NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the merger of the space agency’s Office of Strategic Engagements and Assessments and the Office of the Chief Technologist, resulting in the creation of the new Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS), in support of the Biden-Harris Administration priorities and focus on space strategy.

Along with the internal merger, the agency also appointed new leadership positions.

“As we continue to push the boundaries of exploration, OTPS and these leadership positions will ensure our cutting-edge technology, strategy, and policy shape our agency’s success. We also are increasing our analysis and guidance on geopolitical issues and risks that NASA, or the space industry, may be facing,” Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, said in a press release.

Dr. Bhavya Lal, a Biden political appointee who has held several positions at NASA since January of this year, is taking on a new role as the head of OTPS and will also serve as the agency’s acting chief technologist. As the lead for the organization, Lal brings her extensive experience and background in space technology, exploration, science, and policy.

A NASA statement defines OTPS’s role as providing “data- and evidence-driven technology, policy, and strategy advice to NASA leadership.”

In addition to Lal’s new role, NASA appointed several other individuals to leadership positions, effective immediately.

The agency’s former chief technologist, Douglas Terrier, has been reassigned as the associate director for vision and strategy at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. In his new role, Terrier will lead the strategy, creation, integration, and overall execution of the center’s ongoing transformation initiatives for policies, plans, and processes.

Melanie Saunders was appointed the new chief resilience officer. She will serve the agency’s coronavirus response, including integrating NASA’s Future of Work program as it ties explicitly to the pandemic.

Tom Cremins was appointed associate administrator for space security interests. He will provide a broad security focus on NASA’s civil space efforts within the larger national and global environment.

Casey Swails will serve as deputy associate administrator for business operations. In this role, Swails will lead and facilitate the integration of mission support functions across the agency, build and advance NASA’s industry partnerships, and act as the principal advisor to NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana.

“These leadership roles are critical for both sustaining and advancing NASA’s missions, and this team will guide us on our significant work ahead as we continue to take care of our people, advance our technologies, make our skies safer, enable groundbreaking scientific discoveries, protect our home planet, and push humanity’s exploration farther into the solar system than ever before,” Nelson said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.