NASA Chief Denies Clashes With Obama Transition Team

A firestorm of words has erupted over a report by the Orlando Sentinel regarding NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and President-elect Barack Obama's transition team.

According to the report, Griffin has been less than cooperative with the transition team.

Unnamed sources told the Sentinel that "Griffin is scripting NASA employees and civilian contractors on what they can tell the transition team and has warned aerospace executives not to criticize the agency's moon program."

"Griffin's resistance is part of a no-holds-barred effort to preserve the Constellation program, the delayed and over-budget moon rocket that is his signature project," the story continues.

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On Thursday, Griffin replied, calling the charges "simply wrong."

"I am appalled by any accusations of intimidation, and encourage a free and open exchange of information with the contractor community," Griffin said in a statement. "I would like to reiterate what I have stated in a previous email to all NASA Officials: we must make every effort to 'lean forward,' to answer questions promptly, openly and accurately."

Sentinel reporter Robert Block also wrote that NASA Chief of Strategic Communications Chris Shank said Griffin was concerned that the six-member Obama transition team "lacks the engineering expertise to properly assess some of the information they have been given."

The Sentinel report concludes with depictions of a "heated 40-minute conversation" Griffin had last week with the head of the transition team, Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator.

Shank denied there was an argument.

[A NASA official contacted by Friday referred all questions to Griffin's statement.

An Obama transition aide told Friday that NASA officials have been mostly helpful over the past several weeks, and any "issues" are addressed with the White House.

The aide, however, wouldn't say whether issues have cropped up nor whether the argument detailed in the Sentinel report took place.]

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