O'Keefe nominated to be NASA administrator

Posted: November 14, 2001

President George Bush announced Wednesday that he has nominated Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to succeed Dan Goldin as administrator of NASA.

Bush made the widely-expected announcement late Wednesday, as part of a statement where he released several other nominations and appointments for non-NASA positions. Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas as part of a summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, made no specific comments about any of the appointments with the media Wednesday.

O'Keefe has been deputy director of OMB since March, having been nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate the previous month. While at OMB he was involved NASA budget issues, including the space station cost overrun. He spoke just one week ago at a hearing of the House Science Committee convened to discuss problems with the ISS program.

In that testimony O'Keefe made it clear that major changes in the management of the ISS program, such as those suggested by an independent committee in a report released earlier this month, were necessary. "The Administration is very proud of the technical accomplishments of this program, as we all should be," he said. "However, technical excellence at any cost is not an acceptable approach."

O'Keefe will bring to the office of NASA administrator expertise less in aerospace and technology issues than financial ones. From 1989 to 1992 he served as the comptroller and chief financial officer of the Defense Department, working under then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, the current Vice President. In the final months of the administration of President George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, O'Keefe was Secretary of the Navy.

O'Keefe worked on Capitol Hill before joining the Defense Department, spending eight years on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including time as staff director of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. After leaving the Defense Department he worked in academia, first as a professor of business administration at Penn State University and later as a professor of business and government policy at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York. O'Keefe has a master's degree in public administration from Syracuse and an undergraduate degree from Loyola University.

Initial reaction to O'Keefe's nomination has been positive. "Mr. O'Keefe is well known to the Committee through his oversight of the space station program at the Office of Management and Budget," said Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX), ranking minority member of the House Science Committee. "We hope that Mr. O'Keefe continues to emphasize the need for NASA to institute more effective management and cost estimation methods in the space station program."

"I look forward to assisting in the transition of my leadership of America's space program to Sean," said Dan Goldin, whose record-breaking tenure as NASA administrator comes to an end Saturday. "The President intends to nominate Sean to what I feel is the best job in the world, leading a team made up of the best people I've had the privilege to know."

O'Keefe's nomination must be approved by the Senate, but since O'Keefe has already gone through the approval process once this year, when named to the OMB post, the Senate confirmation process is expected to be swift. O'Keefe is expected to be sworn in as the new administrator as soon as the end of this month.