NASA creates new technology and policy office in leadership reshuffle

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WASHINGTON — NASA Headquarters has created a new office devoted to technology and policy issues, part of a restructuring that includes creating a new space security position at the civil space agency.

NASA announced Nov. 1 several changes to its leadership, primarily involving assigning existing personnel to new positions. The biggest change is the creation of the Office of Technology, Policy and Strategy (OTPS) by merging the Office of Strategic Engagements and Assessments with the Office of the Chief Technologist.

The office will be responsible for providing what the agency described in a statement as “data- and evidence-driven technology, policy, and strategy advice” for NASA leadership. Bhavya Lal, who served on the Biden administration’s transition team for NASA and then stayed on as acting chief of staff and, most recently, senior adviser for budget and finance, will lead the office as associate administrator.

“As we continue to push the boundaries of exploration, OTPS and these leadership positions will ensure our cutting-edge technology, strategy, and policy shape our agency’s success,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “We also are increasing our analysis and guidance on geopolitical issues and risks that NASA, or the space industry, may be facing.”

That increased analysis and guidance includes creating a new position of associate administrator of space security interests. Tom Cremins, previously associate administrator for strategic engagement and assessments, will take that position, overseeing what NASA called “a broad security focus on NASA’s civil space efforts within the larger national and global environment” as well as enterprise protection and assessment efforts.

“Tom’s new role will help ensure NASA’s equities are considered in strategic issues and policy discussions. He’ll also provide input on the agency’s emerging space security areas of opportunity and focus, such as in cislunar space and broader Moon-to-Mars exploration strategy and architecture,” Nelson said in the statement.

Other changes include creating the position of chief resilience officer, overseeing NASA’s response to the pandemic and implementation of requirements related to it, as well as the agency’s “Future of Work” effort for a hybrid workplace. Melanie Saunders, previously deputy associate administrator, will take that job.

Casey Swails, formerly senior adviser and chief of staff to the associate administrator, will be the deputy associate administrator for business operations. In that position she will oversee integration of mission support functions across the agency as well as be the senior adviser to Associate Administrator Bob Cabana.

Douglas Terrier, who had been NASA’s chief technologist for five years, will move to the Johnson Space Center, where he will be associate director for vision and strategy, a new position there. Lal will serve as acting chief technologist until the agency selects a permanent successor.

The changes, which took effect immediately, won the endorsement of a former NASA official. “My excitement for the formation of the new Office of Technology, Policy and Strategy is only exceeded by my excitement for its leader,” said Mike Gold, former associate administrator for space policy and partnerships at NASA and currently executive vice president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire.

Lal, he noted, has extensive experience in space issues from her time at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, examining topics ranging from space nuclear power to low Earth orbit commercialization. “Dr. Lal is an unparalleled choice for this position,” Gold said. “If Dr. Lal didn’t literally write the book on a topic, she at least wrote a report on it.”