WASHINGTON: NASA head of public affairs Jerry Brown abruptly
resigned his post on July 27, the latest casualty of what a number of
former NASA employees are calling intense pressure from senior staff to
award outsourced projects in an anticompetitive manner.
According to sources speaking on condition of anonymity, Brown was one
of many employees at the agency encouraged to feed new projects to
companies with existing NASA contracts rather than let them be offered
on the open market. Two other high-level employees who have recently
resigned cited this "unethical" situation as the reason behind their
Brown started at the agency on April 10. A spokesperson at NASA said no
plans have yet been made to replace him. Brown would not comment for
Chief of staff and White House liaison Courtney Stadd, deputy chief of
staff Richard Cooper, and special assistant Ron Birk were named as those
applying the pressure. Each has close ties to companies that were
supposed to receive mapping projects.
Companies named include Pixsell (which was founded by Stadd), Global
Initiatives (where Cooper was president until earlier this year), and
Intermap Technologies (which recently claimed Birk as a VP).
Cooper flatly denied the accusations and declined further comment. Birk
and Stadd did not return calls as of press time.
"They are trying to move out people who are in the way," said one NASA
employee who resigned several months ago. "We try to uphold the
competitive process at (NASA) headquarters, but these guys are
definitely not going down that path."
Said another longtime employee who was recently asked to resign, "I've
never seen it this bad. People are having to keep their mouths shut to
keep their jobs."
Brian Bullock, president of Intermap, said he was unaware of any
pressure being applied at NASA to drive business to his company, though
he said that new work orders had been received. "Our first set of tasks
were evaluated internally and we received the highest marks. I don't
think it's unusual at all that people would ask for more product."
Bob Jacobs, NASA news chief, said the organization would not comment on