NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently told Al Jazeera English that President Barack Obama “wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with the dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.” After hearing this statement, my deepest fears about the dangerous priorities being put forth by this administration were confirmed.
Could someone please explain to the hard-working men and women of NASA, or, even more importantly to us as taxpayers who fund the agency, why the leader of that organization is being asked to essentially serve as a diplomat?
Now this is not to say that the United States should not engage in efforts to improve the usually rocky relations we share with so many nations in the Middle East. Doing so can build a level of trust and a greater understanding of our diverse cultures. But that is a job for the U.S. State Department, not an agency dedicated to space exploration.
So what does this tell us? First, it reveals an administration that is unable or unwilling to focus its personnel and resources on their respective jobs at hand. This is a time when our federal government should be trying to do more with less through greater efficiency and accountability, not foolish duplication and misdirection of our available assets.
Asking an administration that should be focused on travel to Mars to try to bridge the divide between our nation and the Muslim population of the world is not only ignorant, it is a dangerous abuse of the nation’s resources.
Second, this story is going to fuel the rumors that abound about the president and affinity for and preferential treatment of the Islamic world — a potentially hazardous approach when considering our security and that of our key allies, such as Israel.
Right now, Americans want policy approaches that get our economy back on track and put more Americans to work, cut out the massive spending spree in which our government is engaged, and ensure the safety of our national security interests at home and abroad. Asking NASA to step into foreign relations simply does not fit into this package of priorities, and the president will surely pay the price at the polls when his time comes.
America’s space program has led to some of the most dramatic moments in American history. From the first orbit around the earth, the lunar landings, development of an amazing shuttle fleet and even the tragedies that have unfortunately befallen our brave men and women, NASA has pushed the bounds of who we are and who we can be. As an agency and as explorers, NASA has helped shape the America of today. It is not, however, the agency that should be tasked with shaping the Middle East of tomorrow.
Mr. President, this is not rocket science.