Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Now, It Makes Sense...

If you remember, I couldn’t understand why the Presidential Commission exploring manned space exploration had come down so hard on the side of private industry. I learned today that Pete Aldridge, the head of the commission, is a current member of the board of Lockheed Martin Company. Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Senator John McCain objected to Aldridge’s chairmanship of the committee and called for his removal due to conflict of interest. President Bush paid no heed, but then the Bush administration seems to habitually skirt an ethical line. It made no effort to remove Aldridge even though it subsequently called for investigation into ex-Pentagon officials, of which Aldridge is one, who cross into the service of companies they used to oversee or otherwise had contract influence over.

Aldridge has publicly denied that his ties to Lockheed played any role. Maybe they didn’t. but the problem now is that we will never know for sure, and the fact that there is the appearance of impropriety calls into question the work the commission did. Ironically and all too typical of our high government officials, they exempt themselves from laws and regulations that lower grade civil servants and private citizens must obey under penalty of discharge or imprisonment.

I never felt that the Aldridge Commission took a balanced look at how NASA needed to proceed. I’m more convinced of that than ever now. If I am right, it is the country and NASA that may pay the price, though often the Universe and the American public sort out what the best thing to do really is and accomplish it anyway.