as Chief Engineer, my mandate was clear: to improve engineering by incorporating technical excellence and engineering authority into the day-to-day engineering processes for all of NASA’s activities.

Since Columbia, we have learned and grown a great deal from our experience with independent Technical Authority (iTA). During that time, the Agency has also undergone major changes, most notably the announcement of the President’s Vision for Exploration and the appointment of Mike Griffin as Administrator. As NASA adapts to meet the challenges posed by the President’s Vision, we also must orient our efforts to attain technical excellence accordingly. It was in this context that I announced in early January that a new concept, Engineering Excellence, would supersede the independent Technical Authority effective February 25, 2006. This decision was approved by the Strategic Management Council on December 13, 2005.

So how do we define Engineering Excellence at NASA?

Technical Competence and Independence:

Engineering Excellence is a way of ensuring strong technical competence and independence between technical and programmatic authorities at NASA.


Engineering Excellence recognizes that NASA must rely on internal engineering expertise to ensure the excellence of its products.

Optimal Use of Human Capital:

Engineering Excellence promotes an Agency-wide approach to solving our most difficult problems and discourages “stove-piping” at the individual field Centers. A recent example of this was the Return to Flight effort for the Shuttle, which involved all 10 Centers and Headquarters.

Best Practices from Private Industry:

Engineering Excellence emulates the best practices of private industry by establishing NASA Technical Fellows around engineering disciplines.

Checks and Balances:

The NASA Safety and Engineering Center (NESC), a strong independent organization that employs good engineers to check good engineers, provides the check-and-balance system necessary to ensure the technical excellence of NASA products.

Training and Development:

The NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership has been established to improve engineering training.

Standardized Processes and Documentation:

The development of a list of “Core Standards,” which will be enforced across all programs/projects, will enhance the rigorous and consistent understanding of, and adherence to, standard processes. This will allow more consistent evaluations of programs and ease the transition of personnel who move from one program to another.

I invite your comments and feedback as we enter this new phase of growth in our relentless pursuit of mission success.

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

NASA in Washington: John Marburger’s Call for a Single LANDSAT Spacecraft (PDF)

This Week in NASA History: Space Shuttle Challenger

James Barrowman on Defining Requirements

Modeling the Way We Work

Stardust Returns, New Horizons Takes Off

About the Author

Share With Your Colleagues