Masters of the Universe? Resource Dependency and Interorganizational Power Relationships at NASAAn earlier version of this paper was presented to the Applied Communication Research Division at the National Communication Association conference, Chicago, IL, 2004.
On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart as it re-entered the atmosphere. Months later, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board determined the immediate cause of the crash, but it also alluded to relationships NASA has with other organizations as being problematic, suggesting that Columbia was a painful symptom of a deeper disease. This paper uses resource dependency theory and structuration theory together to examine NASA's interorganizational network, illustrating that NASA is involved in multiple toxic relationships and that a pattern has developed through NASA miscues in the last 20 years. This case study demonstrates the advantages of using these two theories together, how such integration provides a useful perspective for understanding power and change in interorganizational relationships. The paper also discusses practical suggestions for NASA specifically, but also for others as organizations become more dependent on external stakeholders and interorganizational relationships.