Key U.S. Senator Cautions Obama on NASA Pick

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who chairs a key NASA oversight panel, is cautioning President-elect Barack Obama to avoid selecting a space agency chief who lacks NASA experience.

Obama’s choice for NASA administrator, according to a source briefed on the selection, is retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan Scott Gration, a decorated fighter pilot who is a virtual unknown in the space community.

Nelson, asked to comment on the prospect of Gration leading the space agency, referred to the tenure of former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, who had no direct space experience before moving to NASA from the White House Office of Management and Budget in 2002. O’Keefe was appointed by President George W. Bush, who leaves office Jan. 20.

“I think President Bush made a mistake when he appointed someone without NASA experience in Sean O’Keefe to head the agency. I hope President Obama’s pick will have that kind of [NASA] background,” Nelson said today through his spokesman, Dan McLaughlin.

Nelson, as chairman of the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee, would play a lead role in confirming Obama’s choice for NASA.

Gration held senior policy positions in the military prior to his 2006 retirement from the Air Force. He lacks space-related experience aside from a one-year stint in 1982 and 1983 as a White House Fellow working for NASA’s deputy administrator at the time, Hans Mark.
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Michael Griffin has stepped down, and the hunt for a new NASA administrator has been on going for a while now. I’m curious to see who Obama picks…

The good thing is that he can only caution him