PRIVACY Forum Archive Document
National Aeronautics and Space Administration ASSESSMENT PANEL REPORT ON THE AMES MANAGEMENT REVIEW November 6, 1992 I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A team was established by NASA Headquarters in July 1992, to conduct a special management review of security, personnel and procurement matters which had been surfaced by the NASA Ames Research Center. The review was carried out during the period July 31-August 12, 1992. Primary focus of the review was on two divisions of the Aerophysics Directorate. Because the review was unexpected by the Ames workforce, the approach was unprecedented in NASA, and employees of Asian ancestry were affected disproportionately, there was a significant adverse reaction to the review among some of the Ames workforce. As a result, the NASA Administrator initiated several actions to address employee concerns and to identify lessons learned. One action was to appoint this panel to assess the approach and process used by the management review team. This assessment panel concluded that the scope and objective of the management review were legal, and that individuals were not selected for interview and search of their workplaces based upon their race or national origin. The panel further concluded that there was a confluence of factors prior to, during and after the management review, some of which were avoidable and some not, which caused negative reactions within the workforce. The panel recommends that the same approach not be used in future management reviews. Specific actions are recommended to start the healing process and to move forward. II. ASSESSMENT PANEL CHARTER AND MEMBERSHIP A. APPOINTMENT: The Ames Management Review (MR) assessment panel was appointed by the NASA Headquarters Chief of Staff on August 26, 1992. B. CHARTER: "The assessment panel is established to make inquiry concerning the process and approach followed by the Management Review Team (MRT) in its activities at Ames Research Center. In making this inquiry, the panel is directed to examine all issues which the panel believes are necessary to address the concerns expressed by Ames employees or which the panel believes could have unnecessarily increased the levels of employee discomfort or organizational disruption flowing from the review. The panel should not attempt to address, substantiate or validate the substance of any conclusions reached or recommendations made by the MRT. At the conclusion of its efforts, the panel should make conclusions and recommendations concerning actions necessary to alleviate employee concern about the process followed and suggest methods to minimize similar difficulties should similar reviews by required on some other occasions or at some other installation." C. MEMBERSHIP: Elmer T. Brooks, Chairman, Deputy Associate Administrator, Management Systems and Facilities/NASA Headquarters James C. Yu, Assistant Chief, Acoustics Division/LARC Jack G. Hurst, Senior Security Specialist, Security Operations Office/KSC Catherine M. Louden, Director, Resource Management, Office of Information Policy and Systems/DHUD David A. Samuels, Legal Advisor, Attorney-Advisor/JSC III. BACKGROUND During July 27-30, 1992, immediately prior to the commencement of the Management Review (MR), the NASA Cultural Climate and Practices Review Team (CCPRT) had visited Ames and conducted a formal review. The CCPRT met with and was briefed by the Ames Asian-American/Pacific -Islander Advisory Group (AAAPIAG) and interviewed several Asian- American employees. A high level of frustration and discontent was evident at the time among that segment of the workforce. In general, they cited a lack of adequate career development, mentoring and progression. Specifically, they pointed to their persistent underrepresentation in managerial and supervisory positions (6%), GS/GM-15 grade level (7%), and SES rank (3%), in view of their representation in the total Ames workforce of 12%. From the Asian-American employees' perspective, Ames management has not been very responsive or consistent in redressing these shortcomings over the past 20 years, and they see a need for a change of attitudes. Thus, there was a predisposition of heightened sensitivity among the Asian-American workforce at the time the MR commenced on July 31, 1992, which probably exacerbated their negative reaction to the MR. IV. MANAGEMENT REVIEW TEAM (MRT) PROCESS The MR was planned to be unannounced, multi-functional (security, human resources, procurement), focused on two divisions and six buildings, intensive (large contingent, short duration), and intrusive (search of workplaces and computer accounts). It was divided into two phases: A. PHASE I: Conducted over the weekend of July 31-August 2, 1992, consisting of: 1. Initiation of the review of management, procurement, human resources, security and legal activities. 2. Security audit of six selected buildings. B. PHASE II: Conducted August 3-12, 1992, consisting of: 1. Discussions with key Ames managers. 2. Individual evaluations, interviews and data gathering in the management, procurement, human resources, security and legal areas. 3. Interviews to address specific issues discovered during Phase I security audit and other interviews, where appropriate. V. ASSESSMENT PANEL PROCESS A. Received briefing from and interviewed the Management Review Team (MRT) and MRT augmentees, regarding basis for the MR, MRT action plan, and MRT approach and process; reviewed the draft recommendations, September 2-4, 1992. B. Interviewed pertinent NASA Headquarters officials, September 2-3, 1992. C. Briefed and responded to questions from workforce (appropriately  250) of Ames Fluid Dynamics Division and Thermosciences Division, Aerophysics Directorate, and Ames Asian- American/Pacific Islander Advisory Group (AAAPIAG) members, September 8, 1992. D. Interviewed 22 pertinent Ames managers/employees (9 from the 2 affected divisions; 13 from other organizational elements) and 4 members of MR security audit team (3 Ames security employees, and 1 contractor), September 9-11, 1992. E. Interviewed 10 pertinent officers/employees of Ames support service contractors, cooperative agreement firms, joint research interchange agreements, and university grants, September 9- 11, 1992. F. Interviewed 10 representatives of AAAPIAG, September 10, 1992. VI. PANEL'S FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS A. MRT's Planning and Approach FINDINGS 1. The MRT had two objectives: a security audit and a review of management policies and practices. 2. The MRT action plan contained thorough legal advise and guidance, especially with regard to the search of office spaces. It provided little guidance, however, with regard to conducting the interviews of the individuals who were locked out. Potential impact of the review on the Ames workforce was not anticipated by the MRT; no strategy was developed in the action plan to deal with it. 3. The Ames Center Director, the Associate Administrator (AA) for Aeronautics and Space Technology (OAST, NASA Headquarters), and the NASA Security Office (JIS/NASA Headquarters) were not asked to participate in the planning of the MR. The AA/OAST and the Ames Center Director were made aware of the MR action plan and its general provisions prior to the commencement of the MR. However, there is a discrepancy between the accounts the panel received of the Ames Center Director's depth of knowledge of the specifics of the action plan and his ability and opportunity to effect changes thereto. 4. After completion of their action plan but prior to the start of the MR, the MRT found it necessary to augment the team with local experts for computer searches. 5. The MR coincided with the international Center for Turbulence Research (CTR) workshop being held at Ames. The MRT was not made aware of this conflict. The workshop participants had planned to do their final computations during Phase I of the MR (July 31-August 2) but were prevented from doing so until access to the Ames computers was restored after Phase I of the MR by special request. CONCLUSIONS 1. Based upon the information made available to the panel and a balancing of Ames employees' legitimate expectations of privacy in the workplace with NASA's obligation as a federal agency to control and efficiently operate its organization, the panel concluded that the MRT's search of government offices, files, desks, safes, and computers in order to review security, procurement, and personnel matters was warranted and legal. 2. The combination of the two MRT objectives (a security audit and a review of management practices) contributed to the increased visibility, scale and intensity of the review. Alternative approaches (e.g., conducting separate reviews of security matters and management practices; discreet searches of workplaces and of networked computers conducted unobtrusively from remote locations; isolation of computer file servers) existed which _may_  have accomplished the same objectives as the MR, but which the panel believes would have been less obtrusive and disruptive to the Ames community. 3. Although there was no preconceived targeting by the MRT, the issues and areas focused upon by the MRT resulted in the appearance of targeting certain ethnic groups and could have been anticipated. 4. The MRT lacked adequate preparation in the following areas: (A) interview skills of some members (e.g., sensitivity to interviewees and understanding of their ethnic culture); (B) the clarification/dissemination of MRT authority, purpose, and membership; and (C) duration of the security audit (Phase I) which extended into the following workweek. With regard to the latter, the lack of sufficient expertise and experience to conduct a security review of the computer systems at Ames in the amount of time planned contributed to the increase in the duration of the MR and the need to lock personnel out of their offices and place them on administrative leave. 5. The fact that the MR took place at the time of the ongoing international Center for Turbulence Research workshop and that a workshop panel leader was among those placed on administrative leave created an embarrassing situation for Ames in general and the Asian community in particular. This contributed to the level of resentment and anger among some Ames employees. B. MRT'S EXECUTION FINDINGS 1. A total of 35 people participated in conducting the MR (civil service and contractor employees from Ames, other centers, NASA Headquarters, and outside organizations). 2. The note signed on or about July 31, 1992 (but undated), by the Center Director notifying Ames personnel of the MR was perceived by recipients as containing insufficient details. The first formal memo by the Center Director to all employees about the MR was issued 10 days after (August 10, 1992) the start of the MR. The tone of that memo was apologetic and gave the impression that the Center Director was not a part of the MR decision. Prior to that time, the MRT had on several occasions urged the Center Director to take a more active role in communicating with the workforce (after August 3, 1992, start of Phase II of the MRT). 3. The MR inquiry hotline telephone, set up primarily to answer questions anonymously regarding the MR, allegedly pressed some callers for their names and affiliations, was often busy, and mostly provided only the information previously given in the Ames Center Director's undated note. 4. Searches of workplaces were made by MRT. During some of these searches, items were confiscated with no notice or receipts provided to owners or custodians, despite guidance to the contrary in the MRT action plan. Four individuals alleged that items identifiable as personal property were confiscated. The MRT disputes that allegation. 5. During the search, the MRT directed the Ames contractor personnel supporting the Central Computing Facility (CCF) to perform tasks that were in violation of Ames automated information security (AIS) procedures, policies and practices. The process used to audit the CCF was perceived by the CCF operations and AIS personnel to have introduced a security risk. The Ames AIS manager was never consulted by the MRT. After the search, one distributed computing system and several personal computers were reconnected improperly by MRT causing some disruption of work. 6. After the search, nine people (five civil servants and four grantees/contractors) were denied access to their workplaces and computer accounts and the civil servants among them were placed on administrative leave. Six (four civil servants and two grantees/contractors) of the nine who were locked out were Asian- Americans (two of whom are of Indian ancestry). Without full explanation of why they were being placed on administrative leave, people were told to go home and wait for phone calls (at least three perceived this as equivalent to being placed under "house arrest"). Five waited for 2 to 3 days before receiving calls with further instructions. 7. Those individuals who were denied access to their workplaces were subsequently called in for interviews by the MRT. Some interviewers were perceived by those interviewed as being unclear as to the purpose of the interviews. In four instances, there were three to five interviewers per interviewee. Interviewers often lacked specific identification and/or failed to clearly identify themselves to interviewees. Although some interviewees perceived their interviews as being cordial, others described their interviewers as rude, intimidating and accusatory. Some interviews were lengthy (e.g., up to 11 hours within 2 days in 1 case). Total time each interviewee was interviewed was as follows: 11 hours; 8.5 hours; 5 hours; 2 hours; 2 hours; 2 hours; 1 hour; 40 minutes and 30 minutes. In at least 4 instances, multiple interviews (e.g., as many as 5) were conducted of the same employees. 8. Written statements were prepared to summarize five interviews and an audio tape of a sixth interview was made. Interviewees were asked to sign documents labeled as "sworn affidavits" attached to the statements although no one was asked to repeat an oath. According to the interviewees, in all but one instance, they were not informed by the interviewers prior to the interview that a signed statement would be required. Signing the "sworn affidavits" was perceived by interviewees as a condition for being allowed to return to work. The MRT acknowledged that such a condition might have been conveyed in one instance. 9. Many of the Ames employees reported negative feelings toward the particular approach used in the MR, which they perceived as including duress, interrogation, distrust, heavy-handedness and infringement of personnel rights. CONCLUSIONS 1. For the most part, the MRT had a workable action plan; however, it was not followed in all cases. 2. The lack of timely communication to the Ames workforce regarding the MR and the way the hotline telephone was handled contributed to the confusion and apprehension of Ames workforce during and after the MR. 3. The approach used (i.e., denial of access and searches of workplaces and computer accounts, the placement of personnel on administrative leave and subsequent interviews, and the requirement that interviewees provide "sworn affidavits"), was inconsistent with the process typically associated with a management review. The negative perceptions of the Ames workforce resulting from the MR were widespread and strongly felt. These factors, when coupled with the overall secrecy dictated by security and privacy requirements, were demoralizing to the Ames workforce. 4. The nature of the MR and the placement of persons on administrative leave created a perception that those affected had committed some unspecified wrongdoing. C. IMPACT OF MR FINDINGS 1. There is a high level of employee discomfort among a significant portion of the workforce at Ames as a direct result of the MR. This was conveyed to the panel as shock, anger (described by some as "outrage") and resentment which resulted from the alleged treatment of some employees and the message they feel was conveyed by such treatment. 2. The Asian-American segment of the Ames workforce felt strongly that they were the target group of the MRT's actions. They cited the disproportionate number of ethnic Asians (six out of nine) who were locked out of their workplaces and the nature of the questions asked during the interviews which they felt stressed Asian connections. They further pointed to recollection of the maltreatment of Asian-Americans during World War II. Some of the workforce and managers were concerned that the perceived bias against Asians may be manifested in curtailed hiring and career limitations for the Asian-American group. Some also expressed concern that "scapegoats" will be charged with minor infractions in the absence of serious misconduct in order to justify the review. 3. The Ames workforce felt that total quality management (TQM) aspects specifically relevant to empowerment of people (e.g., "respect for the individual") have suffered a setback as a result of the MR. 4. Although members of the MRT and Ames line management held meetings in an attempt to mitigate the workforce's negative reaction during Phase II (August 3-12, 1992) of the MR, 3 key managers were absent from Ames for portions of that 10-day period: one was at NASA Headquarters to attend a meeting (2 days) and in New Mexico for a conference (2 days); another was at NASA Headquarters to participate in a Blue Team activity (4 days); and the third was on annual leave (4 days). 5. The line managers at Ames were disturbed at being largely excluded from the MR planning and execution processes. This was viewed by the majority of those interviewed by the panel as a breach of trust, usurpation of authority and a major factor in not being able to mollify the workforce. On the other hand, the MRT expressed concern over what they perceived as weak leadership and slow response from the Ames management during the course of the MR despite having what the MRT considered to be sufficient information with which to deal effectively with the workforce. 6. The NASA Administrator took positive steps to try and alleviate the concerns of the Ames Asian-American workforce. a. Immediately after being made aware of their concerns, he extended a personal invitation for three representatives of the AAAPIAG to visit him on August 15, 1992, in order for him to hear their concerns and recommendations first-hand. He made subsequent contacts to solicit their advice on actions he might take to accelerate the healing process. b. As a result, he directed the establishment of this panel to assess the MRT approach, recommend ways to alleviate concerns of the workforce and to suggest methods to avoid or minimize similar difficulties in the future. c. He also arranged for two representatives of the AAAPIAG to receive detailed briefings on the sensitive matters which precipitated the MR in order for them to gain a better appreciation for the justification. CONCLUSIONS 1. The approach used by the MRT was inherently offensive to many at Ames. The unprecedented approach and methods of the MR for NASA, combined with a culture in the Ames research community which promotes the relatively free international exchange of scientific information, contributed to the negative psychological impact on the workforce. 2. There was no evidence to support any ethnic group targeting in the conduct of the MR. However, the disproportionately high percentage of ethnic Asians who were locked out, questioned, and whose workplaces were searched, when combined with the past history of mistreatment of Asian-Americans during WWII and more recent frustrations with inability to gain equitable representation in middle and upper management, reinforced the perception of Asian targeting among most of the Asian-American employees. 3. The lack of involvement of Ames senior management in the planning and execution processes of the MR contributed to their confusion and reluctance to exert authority and leadership at a time when active leadership was most needed. Once the MR was underway, however, Ames management should have been more supportive and proactive in taking timely actions, specifically in moderating workforce reactions to the MR. The stature of Ames senior line managers, including the Center Director, was diminished in the eyes of some of the workforce. The working relationships and level of trust between some Ames managers and their counterparts at Headquarters have been strained by the MR. 4. The fact that three key line managers were on travel during a significant portion of Phase II of the MR and that only limited information about the MR could be shared with the workforce adversely impacted the ability of the MRT and Ames management to mitigate the workforce's negative reaction to the MR. 5. Some of the actions taken by the MRT during its inquiry were inconsistent with the values set forth in the most recent "NASA Vision, Mission, and Values Statement," especially as it pertains to "respect for the individual." 6. Among the Ames workforce, few disagreed with management's right to conduct a management review. Most, however, disagreed with the approach used. 7. The efforts of the Administrator to alleviate concerns of Asian-American employees were helpful and well-received by the AAAPIAG. VII. PANEL'S RECOMMENDATIONS A. IMMEDIATE ACTIONS FOR HEADQUARTERS 1. That the MRT leaders return to Ames, brief the organizational elements affected by the MR and answer questions to the extent possible on the results of the MR. 2. That the MRT brief selected representatives of AAAPIAG and Ames workforce on: - Background and justification of MR - Key results of MR. 3. That this panel brief the organizational elements affected by the MR and the AAAPIAG on its findings, conclusions and recommendations. The panel's report should be made available to the Ames workforce. 4. Shortly following the foregoing actions, the Administrator should visit Ames, address the workforce and answer questions. 5. Complete Blue/Red Team process on technology transfer/handling of competitively sensitive technology (CST). Establish a process action team, including representation from Headquarters, centers, and industry, to develop policy guidance recommendations for NASA. Direct the centers, within 60 days of approval of this recommendation, to develop and implement specific local policy guidance and a program for workforce education/training on CST protection. 6. Develop an implementation plan to achieve NASA's cultural diversity goals and implement a cultural sensitivity training program NASA-wide. B. IMMEDIATE ACTIONS FOR AMES MANAGEMENT 1. Announce the goals and an implementation plan for achieving a culturally diverse workforce at Ames at all levels that is responsive to the NASA policy on cultural diversity. 2. Ensure culturally diverse representation in all hiring and promotion processes. 3. Senior management should meet with AAAPIAG and managers of the organizational elements affected by the MR to identify and implement positive steps to restore workforce morale and productivity. C. LONG TERM CONSIDERATIONS The approach used in the MR at Ames should not be employed again in NASA. The approach for future management reviews should include the following considerations: 1. The review should be conducted by NASA civil servants reflective of the cultural diversity of the workforce to the maximum extent practicable and carried out in a manner which assures that top center managers are full partners. Center line management should be visibly and actively supportive of the review in the eyes of the workforce during and after the review. 2. Include an appropriate mix of personnel skills for conducting interviews and searches, in particular the need for special skills (e.g., experts on local computer systems). 3. When required, include detailed and consistent guidelines for searches, interviews and statements which fully respect individuals' rights. 4. In determining the approach to be used, address potential cost-benefit of the review, including consideration of work disruption, worker alienation and loss of morale. 5. Consideration should first be given to referring possible mismanagement/malfeasance matters to the OIG for audit and/or investigation. 6. At commencement of a review, the workforce should be clearly informed by the senior line manager of the center and reinformed verbally down the management chain of the nature and scope of the review and authorities and identification of the review team. In addition, an effective mechanism for answering employees' questions should be maintained throughout. 7. Alternate means should be considered to facilitate searches to avoid having to deny access to individuals' workplaces during normal duty hours. 8. Greater sensitivity and accommodations to the feelings of employees and their culture and values should be shown by the review team when denial of access to the employees' workplaces becomes necessary. 9. During the execution phase of an MR, adhere to detailed requirements and procedural guidance included in the review plan. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Editorial Notes:  It would seem likely that the panel must have intended to write "approximately" instead of "appropriately".  In the original report, the word "may" is underlined.
Vortex Technology Home Page
Copyright © 2005 Vortex Technology. All Rights Reserved.