WASHINGTON: NASA responded contritely to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's (CAIB) no-punches-pulled report last week, and media preparation kept the PA office's call volume manageable.
"We get it," NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe told reporters. "It was about the
culture of this agency."
His comment came one day after the CAIB released its report blaming managerial and internal comms problems as much as the impact of dislodged foam for the Columbia crash. The CAIB's analysis also noted uncertain vision and direction from Washington policymakers since the Cold War ended.
NASA's public affairs staff had been preparing for weeks, since the report's original release date was in July, explained media services division director Bob Jacobs.
"The reporters have known of our response plans for a number of days," Jacobs said. "It
limits the phone traffic on who-what-when-where if you are able to proactively drive reporters to the next event."
NASA sent out media advisories letting reporters know O'Keefe would issue a written statement on Tuesday, followed by an address to employees on NASA TV, Jacobs said. NASA's own press conference followed the CAIB's by 24 hours.
NASA staff supported the CAIB immediately after Columbia broke apart over Texas in February, but outsiders quickly replaced them to maintain the board's independence. On loan from the FAA, Laura Brown took over public affairs and managed Tuesday's press conference.
An hour earlier, the board delivered the report to five key constituencies (astronauts, Congress, the White House, NASA administration, and the Columbia victims' families), said retired Adm. Harold Gehman, the board's chairman.