NASA reaches out to Muslims, other federal agencies stick to their day jobs

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The federal employees at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing know darn well why they go to work in the morning.

“Our job is to print currency,” the bureau’s spokeswoman Teresa Dean said when asked if her agency had any plans to follow NASA’s example and begin outreach efforts to the Muslim world. Her abrupt and dead-pan answer was telling.

Translation: No, why on Earth would we, and what kind of question is that?

The federal Risk Management Agency was even more blunt.

“Are you sure you want to talk to us?” a spokesman replied when asked the same question. “We deal with cattle.”

Just like it’s NASA’s job to build rocket ships and explore outer space. That is, if they can get around to it.

In an interview this week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Al Jazeera that his “foremost” mission was to ensure that members of the Muslim world “feel good about their historic contribution to science…and math and engineering.” Of his other duties, Bolden said that President Obama insisted that he commit to inspiring children to excel in math and science education and expand relationships abroad.

What a relief. For all this time, the American people, utter fools that they are, assumed that it was the responsibility of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to work toward the advancement of aeronautics and space exploration.

Given Bolden’s comments, it would only make sense for the heads of the other 1,300 or so federal agencies to have received similar calls of action from the president. In a sweeping declaration, Obama surely demanded that each agency put all other projects on hold and start doing some good-old-fashioned religious outreach and self-esteem boosting.

Hardly any of the federal agencies we spoke to had any plans to reach out to the Muslim world, let alone the slightest clue what we were talking about. (Even the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds?! Yes, we dare admit. Even them.)

Bolden’s comments have ignited a firestorm of right-wing anger, and even drew criticism from former NASA Director Michael Griffin, who scolded the Obama appointee for a mismanagement of priorities.

“NASA … represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity,” Griffin said in an interview with Fox News.

“There is no technology they have that we need,” he added, referring to Muslim countries, a group the current NASA administrator just said could use a self-esteem boost. (So much for winning hearts and minds.)

NASA already has a long way to go if the organization wants to stay relevant as a world leader in space travel. Earlier this year, Obama signed off on a budget plan that would completely scrap funding for NASA’s “Constellation Program,” which was established to put Americans on the Moon and Mars within a generation.

The United States has come a long way since John F. Kennedy’s 1962 call for lunar exploration. Perhaps we are just transitioning from an era that values an American president who envisions a man on the Moon to a leader who settles for dialogue with a half crescent one.

And maybe a star if we’re extra nice about it.

Meaghan Beatley contributed to this report.

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