It looks like Steve Isakowitz is now out of the running for NASA administrator. President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he has nominated Isakowitz to continue as Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Energy.
Isakowitz joins Scott Gration on the coulda-shoulda-woulda list of possible space agency chiefs. Obama nominated Gration to be his special envoy to the war-torn Sudan earlier this week.
It’s unfortunate that NASA remains without a chief. It seems that in Isakowitz, Obama would have had an administrator with a firm grasp of aerospace, budgetary matters, and how Washington works. His resume is quite impressive:
Steve Isakowitz was sworn in June 1, 2007 as Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Energy after being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. As CFO, Isakowitz plays a vital role in the Departmentâ€™s $24 billion budget that supports important energy, scientific, and national security investments. He has overall responsibility for the Departmentâ€™s financial management, budget formulation and execution, program analysis and evaluation, corporate information systems, cost analysis, and loan guarantee program.
Prior to DOE, Isakowitz held important positions in policy, finance, program management, and engineering. Since 1991, he has led key efforts for the US Government in support of major national goals in research and development, space exploration, and national security.
At the Office of Management and Budget, he supported the White House in overseeing $50 billion in Federal science and technology programs across multiple Federal agencies and led development of major interagency initiatives.
At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he was the Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller responsible for directing the agencyâ€™s $16 billion annual budget, and Deputy Associate Administrator in charge of major space exploration programs.
At the Central Intelligence Agency, he was a senior manager with the Science & Technology Directorate responsible for devising innovative technical projects and addressing high priority issues within the intelligence community.
Previously, Isakowitz was a corporate manager and senior engineer at Lockheed Martin Corporation and a senior consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He is also the recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, a top award for executive performance, and an author of a technical book on space launch vehicles.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Isakowitz graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelorâ€™s and masterâ€™s degree in aerospace engineering. He and his wife, Monica, live in Virginia and have four children.
Opposition on the Isakowitz nomination was apparently led by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, according to an Orlando Sentinel report:
Key to Nelson’s argument wasÂ Isakowitz’ role in the DOEâ€™s decision to pull funding for the FutureGen clean coal plant. The Illinois project was a public-private initiative to build the worldâ€™s first near-zero emissions coal-fueled power plant. But DOE projected that it was way over budget — costs had doubled to $1.8 billion, 70 percent of which would have been paid by taxpayers — and backed out in JanuaryÂ 2008, angering FutureGenâ€™s supporters. During hearings last year, Isakowitz took a lot of flak for the decision.
It was later found out that DOE had made a $500 million “mathematical error” in its calculations used to cancel Future Gen. Senate Democrats saw the mistake as an example of Bush administration “political mathematics” to create an excuse to end the project. Nelson and others said that Isakowitz, as CFO,Â was somehow “complicit” in that.
Other candidates that have been mentioned include Lester Lyles, Charles Bolden and Mae Jemison.
Jeff Foust has more at Space Politics. Jeff also points to this New Republic story which claims that defense industry lobbyists helps to squelch Gration’s dream of running NASA. The story doesn’t say why.