The all-time best government employee has to be Captain James T. Kirk, who, while commanding the Starship Enterprise, saved the universe from certain destruction each week. His motto was simple:”to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Lately, our federal government is echoing a much different philosophy. Federal agencies seem to stray from their primary mission, finding new and increasingly mediocre tasks to perform. They are boldly going nowhere.
Look no further than our once proud space agency. NASA, for example, has strayed so far from its core mission that, just last month, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, stated that his top priority was Muslim outreach. Putting another man on the moon or launching satellites to discover life on another planet is too difficult and no longer their top priority. Instead, our space agency wanted to spend time, energy, and federal dollars reaching out to Muslims and the senior NASA leaders plan trips, not to outer space, but on overseas travel to Saudi Arabia.
Not too long ago, space travel and exploration was the explicit mission of NASA and the agency captured the imagination of all Americans and the world by doing great things. In fact, NASA’s derring-do inspired Gene Roddenberry to create the proto-typical NASA man, Captain Kirk. . And so, Americans, in the 60s, 70s and 80s eagerly anticipated seeing NASA rockets and astronauts blasting into space.
But, since 1993, when NASA SEWP began selling PCs, the nation has seen the inspirational mission of the agency decline and the core mission erode to the point where large numbers of its employees have been diverted to selling computers and office supplies or religious outreach. This is mission creep on a spectacular scale. How sad is that? NASA has shifted their attention from “boldly going” in favor of a strange mixture of new missions, moving, at warp speed, in the wrong direction.
Nor is NASA the only federal agency that seems to be lost in space. Mission-scope creep, familiar to many within the Washington area, is little known outside the Beltway, but is the cause for much of the federal government’s ancillary spending. Within government agencies, the core mission is often complicated and difficult to achieve. Over time, some federal agencies have shifted their employee’s efforts to areas that, while personally rewarding to federal employees, do little to advance the agency’s core mission.