SELDP Assignments to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Because of its special status, the JPL may have access to proprietary information to which NASA has no right of access. The JPL has privacy rights similar to those of any contractor. Because of the possible ethics issues that might arise in the course of an assignment of a NASA civil servant to the JPL, special arrangements have been made by the SELDP program. These arrangements were created through the work of the NASA office of the General Counsel at NASA headquarters, the chief counsel of the NASA Management Office (NMO), and attorneys for Caltech.
While the nature of the ethical issues themselves is beyond the scope of this paragraph, it forms the basis of a special written agreement between NASA and Caltech and of a special ethics briefing that each SELDP participant who is detailed to the NASA JPL must obtain. Questions about specific ethical issues should be brought to an ethics officer (attorney) at any of the NASA centers, the JPL NMO, or the Office of the General Counsel at NASA Headquarters.
Specific procedures for SELDP participants assigned to the NASA JPL are outlined below. There are no special requirements, except for the normal SELDP program requirements, for JPL employees who are assigned by the SELDP to NASA centers.
NASA civil servants who are assigned to the JPL by the SELDP must prepare two documents in addition to the documentation that is required of all participants:
- The SELDP participants assigned to JPL must complete the document entitled Memorandum of Understanding for Temporary Assignment at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA Employee Under NASA’s Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program. Completion of this document entails filling in the blanks labeled in all-caps according to the specific details of the temporary assignment. After this document is returned to the SELDP staff, the document will be signed by officials from NASA and Caltech. The participant does not sign this document. While the preparation of the document is very straightforward, please refer to the "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) below to see questions that have been raised by previous participants.
- The second document is entitled NASA SELDP Ethics Statement and must be signed by the participant. The ethics statement is a promise by the participant to obtain an ethics briefing from an ethics officer at the participant’s home Center with participation from the Chief Counsel's office at the JPL NMO. Both documents should be returned to SELDP staff when complete.
Instructions for completing the form entitled "Memorandum of Understanding for Temporary Assignment at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA Employee Under NASA's Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program" are given below. The MOU form has been designed to allow you to "fill in the blanks" in a simple, intuitive manner. Questions that were asked by previous SELDP program participants were recorded as a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and are listed below. The FAQs are expected to be updated each year as a result of new inputs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Q: Does "LENGTH OF ASSIGNMENT" include the time needed for travel and transportation of personal belongings and family members to and from the duty station?
A: Yes. The length of assignment should be designed to encompass all SELDP program activities that are directly related to the new work assignment.
- Q: Does "LOCATION WHERE THE NASA EMPLOYEE WILL WORK" always mean "NASA JPL, Pasadena, CA?"
A: No. In cases where the job assignment requires one or more duty stations instead of, or in addition to, the JPL, list each of the duty stations.
- Q: What level of detail is expected for "NAME OF INTERNAL ORGANIZATION WITHIN JPL WHERE THE NASA EMPLOYEE WILL WORK AND A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE NASA EMPLOYEE’S JOB ASSIGNMENT"?
A: You should write a paragraph that includes the name of the project, the name of the JPL project organization, the job title(s), and a reference to any known products.
- Q: What are the "important" parts of this MOU, or to what should I give the most attention?
A: These questions will be answered during an ethics briefing that you will schedule with the ethics official from your home center. That ethics officer, in cooperation with the JPL NMO Chief Counsel, will explain the agreement and answer all your questions prior to your beginning the assignment at JPL.
- Q: Is there anyone that I need to contact when I arrive at JPL to begin the assignment?
A. In addition to meeting with the JPL SELDP Advocate, you should visit the NMO Chief Counsel's office and meet the staff. You should ask the staff how to obtain your copy of the "rules and policies that govern the internal operations and management of Caltech/JPL that is referenced in the MOU.
- Q: What if I have other questions?
A: Feel free to contact the SELDP staff with any questions.