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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

An Independent Review of Foreign National Access Management for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Over the last year, security incidents involving foreign nationals at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) research Centers have drawn the attention of the NASA Administrator and other agency leaders, Congress, and the media. Recognizing the growing threat of cyber-attacks and espionage aimed at government agencies by hostile nation-states and foreign adversaries, NASA asked the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct this review of its foreign national management processes.

Having a well-run Foreign National Access Management (FNAM) program is in the best interests of NASA, both in terms of protecting vital U.S. security and proprietary information, as well as capitalizing on the talents of foreign nationals. This Academy review examined the Agency’s entire FNAM process from the initial request from a requestor or sponsor through foreign national vetting, credentialing, information technology security, counterintelligence, hosting and escort procedures, and export controls.

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Key Findings

To build on NASA’s goals, the Academy formed a five-member Panel of Fellows chaired by Dick Thornburg to conduct this seven-month independent review. The Panel believes there are a number of important steps the Agency can take to improve FNAM and has proposed twenty-seven recommendations.


The most significant areas of improvement are:

  1. Managing Foreign National Access Management as a Program
  2. Reducing the flexibility given to Centers to interpret FNAM requirements
  3. Determining critical assets and building mechanisms to protect them
  4. Correcting longstanding information technology security issues
  5. Changing several aspects of NASA culture
  6. Communicating the importance of these changes clearly, firmly and consistently

Study Fellows