SP-4310 Way Station to Space

 

- Chapter 10 -

In Search of a Role

 

 

[225] Auter Takes Charge

When Jackson Balch stepped down on 31 July 1975, the leadership of the new National Space Technology Laboratories (NSTL) was passed to Henry F. Auter, a true rocket pioneer of the Mississippi project since its inception in 1961. A dedicated, hard-working engineer from Vicksburg, Mississippi, Auter was a favorite of von Braun, Heimburg, and Fortune. Even the maverick Balch depended on this quiet "man behind the scenes" to master details and help shape the NSTL into a practical, working laboratory. From the beginning, Auter was faced with the difficult task of holding the fragile NSTL framework together, as powerful forces from Washington threatened to collapse it.1

In fact, at one point NASA Headquarters seemed ready to "walk away" from the hard-wrought consortium, leaving the entire site to the arriving United States Navy oceanographers, except for the "fenced-in" portion that the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) engineers were using to static test [226] the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs). After all, the doctrine of "full utilization" was almost realized with the addition of the U.S. Army plant for the manufacture of new and improved ammunition. With the Army and Navy moving onsite and the shuttle safely assigned to the MSFC, NASA felt less responsibility for the giant propulsion center's future.2

Auter gave more than a decade of his personal and professional life to advancing the Mississippi operation from its early planning years in Huntsville through its evolution to a space and environmental complex. For over a year, Auter served during a time of upheaval as acting manager, trying his best to continue flying the symbolic NASA flag.3

As the Navy move to the site accelerated and the Army ammunition plant began to materialize, NASA sent Jerry Hlass from its Washington headquarters to size up the chaotic NSTL situation and to determine whether the site was worth saving. True, the Space Shuttle Test Complex was secure in MSFC's hands, but the rest of the NASA-NSTL was indeed in danger of dissection. Hlass, was faced with making a decision to dismantle the years of hard work by his friends and colleagues in NASA who had labored to fashion the new laboratory in south Mississippi.4

Acting Manager Auter was recognized as a "no nonsense" conservative engineer. Von Braun, Heimburg, and a multitude of professional followers knew Auter as a meticulous planner. This attention to detail was foremost in Heimburg's thinking when he first placed Auter in a leadership position with the MTF Working Group in the early 1960s and laster recommended him as deputy of the early Mississippi Test Operations (MTO). Even before Project Apollo, Von Braun and Heimburg relied on Auter to head the Electrical Systems Engineering Branch in the MSFC Test Laboratory. In that capacity, Auter was instrumental in the test and launch of the Jupiter-C rocket [227] that boosted the nation's first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit. Auter also participated in the test and launch of the Mercury Redstone rocket that propelled Alan Shepard, America's first astronaut, into space. Auter was chosen by Heimburg to develop the activation plan for the Mississippi site before any construction began. He served as technical director for testing the Saturn V booster stages, and he helped Balch to mastermind the plan for transforming the MTF into a multi-agency space and environmental research laboratory. In fact, Auter made critical decisions about which facilities to build with the controversial $10 million set-aside funds.5

 


Henry F.Auter, deputy manager of the Mississippi Test Facility National Space Technology Laboratories from 1963 to 1980, made many contributions to the installation as a manager, planner, and engineer.

Henry F.Auter, deputy manager of the Mississippi Test Facility National Space Technology Laboratories from 1963 to 1980, made many contributions to the installation as a manager, planner, and engineer. He was in charge of the testing of the Saturn V first and second stages and served as acting manager from 1975 until 1976. (SSC Portrait File).

 

Although Auter was known for his practical engineering achievements, he was an idealist at heart.His father was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi River, and the young Auter's voyages at his father's side on the river from his Vicksburg, Mississippi hometown, stimulated a spirit of exploration and adventure. In fact, while working at Cape Canaveral, Florida, as an Air Force engineer, Auter was fascinated by a Wernher von Braun article in Collier's magazine dated 22 March 1952. The famous article, about giant rockets, space stations, and voyages to the Moon and the planets, ignited Auter's interest and imagination and he became involved in space exploration. Auter [228] found a position at the MSFC Test Division, becoming a member of the von Braun team in 1953.6

Even with his optimism and wealth of expertise on the NSTL's development and operation, Auter was not prepared to battle the unseen forces bearing down on the new installation. The Navy was in the midst of transferring its oceanographic operations from the Suitland, Maryland and Washington, D.C. area.At the same time, development of the Army munitions plant on 7,000 acres in the northeastern quadrant of the fee area, or main complex, was progressing, and the SSME test program was cranking up under the MSFC's control. The several on-site environmental agencies, small as they were, also were demanding more attention from their NASA host. In addition, Auter found the morale of his small civil service staff sinking to an all-time low.7

Auter had little time to settle into his NSTL Manager's chair before the U.S. Navy's Oceanographic Office's arrival sent his plans awash for setting sail on an orderly course. His first action, 1 August 1975, was to send a memorandum to a limited number of people announcing his position as acting manager of the NSTL. Auter was following the correct and legal procedures prescribed by NASA, and, more importantly, attending to the installation's work at hand. He appointed Waldo Dearing, who had served as an assistant to Balch, as acting deputy manager. At the same time, Auter invited all resident agency heads to a meeting on 4 August to "establish communications in the new relationship." 8

 

Arriving, Naval Oceanographic Office

When Balch handed the reins of NSTL over to Auter, during a farewell press conference on 23 July 1975, the major decision on the Navy's move of its Oceanographic Office to the NSTL was "just days away." Secretary of [229] Defense James Schleslinger was awaiting the conclusion of a study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) before making a final decision on the relocation. Representative Trent Lott pointed out that the GAO had found housing and schools in the Gulf Coast communities to be adequate.9

Auter became deeply involved in the massive Navy exodus even before he was officially designated acting manager. He went to NASA Headquarters on 31 July to meet with NASA's E.C. "Ed" Kilgore, deputy associate administrator for Center Operations, and Admiral Snyder to discuss the impending move. Several other NASA and Navy officials, including NASA's Waldo Dearing and the Naval Oceanographic Office's Captain James Ayers, were at the meeting.10

On 7 August, in an effort to get his organization ready to host its largest tenant to date, Auter appointed a "planning team" to coordinate the integration of the Naval Oceanographic Office.His objective was to provide for an orderly, efficient, and economical integration into the "family of cooperating agencies at NSTL." Auter named himself as team leader and selected A.J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., Facility and Equipment; A.M. "Mark" Payne, Cooperating Agency Interfaces and Supporting Services; D.L. "Dave" Johnson, Labor Relations and Determination; and Mack R. Herring, Public and Community Affairs and Protocol.11

Even though some of the new onsite agencies were small, they still demanded personal attention. The NSTL civil service employees, who wore several "hats," became adept at finding creative ways to work as engineers-contract monitors-administrative managers. The "can do" attitude known throughout the agency grew during the many lean years at the NSTL.12

 

[230] Washington Participation

With Auter preparing for the Navy move to Mississippi, NASA Headquarters turned its attention to matters at the national level to expedite the exodus. The GAO study, which essentially addressed problems raised by Representatives Marjorie Holt and Gladys Spellman and the rest of the Maryland delegation, was the last piece of information Secretary Schlesinger needed in order to make his decision on the move. The study found most of the delegation's fears unfounded. These concerns included the question of adequate square footage at the NSTL to accommodate the new personnel, affordable housing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and quality schools in the communities. The GAO promised a final report in November 1975, but that study was not expected to reveal any new findings. Knowing that no new findings were forthcoming, NASA announced on 12 August that Ed Kilgore, deputy associate administrator for Center Operations, would continue to be responsible for overall "policy and management oversight" pertaining to the NASA-Navy planning.Director Robert Curtin, Office of Facilities, was appointed to oversee issues and agreements affecting the Navy move.13

The NSTL facility issues were important because at least one agency had to be relocated to make room for the Navy. Bill Lilly, NASA Headquarters comptroller, was responsible for setting up appropriate charges to recover of NASA's costs and for reporting the costs to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Committee required an accounting of all funding associated with the move since part of the Navy relocation decision was based on saving the federal government money.14

Admiral Snyder and members of his staff not only became involved with logistical matters at the NSTL, but also with establishing good relationships with [231] the Gulf Coast Communities. The energetic and charismatic Snyder made several visits to the NSTL to meet with Auter and his staff, and to call on community leaders to support his organization in Mississippi.Snyder quickly became a popular figure with Gulf Coast citizens, who had a long tradition of welcoming military personnel to their communities.15

Snyder was also in demand as a guest speaker at civic clubs and special events along the Gulf Coast. He addressed the annual Chamber of Commerce events in Picayune and Bay St. Louis; and he told the 50th Anniversary Hancock County Chamber gathering that the Mississippi Gulf Coast living conditions were "far superior" to those in the Washington, D.C. area. Snyder evoked some "oh's and ah's" from the audience when he predicted the $223-million budget for oceanographic research was only "the tip of the iceberg."16

The Admiral was often accompanied on his trips by Flag Lieutenant Paul Gaffney, II, who became a popular figure on the Gulf Coast in his own right. Gaffney made his home in Diamondhead, Mississippi, and became a frequent speaker at civic clubs and special community events along the Gulf Coast and in nearby New Orleans. Years later, Gaffney was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and placed in command of the Navy Oceanographic Office, where he was respected by employees and colleagues alike as he promoted "multi-agency" cooperation.17

NASA and Navy officials breathed a sigh of relief on 21 November 1975 when a memorandum of agreement was signed between NASA and the Department of the Navy "concerning Navy activities at the NSTL at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi." When the long-awaited GAO report was released 25 November, it cleared the way for the move.Included in the memorandum of agreement was an allocation of 179,200 square feet of floor space, a discussion of recoverable costs, a schedule of occupancy, details about the use of a Univac 1108 computer, and terms detailing alterations and construction of real property. The agreement stated that the Navy would become a principal [232] tenant "on or before" 1 July 1976. Most importantly, the agreement, signed in Washington, signalled that the NSTL was well on its way to obtaining "full utilization."18

 

A Tale Of Two Cities

Although most legal obstacles to the Navy migration to Mississippi were settled, or near resolution, opposition to the move by Navy Oceanographic Office personnel persisted. Admiral Snyder and Senator Stennis did not take employee resistance to the move lightly. The morale of the scientists, technicians, and military personnel was crucial to the success of the Navy's mission. The politicians did not want to bring the oceanographers to the Mississippi Gulf Coast "kicking and screaming." In Stennis's case, the judicious and compassionate Senator wanted to do "the right thing" for the new residents coming to his state. For this reason, Stennis asked George Schloegel of Hancock Bank to organize the Gulf Coast community and help promote the attributes of living and working on the Gulf Coast. U.S. Representative Trent Lott pointed out that the Maryland oceanographic office employees were stirred up by Representatives Marjorie Holt and Gladys Spellman, who did not want to lose their constituents with their $25-million payroll to Mississippi. The representatives' chief criticisms focused on inadequate schools and lack of affordable housing.19

In fact, some in Washington predicted there would be a "reversal of the blatantly political transfer of the Navy's Oceanographic Office." Noting that a number of oceanographers were refusing to pack for the move, rumors circulated that Defense Secretary James Schlesinger would decide the issue just "wasn't worth the grief." As one D.C. paper noted: "This is not just a matter of one jurisdiction losing a federal payroll. It is a matter of politics being played as usual in a day when the country can't afford such foolishness." In order to counteract the hostile atmosphere in Maryland and allay the concerns of the Navy Oceanographic Office employees, Snyder arranged for Schloegel to bring a delegation of Gulf Coast community leaders [233] and citizens to the Oceanographic Office in Maryland to speak to and meet with the Navy workers. An astute and persuasive young man, Schloegel was a leader in community endeavors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since graduating from college. He was well-known and liked in the Gulf Coast communities, having worked with other leaders on civic and educational projects.20

Schloegel's good will mission was considered very important to the Navy's plans to relocate. After all, there had been few occasions in peacetime when an entire military element of some 1,200 people were moved at one time to a new location nearly halfway across the country. Schloegel called on educators, realtors, home builders, business people, recreation specialists, elected officials, and other civic leaders and asked them to travel with him 10-12 August 1975 to the Oceanographic Office. Their mission was to help allay the fears of the oceanographers and entice them to Mississippi. Snyder promised Schloegel an airplane to transport the community leaders to Maryland on 10 August 1975. Schloegel selected 30 people for the mission, representing a wide cross-section of Gulf Coast society. The group was called the "NSTL Oceanographic Task Force." The hand-picked community team, which also included representatives from Louisiana, gathered on the tarmac at the Mississippi Air National Guard hangar adjoining the public terminal at the Biloxi-Gulfport Regional Airport. The group became wary when they did not spot a suitable aircraft. Then, to their surprise, a presidential-type jet plane, identical to the famed Air Force One, appeared in the sky and began its approach. The excited Task Force travelers were flabbergasted, for they expected a plane similar to a DC-9, or even a military transport propeller plane. The Navy's use of such a prestigious airplane confirmed for to Schloegel, once and for all, the importance of the Navy move.21

After the NSTL Task Force landed at Andrews Air Force Base, they were hosted during their stay by a prestigious group that included J. William Middendorf, II, Secretary of the Navy; H. Tyler Marcy, Assistant Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Snyder; and Captain Ayers. Also joining the Washington delegation and extending a welcome to the community leaders were Johnnie [234] Stephens, special assistant to Snyder; Robert Ferneau, special assistant to Middendorf; Russ Greenbaum, public information officer; and Larry W. McCullen, Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1028.22

While in Maryland, Schloegel's Task Force set up an information program at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) auditorium where Schloegel gave straightforward, honest presentation - avoid any "sales pitches." He and his community friends addressed practically all of the 1,300 employees of the Suitland facility. At a previous environmental impact hearing in the Suitland area, the major concerns expressed were about Mississippi education and housing. The education concerns included fears about inadequate school capacity, poor quality of education, inferior school curriculums, and lack of libraries in the area. Housing concerns ranged from inadequate units to accommodate the potential influx, number of apartments available, and price ranges. Other questions asked were related to employment opportunities for dependents, availability of day-care centers, and cultural opportunities.23

Another special line of questions involved racial segregation along the Gulf Coast. The concerns were stimulated by information the Navy employees heard, indicating at least one segregated movie theater existed; some doctors' offices contained separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites; segregated neighborhoods existed; and memberships in private recreational facilities were denied to blacks. Several black civic and business people were in the Mississippi group, and they answered these types of questions. For the most part, the problems brought up existed years earlier all over the South and also on the Gulf Coast.24

In addition to the presentations in the NRL auditorium, the NSTL Task Force set up card tables in the lobby with specialists at each table covering topics of interest for the Navy workers. The Navy workers could also complete forms requesting further information about the Gulf Coast. In addition, all employees were given a subscription to the Biloxi-Gulfport daily newspaper to help [235] them learn more about the Gulf Coast. Schloegel said the community effort was a success, noting a marked difference in the attitude of the Navy employees at the conclusion of the visit. Indeed, after settling into their new homes in Mississippi and Louisiana, the Navy employees became active citizens and leaders in their new communities. Most, who later retired from Navy employment, remained in the area. The relocation of the Navy Oceanographic Office to the Gulf Coast produced other results. For instance, many lasting friendships developed between the "Task Force" community members and the incoming Navy civilian and military employees.25

 

Making Room For The Navy

Although it was generally known and discussed quietly within management circles, the fact that NASA had to move the ERL from the NSTL to make room for the incoming Navy Oceanographic Office was not publicly known until 15 August 1975. As early as 24 April, A.J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., NSTL facility chief, knew "NASA is going to bite the bullet and inform Wayne Mooneyhan (ERL director) that he can tell his people it is possible that ERL will move to Houston." In fact, early NASA planning was to send the ERL back to Houston before adequate space was found at the Slidell Computer Complex for the 110 civil service and contractor people associated with the lab. When word got out that a move of ERL to Houston was being considered, many employees wrote to Stennis and Lott protesting the westward migration to Houston. NASA determined that a closer ERL relocation would be less expensive and disruptive for the ERL scientists and technicians, since most personnel lived in Slidell, Picayune, or on the Gulf Coast. NASA officials also recognized that much of the ERL work was carried out in conjunction with other environmental agencies collocated at the NSTL. A move was necessary, however, because the first floor of Building 1100, occupied by the ERL, was the best space on the installation to accommodate the first wave of the Navy relocation. As a result, the Slidell Computer Complex, located only 15 miles away was the logical choice for a new ERL location.26

[236] Indeed, the ERL move and an associated attempt to consolidate and move the NASA Applications Engineering (AE) became a cause celebre for many protesting NSTL employees and their community friends. The first public announcement came 15 August when Maria Watson broke a story in The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Daily Herald, headlined, "Lab Plans Relocation of Hancock Personnel." The announcement of the ERL move was one of the dire predictions made by Balch when he retired. Since many thought the ERL's move would weaken other agencies and cause a "falling domino effect," public announcement of the move caused alarm among the employees.27

Although the Slidell move was considered "disruptive,"the short commute was far better than moving some 400 miles to Houston. Organized in 1970 at the insistence of Senators Ellender and Stennis, the ERL gained national attention for its research and its applications of remote sensing and space technology. The unique laboratory was especially attuned to the user needs of "the man on the street." At the time of the proposed relocation, the ERL was in the middle of several 3- or 4-year programs in conjunction with state agencies in Mississippi and Louisiana. Mooneyhan had a very well-educated and experienced scientific team with 40 to 50 percent of the civil service personnel holding doctoral degrees. With such special credentials in a wide range of disciplines, NASA did not relish the idea of losing any of these specialists.28

As preparations progressed for the ERL relocation, E.S. "Todd" Groo, associate administrator for Center Management, met with Auter, on 11 December 1975, to discuss the ERL move and the transfer of all "programmatic" responsibilities to ERL, including the work of the NSTL's Applications Engineering (AE) group. Such a transfer would have left the NSTL with only institutional "housekeeping" chores. Groo told Auter on 19 December that all work not transferred to ERL "shall be terminated" and the associated personnel positions "eliminated." Resulting in a "possible" reduction of the NSTL personnel by fiscal year 1976. When Groo made these decisions, the NSTL civil service complement was 70, with 1 position in reserve. Groo set 15 January 1976 as the date for a consolidation program to be reviewed and approved at the Headquarters and sternly warned Auter not to discuss any "shifting of [237] work or change in the NSTL mission," unless it was with Groo's office or the heads of the affected program offices at NASA Headquarters."29

Clearly the actions suggested by Groo would have eliminated any chances the small NSTL organization had of becoming a viable NASA space and environmental entity. After all, the AE was created largely for the purpose of giving NSTL a "program" office and a means of interacting with the several onsite environmental agencies, as well as with the States of Mississippi and Louisiana. Auter, who worked extremely hard to develop the NSTL space and environmental complex, strongly opposed the Groo directive. Sadly, in his position as acting manager, Auter could do no more than voice his opposition.30

Meanwhile, the morale of the NSTL NASA employees began declining as they sensed the powerlessness of their acting manager to secure a mission in the face of the massive Navy influx. Indeed, the NSTL NASA staff began complaining at the Monday morning staff meetings and demanding answers from Auter on how to cope. Auter wanted to stabilize the organization, assign personnel to permanent positions, and develop a definitive mission statement.31

Groo, however, told Auter he could not proceed with this action until the AE consolidation with the ERL and after an "institutional" NASA organization, without program responsibility, was forged. Most NSTL employees approached the Christmas holidays in a state of frustration, not knowing if their jobs were secure at the unsettled site. Several NSTL employees even sent resumes to the Navy; others, however, vowed to fight for their jobs.32

With ERL making plans to relocate to the Slidell Computer Complex and the Navy measuring the floor space on the first floor of the NSTL NASA Administrative Building, the 1976 New Year rang in a bleak message for Auter and his struggling NSTL organization. With the activity of preparing for the ERL move and the AE consolidation, keeping Groo's grim secrets from the NSTL's weary crew was impossible.33

[238] The first ERL personnel began their move to the Slidell Computer Complex the week of 19 January 1976. They were originally scheduled to begin relocating on 15 December 1975, but the space being readied for the lab personnel was not completed on time. Although the budget for the lab was $3.7 million, the 110 civil service and contractor personnel were not transferring all funds out of Mississippi across state lines into Louisiana. About 50 percent of the ERL personnel were residents of the Slidell area already. An estimated 30 percent lived in Picayune, and 20 percent lived along the Gulf Coast. Wayne Mooneyhan, ERL director, said the ERL Beech aircraft used in airborne remote sensing observations would remain at Stennis International Airport in Hancock County, because the Slidell Airport runways were too short. Mooneyhan said, on the other hand, that the ERL move was not being undertaken to make way for the Navy, but rather, to take better advantage of the NASA space available at the Slidell Complex. 34

 

A Matter Of "Guts"

Even while moving vans were being loaded with office and laboratory equipment for the ERL relocation, news from New Orleans came in a surprise newspaper story written by Larry Ciko in The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune, that put a halt to the AE consolidation, perplexed Senator Stennis, and angered some NASA Headquarters managers. The headline in the popular morning newspaper in the area read, "NASA Will Move NSTL 'Guts' From Hancock to Slidell."The story, quoting an unnamed source, stated that NASA planned to consolidate the AE personnel and its functions with the ERL and move them to Slidell, a move that would transfer "the guts of NSTL" from Hancock County to Slidell.35

Indeed, up until this point, NASA denied that the ERL move to Slidell was precipitated by the Navy's massive relocation to NSTL. The 179,200 square feet of floor space agreed to by NASA and the Navy supposedly was enough to accommodate the Navy Oceanographic Office's needs. Balch and the Maryland congressional delegation contended the floor space allotted was not enough, indeed, the GAO even [239] looked into the matter. A departure from the publicly stated policy at this point of the Navy relocation was more serious to those involved than the transfer of the NASA AE personnel and their function away from the NSTL.36

The "unnamed source," Ciko referred to in his article, became a focus of much discussion the day the story broke. There was speculation among the ranks of the ERL and NSTL personnel as to who leaked the story to Ciko. Some blamed Balch, long since retired; others blamed members of the AE office who did not want to be consolidated with the ERL. Nevertheless, the "guts" story started another rhubarb in the press that was not pleasing to NASA Headquarters and was most especially disconcerting to Senator Stennis, who finally wanted to see "full utilization," without further embarrassment in the communities where his puzzled constituents were patiently awaiting their new Navy neighbors. True, the huge Navy influx was expected to solve the Gulf Coast community problems, but, at the same time, South Mississippians did not want to lose the solid NASA citizens who stood with them through "thick and thin," and bonded with them during the terrors of Hurricane Camille.37

The impromptu announcement on 29 January 1976 in The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune also came at a time when the Navy was preparing a revised, environmental impact statement to comply with a federal court order, which was holding up the big Navy move to Mississippi. Although only 10 civil servants were involved in the AE consolidation with ERL, their work was supported by 24 contractor personnel and the AE programs were the threads that attached the NSTL to the several onsite resident agencies and the states affected by their experiments and demonstration projects.38

The Times-Picayune story regarding the AE consolidation with ERL travelled far and fast; on the following day, NASA's Groo found himself in Senator Stennis's office in Washington explaining the consolidation attempt.Stennis suggested to Groo that the timing of the consolidation move was "unfortunate" and he asked Groo to "reconsider" the decision and reverse it if possible. William "Eph" Cresswell, Stennis's long-time administrative assistant, also attended the meeting and Stennis told Groo to "work the matter out with Mr. Cresswell" and he [240] (Stennis) would go along with whatever they decided. At a later date, Groo met with Cresswell and James "Jim" Gehrig, staff member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Don Fitts, Senator Stennis' press secretary. Cresswell told Groo the decision to consolidate AE with ERL should be reversed and the people involved should not be moved.39

Groo returned to Stennis's office the following week, on 5 February, and proposed to Cresswell that the consolidation might be delayed for "an indefinite period of time." Cresswell agreed to Groo's plan and promised Cresswell that he would take no further steps on the organizational change "without notifying him." With the Washington decisions regarding the ERL and AE consolidation move made, the implementation of the edict and answers to the media were referred to the NSTL staff. Waldo Dearing, deputy acting manager, referred several questions asked by reporter Ciko, to Washington and requested answer from them. On 12 February, Groo forwarded to Dearing, through Richard "Dick" Weinstein, the following answers in talking with Ciko and other media representatives: "(1) The NSTL is not now fully utilized, so with the Navy move currently in the balance, it was concluded inappropriate to move the AE functions, (2) The length of the delay will depend on the time the court takes to finally decide on the Navy injunction, (3) It continues to be a goal of NASA Headquarters to consolidate the AE programmatic functions with ERL, and (4) Obviously in light of the above answers, the Navy move is involved with the delay."40

NASA Headquarters managers decided to make the long-sought-after goal of "full utilization" the culprit in the consolidation of the ERL and AE organizations. An "RTQ," (response to queries), was developed on 6 February and made available to the press. The statement said, "Maximum utilization of the former Mississippi Test Facility was one of the underlying reasons for the formation of NSTL in 1964, and all decisions involving use of the site will continue to be weighed against that goal which remains unchanged. In the meantime, necessary mechanisms to assure effective programmatic coordination between the work of the ERL and the NSTL Applications Engineering group are being established."41

[241] After the brief, early winter hiatus on the ERL relocation, the matter was settled and the laboratory completed its move to Slidell without the AE group. The ERL was a few miles closer to its Johnson Space Center (JSC) home base, but any thoughts of a move to Houston ended in a squabble, with Senator Stennis clearly showing his disapproval for such a final destination. The controversy focused more attention on the Navy relocation from Maryland to Mississippi, and added credibility to the argument of the opposing Maryland delegation that there really was not enough room at the NSTL for the oceanographers. The handling of the matter caused the press to keep a wary eye on the movements of the Navy and NASA, which proved to be an aggravation for some of the managers charged with the massive Navy move.42

 

AE Continues Its Projects

With the relocation of ERL and the consolidation of AE put to rest, the AE group continued its efforts in several new areas to demonstrate Earth use of space technology. Most of these pioneering projects involved use of satellite systems to collect data for the user community, a concept promoted during the infant days of the MTF/NSTL during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of these projects attracted the attention of other Federal and State agencies, national organizations, the medical community, and private industry. For instance, AE devised a system for the Corps of Engineers to monitor the Mississippi River for flood control and weather forecasting. A data collection effort was designed to aid the National Park Service in inventory and land use in recreation park areas in Delaware, Utah, and the Great Smoky Mountains.43

Another data collection system designed by AE demonstrated economic feasibility of the acquisition of continuous satellite data. These data for the measurement of subterranean hydrology and water quality for a number of federal and state agencies, including the United States Geographical Survey [242] (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, and the Pearl River Basin Development District. Part of this work utilized data from the SEASAT satellite system.44

Perhaps the most visible of the satellite data collection projects, and one that attracted national media attention, was using satellites to collect and transmit medical data over long distances. The medical data project involved a number of Federal, State, local, and private organizations. In this project, the AE team worked with the NASA Headquarter's Office of Technology Utilization, Southern Regional Medical Consortium, University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Governor's Office of Science and Technology, Southeast Air Ambulance Service District, and the General Electric Company. This diverse group succeeded in sending cardiac monitoring data from a speeding ambulance, helicopter, or ship to the emergency room of Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The experiment drew praise from national search and rescue associations, the medical community, and the news media.45

Another AE project that gained national and international notoriety was using vascular aquatic plants for pollution control, and as a source of energy in food products for humans and animals. In the early phases of the experiment, the water hyacinth plant was used to treat sewage on the NSTL installation. Later, the natural sewage treatment system was used by several local communities and in such places as San Diego, California, and Disney World's Epcot Center in Florida. The potential of treating a closed-ecological system in space showed merit and also attracted some attention at NASA Headquarters. The local and national news media publicized this project widely, largely because of its low cost and simplicity of use.46

Several other applications, data, and technology projects were under way at the AE office, conducted in conjunction with the NASA Office of Applications and the Technology Utilization Office. Most were funded by Research and Technology Operation Plan (RTOPS), the method by which most scientific and engineering projects outside the Office of Space Flight [243] were funded. When George Constan, former manager of the Michoud Assembly Facility, had joined Balch as assistant MTF manager, he taught the AE staff how to write RTOPS to obtain funding from NASA Headquarters.47

The AE personnel included mostly former rocket test engineers who had a knack for working with people in conjunction with their engineering projects. In the application of space technology, their individual talents and personalities were essential. In addition to their personal efforts in "retraining," Balch had even attached several AE engineers to the ERL on a "one-on-one" basis with the lab's scientists to learn more about environmental science.48

Henry Auter was the chief of the office but ceded its operations to "teams." Roy Estess headed the Technology Transfer and Utilization Team comprised of John Ivey, K.R. "Ken" Dauthrey, and D.G. "Dewey" Little. W.L. "Larry" Hopkins led the Technology Applications Team, with R.B. "Bobby" Hegwood, B.G. "Bobby" Junkin, and L.W. "Lee" Nybo as team members. William C. "Billy" Wolverton was chief of the Environmental Systems Development Team. Under Wolverton were Rebecca "Becky" McDonald, W.D. "Bill" Montgomery, and Robert "Bob" Barlow. All these people, with the exception of Wolverton, McDonald, Barlow, and acoustics expert Nybo, were former rocket test engineers and came to NSTL during the Project Apollo era.49

The teams made up the "converted" scientist-engineer cadre developed when the installation began to diversify and take on the space-environmental flavor in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact, several of these engineers comprised the "marketing department" that sought out other agencies and businesses during the early years of the drive toward "full utilization." In essence, they went out and discovered, recruited, and helped establish on site the very agencies they later worked with in their space applications and technology utilization projects.50

 

[244] Navy Piped Aboard

After a long and arduous bureaucratic and political battle of at least 3 years, the Navy's oceanographic program was symbolically established at NSTL in a colorful ceremony. However, before the flag-raising ceremony, on 28 May 1976, Admiral Snyder and Henry Auter worked out many details to make sure the event was in keeping with terms agreed on by the two agencies.51

Admiral Snyder stressed the importance of upholding NASA's role as host agency and requested that all Navy public affairs activities relative to the event be coordinated with the NSTL's Manager's Office and that the Navy support a common Public Affairs Office (PAO) function directed by the NSTL manager. Snyder's request seemed somewhat strange at the time, but the arrangement helped establish NASA's role as host agency and tended to lessen the image that the Navy was "taking over,"overpowering NASA and other government agencies.52

In early May, Snyder's aide, Flag Lieutenant Paul Gaffney, II, contacted Auter to begin working out details of the flag-raising ceremony. They decided to stage the event in front of Building 1100, site of the American flag and the flags of NASA and several resident government agencies.53

The well-planned Navy flag-raising ceremony did not come off without a few last-minute bumps. On 23 April, there was news that the Department of the Interior's Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) office was relocating to make way for the Navy arrival at NSTL. James Halsey, USGS assistant program director, said the reports had "no substance," but later confirmed that discussions were held at the "highest level" to explore such plans. A story by Maria Watson in The Daily Herald quoted sources at the NSTL as being concerned over the possible loss of the EROS office. The EROS affair blew over, but there was still more activity in the wind before the Navy flag would fly over the NSTL.54

On 27 May, the day before the ceremony, Johnny Stephens called a press conference to clarify a misunderstanding concerning the invitees to the ceremony. [245] Stephens said the special invitations being sent out were intended for those with reserved seating, and that the public was also invited. Apparently, word got out in the local area that only those with invitations could attend. The Navy and Senator Stennis, of course, wanted as many Gulf Coast residents as possible to attend.55

While Stephens was getting the details of the ceremony straight with the local press, some embarrassing questions were posed. Maria Watson of The Daily Herald asked if the Navy Oceanographic Office transfer to Hancock County was a "trade-off" between Admiral Snyder and Senator Stennis. Watson was referring to legislation pending in Washington that would allow Admiral Snyder, retired, to be recalled to active duty as the Navy Oceanographer. Stephens quickly replied, "to my knowledge, Senator Stennis has never met Admiral Snyder." Stephens continued to answer some difficult questions from the media. One reporter asked if the Navy planned to take over the site, and Stephens replied that the Navy had no intention "at [that] time" of taking over the NSTL site. However, Stephens did say "as to what happens down the pike, I can't answer that." He told reporters that 1,200 to 1,300 Navy personnel would be employed at the NSTL, with about 65 percent of the employees in the Washington, D.C., area making the transfer.56

On 28 May 1976, the gala flag-raising ceremony was held on schedule, an event long remembered by the estimated 2,000 NSTL employees, dignitaries, and general public who attended. But, of all of the people gathered at the permanent flagpoles in front of Building 1100, Senator John Stennis was most likely the proudest person.57

The nationally recognized statesman and American patriot was a staunch supporter of a strong national defense. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Stennis was especially fond of the Navy and later became known as the "Father of America's Modern Navy," because of his special funding....

 


[
246]

Navy <<side boys>> give U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis an official welcome during the Navy flag-raising ceremony at the National Space Technology Laboratories on 28 May 1976. (SSC-76-111-6).

Navy "side boys" give U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis an official welcome during the Navy flag-raising ceremony at the National Space Technology Laboratories on 28 May 1976. (SSC-76-111-6).

 

....support in Congress. He was recognized with the Freedom Medal award as a token for his work to establish a strong military and as a leader in the Cold War against the Soviets. To be able to welcome such an important and prestigious organization as the Navy's oceanographic activity to his home state was of special significance to Stennis. The proud Senator even predicted, years earlier in his famous Logtown speech on All Saints Day in 1961, that the NASA site would someday have an important role in national defense.58

Other notables sharing the dais with Stennis included Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf; U.S. Representatives Trent Lott and G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery; Rear Admiral, J. Edward Snyder, special assistant to the Under Secretary of the Navy; Julian T. Burke, commandant, Sixth Naval District; Captain Charles G. Darrell, commanding officer, Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (NORDA); Captain James E. Ayers, commanding officer, Navy Oceanographic Office; Captain John C. Bajus, deputy chief of Naval Research; Captain C.R. Ward director, Naval [247] Oceanography and Meteorology; Herbert G. Rowe, associate administrator, NASA; and Henry Auter, acting manager of the NSTL and host.59

The ceremony was replete with Navy customs and protocol. The dignitaries walked briskly to the ceremonial platform between two rows of "side-boys" in keeping with the old naval custom of "piping the side" when high-ranking visitors came aboard a ship.At the same time, a Boatswain's Mate blew his shrill pipe as a ship's bell rang out, signalling the dignitaries arrival. A 25-piece Navy band offered the special ruffles and flourishes that render honors.60

Members of the Gulf Coast community swelled with pride as Stennis stepped through the side-boy line of white uniforms to take his place on the dais. At the speakers' podium, the ever-dutiful Senator promised to "push for increased support" for the Navy activity now officially located in his state and for the people who were relocating from Maryland. Stennis felt a special obligation to the newcomers who left their homes in Maryland to become a part of the NSTL family in Mississippi. The conscientious Senator remembered the Navy employees' sacrifices and continued to ask about their well-being, even until his last visit to the Stennis Space Center (SSC) in 1989.61

 

Taking Care Of Business

With no definitive word from NASA Headquarters as to whether he would be named "manager" of the NSTL, or for that matter who Balch's successor might be, the dedicated Auter proceeded to manage the NSTL during the summer months of 1976. Among the business at hand was continued support for Space Shuttle engine testing, major contractual changes, and exciting successes in the AE program. By the end of July, Space Shuttle engine number 1 was tested 402.823 seconds on the A-1 test stand and engine number 2 was tested for 143.941 seconds on the A-2 test stand.62

[248] At the same time, the NASA NSTL contracts office was in the final process of ending its 13-year-old contractual relationship with GE, awarding the technical and engineering services contract to the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of El Segundo, California.NSTL also decided to select the Pan American Aerospace Service Division as a major subcontractor for support to the NSTL Range and Test Services organization. John Seiley was named manager of CSC's NSTL support team, and A.B. "Bob" Gorham, Jr., was appointed to manage Pan Am's range and test service division support team.Both managers were respected and popular with NASA and with their own employees. About 80 GE employees, some were at the site since 1963, elected to continue with either CSC or Pan Am. The contract change was to become effective 1 September 1976.63

 

Jerry Hlass Accepts The Challenge

Jerry Hlass, intimately associated with the NSTL since its very earliest days, felt destiny led him to become a permanent manager of the NSTL. Many weary NSTL employees, who knew and worked with Hlass through the years, were delighted when they learned on 18 August 1976 that he was to head their frustrated organization; an official NASA Headquarters announcement set 1 September as the effective date Hlass would take charge of the NSTL. True, the NSTL civil service team appreciated Auter's dedication and efforts to advance the cause of the NSTL, but they also felt purposely ignored by the NASA Headquarters's managers. Indeed, some thought the shun was part of an overall scheme to let the NASA presence at the NSTL die a slow death of benign neglect.64

Speculation that the Headquarters might let part of the NSTL wither on the vine did have some validity but that thought was not entertained by Hlass.In fact, as the NASA Headquarters man in charge of the MTF construction, in 1963, he was one of the early builders of the old MTF.He continued to help nurture the facility, making many trips to help overcome tight construction and activation schedules to ready the installation for its first rocket tests in 1966. Hlass, therefore, was not coming to Mississippi to undo years of [249] his hard work and that of his NASA colleagues, or to preside over the NSTL's early demise.65

On the contrary, the competitive Hlass accepted the new assignment as a personal challenge and an act of "destiny" because he had been so closely associated with the NSTL facility through most of his professional years. Hlass brought credentials that especially prepared him for the task as NSTL manager when he was appointed by E.S. Groo, associate administrator for Center Operations, the NASA Headquarters Director of Space Shuttle Facilities nationwide. His position placed him in charge of building manufacturing, test, launch, and landing facilities for the Space Shuttle.66

Before reporting for work at NASA Headquarters in 1963, Hlass was head of the Data Acquisition Facility Section at Goddard Space Flight Center. He received a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree in 1949 from North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a Master of Engineering Administration degree from George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. Almost as if he planned to be manager of the NSTL, Hlass selected his Master's thesis on the study of the evolution of the Mississippi testing facility. In the thesis, Hlass recommended proposals for future site development, including expansion of propulsion testing and growth of the space and environmental consortium. Hlass did the study as part of a one-year [250] fellowship from NASA in 1970-1971. During that time, he travelled to the MTF and interviewed several people, including Balch.67

The Hlass thesis, "Search For A Role For A Large Government Test Facility," turned out to be more than a scholarly treatise, the document it proved to be a useful handbook and guide used by many in the years following its completion. Although Groo instructed Hlass to go to Mississippi to "look things over" and make recommendations as to what NASA should do about the NSTL's future, Hlass brought with him his wife, the former Helen Diller of Arlington, Virginia, and their young son, George, as well as "Vroni," a Dachshund pet. They established their first Gulf Coast residence in Pass Christian, but soon made their permanent home in Long Beach.68

Even before he officially reported to the NSTL on 1 September 1976, Hlass started on his new assignment. He met with Henry Auter on more than one occasion during August to learn more about the NSTL's status at the first meeting, Auter told Hlass morale among the NSTL employees was very low; Auter wanted Hlass to be aware of the situation. Hlass was already aware of the morale problem at the Mississippi facility as a result of word he had received in Washington from friends at the NSTL. Auter, a very conservative man of good judgement, suggested that Hlass give the NASA NSTL employees a "pep talk," and an all hands meeting in the Gainesville Room of Building 1100, was arranged.At the meeting, Hlass assured them he was reporting for work with an "open mind," said he wanted to hear their opinions and recommendations. He also reassured them by saying they had a good future and stressing the importance of the extensive rocket testing facilities at the NSTL, which he said were the best in the world.69

After the all hands meeting, Hlass asked Auter to prepare an NSTL status briefing, which was a regular management practice employed by Hlass. He said he always wanted to know what he faced when reporting to a new assignment. On 27 August, Auter presented a management review providing Hlass with an excellent NSTL management [251] history, complete with its capabilities, progress, problems, and even options to solve the existing difficulties.70

 

Renasafication of NSTL

Known among his NASA peers as a careful, detailed planner, Jerry Hlass brought with him an agenda of issues to solve and goals to accomplish. Most of these plans were of his own making, devised after years of close association with and study of the NSTL. Some, however, were given to him by his bosses at NASA Headquarters, who wanted to see the infant field installation brought into the NASA fold or abandoned altogether. In the view of many at NASA Headquarters, the NSTL was never a real part of the NASA team since it became a separate field installation. Those Headquarters managers who held this view of the NSTL resented the methods Balch used to do business with politicians and felt that the NSTL held more of an allegiance to its environmental consortium than it did to its own NASA organization. Some still felt resentment over the manner in which Stennis and Ellender took the $10 million set-aside from their Research & Program Management (R&PM) money to get the environmental arrangement started.71

During his early years as manager of the installation, Hlass used his goals as a guiding light for his new team to follow. Indeed, Hlass led the small NSTL group to many lasting successes, laying a strong foundation for establishing future program.The patient Hlass did not initiate "jump starts" to make things happen quickly.Some goals he was able to accomplish in months, but others took years. The tenacious new manager, however, never lost sight of his ultimate aspiration, until his original goals were accomplished.72

Associate Administrator for Center Management Todd Groo was the first at NASA Headquarters to give Hlass an important assignment, which turned out to be his first management goal. Groo was concerned that the NSTL, over [252] a year old, still did not have a formal "roles and responsibilities" statement. The 69 civil service employees were still working under an old MTF charter and mission statement. Groo wanted Hlass to quickly implement a new formal organization and transfer the NASA civil servants into the new structure. Aware of the morale problem at the NSTL, Groo felt a new work statement defining individual tasks of the employees would boost their sagging spirits as they approached the challenges ahead. At the same time, Groo advised Hlass to move rapidly to consolidate the NASA operations in view of the massive Navy transfer from Maryland.73

A long-time friend and associate, Bill Lilly, NASA Comptroller, gave Hlass another important directive. Lilly and others at NASA Headquarters were concerned about the "reimbursable" policy the NSTL developed to recover funds spent on the resident agencies. During the early 1970s when the environmental agencies first took up residence at the NSTL, a generous plan was developed, largely to attract new tenantswanting to spend a majority of their funds on scientific programs, not for institutional matters such as rent and maintenance. In fact, Senator Ellender encouraged such a policy to get the consortium established. On the other hand, NASA was criticized by the GAO for its liberal reimbursable policy, and some rumblings from those who opposed the Navy relocation suggested that NASA was "giving space away" in Mississippi. In effect, the GAO report stated that NASA was subsidizing the tenants at the rate of $500,000 per year and as the Navy program grew, this figure would, of course, rapidly multiply. The liberal NSTL policy, according to the GAO, would eventually leave the national taxpayers footing the bill.74

Another problem Hlass faced that was right at the top of everyone's agenda was the relocation of some 1,200 Navy employees to the NSTL. Support for the Navy move and a smooth transfer of [253] the oceanographic program to the NSTL was very important in the minds of NASA and Navy managers, especially in view of the emphasis placed on the relocation by Congress. Hlass, more than any other person, had the power to make the massive transfer take place as smoothly as possible.75

As director of Space Flight Facilities for NASA, Hlass was close to the Space Shuttle program nationwide. In fact, Headquarters asked Hlass to continue his shuttle work even after he was appointed manager of the NSTL. To do both jobs, the busy Hlass had to continue travelling about the nation, from Florida to California, attending to Space Shuttle business. Through his close associations with the shuttle program, Hlass knew the success of the new space flight program was imperative to the long-range NASA future. With this background, Hlass was determined to make sure that NSTL furnished superb institutional, facility, and technical support to the SSME and Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA) programs. As a result, Hlass set shuttle support as the priority item in his "roles and missions" statement. Indeed, Hlass's personal goal was that no shuttle test be held up or terminated due to facility or support failure. Such an attitude was a turnaround because Balch, in his preoccupation with the environmental consortium, was content to let the MSFC call most of the shots in the Space Shuttle Test Complex at the NSTL, even those directly associated with support matters that rightfully were the responsibility of the NSTL.76

Like many other problems Hlass tackled at the NSTL, he found the arrangement for support to Space Shuttle testing was especially difficult to solve. Among other deficiencies, Hlass and his NSTL team found spare components woefully lacking for numerous critical testing support equipment. He called on Mark Payne, chief of Installations Operations and a veteran in the rocket business, and Payne's deputy, Dave Johnson, to help him work out test support issues.77

Many of Hlass's goals could not wait for long-term resolution, nor be placed on a "to do" list. For instance, Hlass wanted to secure an appropriate NASA program for the NSTL since the site did not have one. AE survived on RTOPS, grants, and agreements with other agencies. The once-proud and talented NSTL rocket test engineers, who came to static-fire Saturn stages, had to be content with support roles to the MSFC Resident Office, or work in utility housekeeping jobs servicing the resident agencies. These assignments were demeaning, to say the least, to these experienced engineers. At this time, ERL was an independent organization, answering to JSC. The Houston lab had its own [254] in-house support contractor and did not even use the services of the NSTL's technical or institutional support contractors. Knowing that the installation needed its own program in order to survive, Hlass had set about "attracting and landing an appropriate NASA program" as one of his priority goals.78

Groo told Hlass that sooner or later the Headquarters intended to act on consolidating the ERL and the AE, which could eventually send both organizations to Texas. Hlass asked Groo to give him the opportunity to study the situation, which had been put on hold by Stennis in February 1976 before NASA Headquarters dealt with it. Groo agreed to wait until December 1976, giving Hlass very little time to study the circumstances and make a recommendation to the Headquarters. In 1975, the ERL issue was still simmering in the minds of Groo and others at NASA Headquarters, and they wanted the matter resolved once and for all. As new manager of the NSTL, the options placed before Hlass were, in his opinion, detrimental to the long-term goals of his organization.79

In addition to the challenges facing Hlass, morale was sagging on the site and in the local communities. But, in order to solve the problems faced by the new organization and accomplish his own goals, Hlass first determined he had to build a strong NASA team. To be successful, Hlass knew his organization had to have the good will and support of the communities. For the NSTL, the community support was critical in order to maintain the integrity of the acoustic buffer zone. In a strong sense, the rehabilitation of the NASA organization, and the rekindling of the community's spirit, was a monumental goal in itself.80

With these thoughts in mind, a determined Jerry Hlass began a long, 13-year odyssey, leading the company of NASA NSTL civil servants, with the hope of gaining the acceptance and trust of their Agency while searching for a role.81

 


Notes

1. "Balch Leaving NASA; Auter Assumes Post," The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Daily Herald (henceforth referred to as The Daily Herald), 21 July 1975; Ted O'Boyle, "Auter Named Acting Chief At NASA-NSTL," The Daily Herald, 22 July 1975.

2. Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 12 February 1996 and 15 February 1996; Henry Auter, "Management Review," 27 August 1976, p. 18, Auter Collection, Stennis Space Center Historical Records Collection (henceforth referred to as the SSCHRC).

3. NASA-MTF Biography, Henry F. Auter, September 1965, SSCHRC; Biography, Henry F. Auter, 1990, SSCHRC; Hlass, interview, 15 February 1996.

4. NASA Personnel Notice, Headquarters, 18 August 1976; "Hlass to Become Manager of NSTL Effective 1 September," The (Biloxi-Gulfport, MS) South Mississippi Sun; Jackson Balch told reporter Maria Watson in an interview for The Daily Herald, 24 July 1975, that a decision on the Navy would consolidation would be forthcoming, "in about a week." The retiring manager said he feared the Navy would "overwhelm" the smaller environmental agencies and that he "hadn't realized the insensitivity of the Navy." He suggested "the powers that be" directing NASA, the Navy, and the Army sit down and plan three separate installations.

5. NASA-NSTL, Auter Biography, 1975; Henry F. Auter, interview by Mack Herring, SSC History Office, December 1990; Eric Bergaust,Wernher von Braun (Bridghampton, NY: Vail-Baillou, 1976) pp.276-277. Henry F. Auter was well-qualified to assume the acting manager's position. A recipient of NASA's Exceptional Service Medal and Special Achievement Award, Auter had proven his loyalty to NASA.

6. NASA-NSTL, Auter Biography, 1975; Henry F. Auter, interview by Mack Herring, SSC History Office, December 1990; Wernher von Barun, "Crossing the Last Frontier," Collier's (New York: Collier's), 22 March 1952, SSHCRC.

7. Maria Watson, "Navy Office Decision Expected Within One Week," The Daily Herald, 24 July 1975; NSTL History Highlights, "Shuttle Era," NS13-8-005; When Auter assumed the acting manager's post, the SSME test firings had just begun, the Army Ammunition Plant was finalizing plans for its complex, a move of the ERL to Slidell was in the making, and the resident agencies were "nervous" about the Navy coming. The population of the NSTL was 1,370, with an additional 1,200 Navy employees scheduled to arrive when all legal issues were resolved; Henry Auter, "Continuity Strategy," July 1975, SSCHRC.

8. Henry F. Auter, Memorandum to Distribution, "Assumption of Position, Acting Manager, NASA/NSTL, 1 August 1975; E.S. Groo, NASA HQ Management Delegation, "Authority to Act For Manager, NSTL in The Event of an Attack on the United States and During Normal Conditions," 25 October 1974, NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, (henceforth referred to as the NHHRC).

9. Maria Watson, "Navy Office Decision Expected," The Daily Herald, 24 July 1975.

10. Henry F. Auter, Memorandum to Distribution, "Planning for Coordination of Navy Oceanographic Move," 7 August 1975.

11. Henry F. Auter, Memorandum, 7 August 1975; See Director's Files, "Chronology of Significant Events," 31 July-27 August 1975.

12. Balch assigned or transferred personnel to other onsite agencies, e.g. ERL, the SSME Resident Office. No doubt he felt these employees might help future endeavors, by pulling them back in when he needed their services.

13. E.S. "Todd" Groo to NASA Headquarters Distribution, "Responsibilities for NASA Activities Related to Navy Move to NSTL," 12 August 1975, NHHRC; Action copies of memorandum written by Groo went to several officials at Headquarters, including Low, Shippey, Lilly, Kilgore, Curtin, and Madden. The memo placed Kilgore in charge of the Navy move at the Headquarters level and gave Henry Auter responsibility "on the ground" at the NSTL.

14. William "Bill" Lilly stated in a civil action suit affidavit [(75-1437, court of review unknown) Washington, DC, (12 December 1975)], that "Eighty-five persons associated with the Earth Resources Laboratory are to relocate to Slidell Computer Complex, thereby making space available at NSTL for responding number of Navy employees to relocate to NSTL." NASA planned to move the ERL back to the JSC, but decided instead to consolidate the AE and ERL at the Slidell Complex, and later to move both to the JSC. See also "Navy's Hearing Footsteps," The Washington, DC, Evening Star (henceforth referred to as The Washington Evening Star), 11 June 1975, Fred W. Bowen, Jr., to Rear Admiral J. Edward Snyder, 24 July 1975, for explanation of NASA plans concerning charges to Navy at NSTL, NHRC.

15. For account of Admiral Snyder's Gulf Coast activities see Director's Office files, "Significant Actions," 1975. George Schloegel, of Hancock Bank, told the author, 21 February 1996, that Admiral Snyder was a most impressive man, dedicated to his country and the Navy.

16. Maria Watson, "Navy Undersecretary Lauds [Naval Oceanographic Office] Bay Shift," The Daily Herald, 13 November 1975.

17. Biography, Rear Admiral Paul G. Gaffney, II, USN, "Commander, Naval Oceanography Command," SSCHRC; Roy Estess, named director of the SSC in 1989, remembers Gaffney traveling to NSTL with Snyder. Estess said he and Gaffney often spent time talking while waiting for their bosses to discuss business, and later found it ironic that they themselves became directors of their respective organizations.

18. NASA Management Instruction, "NASA-Navy Agreement - Navy Activities At NSTL," NASA NMI-193, 21 November 1975.

19. George Schloegel, interview by Mack Herring, Gulfport, MS, 21 February 1996; Maria Watson, "Navy Office Decision Expected Within Week," The Daily Herald, 24 July 1975.

20. Editorial, "Navy's Hearing..." The Washington Evening Star, 11 June 1975; Mike Causey, The Federal Diary, "Senators Split On Navy Shift," The Washington (DC) Post, 18 April 1975.

21. Schloegel, interview.

22. Ibid.

23. Private Papers in the possession of George Schloegel, Gulfport, MS. Schloegel's files on the community representative's visit to Suitland, Maryland are an excellent record of what community planning, hard work, and spirit can accomplish. The files show illustrate the thorough approach taken to inform and sell the Maryland Naval Oceanographic Office (NOO) personnel on the Gulf Coast.

24. Schloegel, interview.

25. Ibid.

26. A. J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., Daily Journal Record Book, 24 April 1975.

27. Maria Watson, "Lab Plans Relocation Of Hancock Personnel," The Daily Herald , 15 August 1975.

28. Ibid.

29. E. S. Groo to Henry F. Auter, 19 December 1975.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.; The author recalls numerous meetings during which staff members would complain of inaction.

32. Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, 27 February 1996. Hlass related during 27 February 1996 interview that Henry Auter was deeply concerned about the morale of the NSTL civil service work force.

33. Larry Ciko, "ERL Moving From NSTL To Slidell," The Times-Picayune, 24 January 1976; Maria Watson, "NASA Begins Relocation Of Earth Resources Laboratory," The Daily Herald, 20 January 1976; NASA-MSFC Facilities Document, "Description of Floor Space Available at NASA's Slidell Computer Complex," nd, SSCHRC.

34. Ciko, "ERL Moving..." Times-Picayune, 24 January 1976.

35. Larry Ciko, "NASA Will Move NSTL 'Guts' From Hancock to Slidell," Times-Picayune, 29 January 1976.

36. Because of the heavy opposition to the Navy's move by the Maryland congressional delegation and the Suitland, Maryland, community, the amount of space available at the NSTL became a major issue. Opponents claimed adequate floor space did not exist at the NSTL and the congressional delegation requested the GAO to investigate the matter.

37. Larry Ciko, "Engineering Office-and-Lab Merger Plan Is Confirmed," Times-Picayune, 30 January 1976; NSTL Office of Applications Engineering, "Office of Applications Interim Management Plan," ud.

38. Ibid.; Watson, "NASA Begins...," Daily Herald.

39. Memorandum, E.S. "Todd" Groo to Dr. James C. Fletcher and George Low, "NSTL," 20 February 1976, NHRC.

40. E.S. Groo-Richard Weinstein to W.H. "Waldo" Dearing, 12 February 1976.

41. W.H. "Waldo" Dearing, Memorandum For The Record, "Inquiry by Mr. Ciko, The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune, NSTL Organizational Changes," 12 February 1976; Richard Weinstein to W.H. Dearing, "Response to Queries," 12 February 1976.

42. PAO Correspondence File, Telephone Request from Mack Dryden, reporter, The Sun-Herald, 29 January 1976.; Larry Ciko, Maria Watson, and another reporter asked penetrating questions concerning the Navy move, ERL relocation, and the AE consolidation. Dryden asked: (1) what are we not to believe about NSTL - will it be a host agency without a project function? and (2) how long can NASA last in a purely administrative capacity after the Navy moves in?; NASA-NSTL, "Statement on NSTL Organizational Changes, 6 February 1976.

43. Henry F. Auter, "Management Review: NSTL Office of Application Engineering," 27 August 1976, p. 6.

44. Ibid., p. 7-8.

45. Ibid., p. 9.

46. Ibid., p. 13.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.; Ken Daughtrey, interview by Mack Herring, Seminary, MS, 2 March 1996. Ken Daughtrey explained the work and status of the AE in the winter months of 1976, during the consolidation controversy. Daughtrey, along with Roy Estess and John Ivey, was one of the "engineer-scientists" who Balch dubbed the "three marketeers." Other participated in marketing the MTF/NSTL, but these men were the ones Balch used as his "point" personnel.

49. NASA-NSTL, "Briefing Book, Office of Applications Engineering," 1975. This document describes the AE group during its heyday in the 1975-1976.

50. Daughtrey, interview.

51. J. Edward Snyder, Jr., to Henry F. Auter, 10 May 1976; J. Edward Snyder, Jr., Memorandum for Commanding Officer, Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity, "Flag Raising Ceremony Public Affairs Coordination," 17 May 1976.

52. Ibid.

53. J. Edward Snyder, Jr., to Henry F. Auter, 10 May 1976.

54. Maria Watson, "Research Center May Be Moved From Hancock County," The Daily Herald, April 23 1976. The USGS EROS office worked closely with NASA and several NSTL environmental agencies and EROS onsite. Gary North, a close friend of Jackson Balch, was an early participant in the space-environmental complex. Maria Watson, a trusted and extremely accurate reporter, who covered the Navy relocation story from its very inception and NASA-NSTL employees felt comfortable talking to her. Watson's editors also respected her integrity and accuracy. This story was carried across the top of page one, making it very visible for members of the congressional delegation. News of EROS possibly leaving the site was exactly what Senators Stennis and Lott did not want to read just before a Navy big welcoming ceremony.

55. Maria Watson, "Navy Official Denies Senate Action A Stennis 'Trade-Off'," The Daily Herald, 27 May 1976.

56. Ibid.

57. NASA-NSTL Weekly Bulletin, Bay St. Louis, MS, no. 37, 4 June 1976, SSHCRC.

58. Office of John C. Stennis, "John C. Stennis Biography," ud., SSHCRC; Commissioning Brochure, John C. Stennis CVN-74, SSHCRC; Mack R. Herring, "John C. Stennis, Father of America's Modern Navy," Lagniappe, 9 December 1995.

59. NSTL Weekly Bulletin, 4 June 1976.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid., During his visits, Senator Stennis usually asked members of the SSC staff about the well-being of the Navy personnel. Ms. Myron Webb, SSC public affairs officer, remembers when the senator asked her about the Navy people, and she told him the Navy employees were well-adjusted and happy. The fact that he was influential in effecting the Navy's oceanographic activity relocation to Mississippi, while there were objections to the move, worried Senator Stennis. When he was told most were satisfied, Stennis was pleased the relocation was for the best.

62. A-1 and A-2 Test Stand History, 22 December 1994, pp. 1, 2, SSHCRC.

63. "CSC Assumes NSTL Support," The Sea Coast Echo, 2 September 1976; Gilda Perkins, "Smooth Transition for NSTL Program," The Slidell (LA) Times, 5 September 1976.

64. Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 27 February; NASA Notice, Key Personnel Change, "Jerry Hlass Appointed Manager of National Space Technology Laboratories," 18 August 1976, SSHCRC; Levi J. Odom, interview by Mack Herring, Picayune, MS, 5 March 1996.

65. NASA Headquarters, Key Personnel Change, "Jerry Hlass Appointed Manager of National Space Technology Laboratories," 18 August 1976, SSHCRC; Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 27 February 1996.

66. Ibid., Jerry Hlass told the author, 27 February 1996, that he did survey work as a young engineer in northwest Florida, near Marianna, and helped build a satellite receiving station in North Carolina. In another engineering job, Hlass helped plan and construct shopping centers for a private firm. He also gained experience working for the National Park Service designing facilities throughout the Washington, DC, area. His experience even extended overseas where he worked for the Agency for International Development, building roads for Sudan in Africa. He came to NASA in 1961 as a very experienced engineer. As the NASA Headquarters man in charge of the construction of the MTF, Hlass made many trips to the site during the 1960s. In fact, he was in the area so much, he became well-known by many community business people. The author became acquainted with Hlass while he was at the MTF on these early visits. During the crucial activation period, Hlass helped Heimburg and Artley expedite the preparation of the facilities for testing the S-II Saturn V second stage. The project fell behind schedule because of problems at the plant in Seal Beach, CA, and at the MTF. The awful, record-breaking, rainy weather was the culprit for some of the lost time, but management and technical problems also contributed. At Headquarters, Hlass helped justify additional funds for use in the activation. He assisted the Working Group, Heimburg, and Artley to push the tight schedules. Hlass remembers many of the dedicated personnel involved with the construction and activation, especially Tom Edwards, the right arm of Heimburg and Tessman during the period.

67. Mack Herring, NASA News Release, "Jerry Hlass Appointed Manager Of National Space Technology Laboratories," 18 August 1976, SSHCRC; I. Jerry Hlass, "Search For A Role For A Large Government Test Facility," master's thesis, George Washington University, Washington, DC, June 1971; Jerry Hlass, interview by Henry C.Dethloff, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 437, Stennis Space Center, 18 June 1991, pp. 1-3, SSCHRC; Helen Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 6 March 1996.

68. Ibid.

69. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1996; NSTL Office of Applications Engineering, "Management Review For Jerry Hlass," 27 August 1976.; The Slidell meeting between Hlass and Auter illustrates the thoroughness and dedication of both men. They were concerned about their NASA organization, and the welfare of the NSTL employees.

70. Hlass, interview. Hlass later had his staff and other elements at the NSTL give him individual briefings on their status. He also asked the employees to access the problems facing the organization and their recommendations for solving these issues. Such a management technique, of course, invited participation and a feeling of contribution by the employees.

71. Hlass, interview by Dethloff, pp. 21-23.

72. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1996; Hlass, interview by Dethloff, pp. 36-37.

73. E. S. "Todd" Groo to I. Jerry Hlass, 12 August 1976. Groo's letter combined his congratulations to the newly appointed manager and outlined directions for actions. Top priority in the directions was the need for an "implementation of the roles and responsibilities statement for the NSTL" and the prompt transfer of the people to new NSTL roles.

74. See Chapter 8, "Growing Pains," for account of Senator Allan Ellender's work to get other agencies to come to the MTF and his suggestion for supplemental funds to help the agencies get started. For the best history and explanation of the reimbursable funding situation at the SSC see Hlass's "Management Concept and Structure of the John C. Stennis Space Center, a Multi-agency Federal Laboratory," Chapter II, ud., p. 10; Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976.

75. E.S. Groo to I. Jerry Hlass, 12 August 1976; See Chapter 9 more detailed information on the Navy relocation and the importance of the NSTL assisting the Navy in its move. The importance of keeping strict financial records of the process is also covered in earlier parts of this book.

76. NASA Headquarters, Key Personnel Change; Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976.

77. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976.

78. Jerry Hlass, personal notes, SSCHRC.; Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976.

79. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976; Groo to Hlass, 12 August 1976.

80. Hlass, interview, 27 February 1976; Hlass personal notes.

81. Roy Estess, interview by Dethloff, 22: A.J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., interview by Henry C. Dethloff, Mississippi Oral History Program, University of Southern Mississippi, vol. 386, 4 October 1991, p. 22, SSCHRC.


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