Interview: Lee B. Holcomb

CIO says cuts could ground IT

Who's In Charge
Lee B. Holcomb

Chief Information Officer

David B. Nelson

Deputy CIO, IT Security

Andrea T. Norris

Deputy CIO, Management

Stanley Fishkind

Office of Space Flight, Enterprise CIO Rep

Betsy Edwards

Office of Aeronautics, Enterprise CIO Rep

Joseph Bredekamp

Office of Space Science, Enterprise CIO Rep

Anngie Johnson

Office of Earth Science, Enterprise CIO Rep

Scott Santiago

Ames Research Center, CIO Rep

Robert Hornstein

Dryden Flight Research Center, Center CIO Rep

Mark Walther

Goddard Space Flight Center, Center CIO Rep

John Garman

Johnson Space Center, Center CIO Rep

Barbara Brown

Kennedy Space Center, Center CIO Rep

Pat Dunnington

Langley Research Center, Center CIO Rep

Sasi Pillay

Glenn Space Center, Center CIO Rep

Paul R. Allison

Marshall Space Flight Center, Center CIO Rep

Dana Matherly

Stennis Space Center, Center CIO Rep

Thomas Thornton

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Center CIO Rep


(in millions, fiscal 1998)
United Space Alliance-------$1,285.6

Lockheed Martin Corp.--------$373.1

Computer Sciences Corp.-----$217.1

Northrop Grumman Corp.-----$120.1

McDonnell Douglas Corp.----$111.7

Brown & Root Services Corp.-$69.9

Cortez III Service Corp.----------$47.2

Silicon Graphics Inc.-------------$39.1

Swales & Associates Inc.------$37.5

Boeing Co.-------------------------$37.1



Lee B. Holcomb has served as NASA's chief information officer since October 1997. Before becoming CIO, Holcomb served as director for information technology strategy, overseeing IT programs that supported the agency's Aeronautics and Space Transportation Enterprise and the national aerospace industry. He has a master's degree from the California Institute of Technology and a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

NASA submitted a fiscal 2000 budget of $13.6 billion. But a House subcommittee passed a bill in July that slashed the agency's budget to $11.6 billion'about 11 percent below President Clinton's request for fiscal 2000. GCN recently talked to Holcomb about how the proposed NASA budget cut would affect the agency's IT programs.

HOLCOMB: We haven't really done a complete analysis on what the impact to the entire agency will be if we, in fact, sustain roughly a $1 billion budget cut. The impact on the agency, in general, could be quite severe.

Certainly there are major programs that are specifically targeted by the budget cut. It has a major impact on observing systems. It also has a major impact on the infrastructure of the agency, in particular. Much of our IT is funded out of the infrastructure.

Our administrator, Dan Goldin, is on record as stating that should this magnitude of cuts be sustained, the agency would be faced with the potential closing of one or more of the centers. This would be devastating, not only to the agency but the country as a whole.

NASA's Mark Hagerty, left, and OAO Corp.'s Phil Davis visit the Greenbelt, Md., company's Command Center East, which is testing 450-MHz Compaq Deskpro 6450 Pentium III PCs with 13.5G hard drives, 64M of RAM and Microsoft Windows NT. OAO is one of seven Outsourcing the Desktop Initiative for NASA contractors. Under a $154.9 million task order, the company is taking over management of PCs at the Johnson, Kennedy and Stennis space centers and the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Wing and a prayer

Quite frankly, the legacy of each of these institutions is tremendous. We are hopeful that some reconciliation of the budget will occur with the Senate that will restore the bulk of these cuts. We're optimistic that this will happen.

The House passed an appropriation bill last week that cuts our budget by roughly $1 billion. The Senate has to pass its version of the bill. The two would then have a conference, and from that conference would emerge a joint bill that would be enacted into law if they could reach agreement on it. After it becomes a bill, it has to be approved by President Clinton.

He has openly stated that if this measure of cuts is in there, it's among a list of items that may cause him to not approve the Veterans Affairs Department, Housing and Urban Development Department and independent agencies bill.

Of course, there are other agencies in the bill, such as the National Science Foundation.

There are some specific NASA program cuts that eliminate or defer certain programs. One of the biggest cuts and most visible is in the Earth Observing System, or EOS. That program is aimed at mapping and modeling, and measuring global change. Several IT systems help us do that. They include satellites and the EOS data information system, which is a set of processing systems and archives that are located around the country. There are some in South Dakota, Colorado, California, Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia.

Another area that would sustain a cut would be our general center infrastructure.

Our infrastructure includes a common long-haul network, a common mainframe computing environment and a common approach to desktop computing that most people know as the Outsourcing the Desktop Initiative for NASA, or ODIN.

Each of these infrastructures is funded so that they get the bulk of their funding from institutional funds. Certainly a number of the reductions that are in the bill do target our institutional budget funding.

I would not like to dwell on the negative impact that a $1 billion budget cut would have. Our hope is that the magnitude of the impact is such that we won't sustain it.

Major programs

Outsourcing the Desktop Initiative for NASA'The space agency awarded a nine-year, $13 billion contract to seven vendors in June 1998 for seat management projects. The ODIN contracts run nine years.

Consolidated Space Operations Contract'NASA awarded a 10-year, $3.4 billion contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. in September 1998 to manage operations at four NASA centers. CSOC covers oversight for the mission control center and integration planning system at Johnson; the payload operations integration center and WAN at Marshall; data, planning and mission support facilities and tools at Goddard; and the Deep Space Network Goldstone Communications Complex at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Lockheed Martin awarded a 10-year, $453 million contract under CSOC to Wang Federal Systems in January to consolidate NASA's WANs and support data distribution for the its four strategic research enterprises.

Engineering Test and Analysis Support Contract'NASA awarded a 10-year, $2.8 billion contract to Lockheed Martin in 1993 to support all technologies for manned space flight, and space and life science systems at Johnson.

Base Operations Support'NASA awarded a 10-year, $2.05 billion contract to EG&G Inc. of Wellesley, Mass., for management, maintenance and engineering of Kennedy's utilities, facilities, technical and administrative operations.


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