Bridenstine’s Nomination Remains in Limbo in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Nearly 15 months into Donald Trump’s term as president, NASA still lacks an administrator as the acting one prepares to retire in just 20 days. Meanwhile, the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has been bogged down in the Senate for more than seven months.

USA Today reports the president is not giving up despite what appear to be long odds.

President Trump remains firmly behind his choice of Oklahoma GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the next administrator of the space agency, even though he does not appear to have the votes for Senate confirmation.

“Senate Democrats should stop their pointless obstruction, and confirm our eminently qualified nominee immediately,” said Lindsay Walters, deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “The President looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine’s swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again.”

Bridenstine’s critics say NASA should be led by a “space professional” rather than a politician, and it’s not just the Senate’s 49 Democrats who are blocking the president’s pick

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also has voiced deep misgivings.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is out of the Senate undergoing cancer treatments. If he were to return and support the nomination, Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot is set to retire on April 30.

Trump Praises NASA, SpaceX in Infrastructure Speech

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President Donald Trump praised NASA and SpaceX during an appearance to tout his infrastructure program in Richfield, Ohio on Thursday. The specific launch he mentions appears to the Falcon Heavy flight that occurred seven weeks ago.

“We must recapture the excitement of creation, the spirit of innovation, and the spark of invention. We’re starting. You saw the rocket the other day. You see what’s going on with cars. You see what’s going on with so much. NASA, space agency, all of a sudden, it’s back. You notice? It was dormant for many, many years. Now it’s back, and we’re trying to have the private sector invest the money. Why the hell should we do it? Right. Let them invest. If they want to send rocket ships up, they’re rich, let them do it. (Laughter.)

“When I looked at the rocket that went up three weeks ago, where the tanks came back — nobody has ever seen; it looks like Star Wars. But I looked at it and I heard the cost — I think they said $85 million. If the government did that, you’re talking about billions of dollars, and maybe it wouldn’t work so well.

“But I thought it was fantastic thing. But we’re working with the private sector and NASA. And we’re doing a great job. We’ve made so much progress in the last year. Don’t forget it’s just been a little more than a year. But we’ve made so much progress and other people are putting up a lot of money.

“They’re using our facilities. I feel like a landlord again. (Laughter.) We’re leasing them facilities. Not so bad. Not a bad idea. And they’re doing a great job. America is a nation, like you, of builders. It’s a nation of pioneers. A nation that accepts no limits, no hardship, and never, ever gives up. We don’t give up. We don’t give up. (Applause.)”

Read the full speech.

Report: Trump “Obsessed” with Amazon, Bezos

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

While Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have been the crosshairs lately, President Donald Trump is reportedly obsessed with Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos.

What we’re hearing: Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment because he’s worried about mom-and-pop retailers being put out of business.

A source who’s spoken to POTUS: “He’s wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law.”

Trump’s deep-seated antipathy toward Amazon surfaces when discussing tax policy and antitrust cases. The president would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos’ wings. But he doesn’t have a plan to make that happen.

Behind the president’s thinking: Trump’s wealthy friends tell him Amazon is destroying their businesses. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.

Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post — which has been critical of Trump — is not helping matters any.

Trump Administration Unveils America First National Space Strategy

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)

White House Policy Statement

“Our travels beyond the Earth propel scientific discoveries that improve our lives in countless ways here, right here, at home: powering vast new industry, spurring incredible new technology, and providing the space security we need to protect the American people.”

— President Donald J. Trump

AMERICA FIRST AMONG THE STARS: President Trump’s National Space Strategy works within his broader national security policy by putting America’s interests first.

  • The Trump administration’s National Space Strategy prioritizes American interests first and foremost, ensuring a strategy that will make America strong, competitive, and great.
  • The new strategy emphasizes dynamic and cooperative interplay between the national security, commercial, and civil space sectors.
    • The United States will partner with the commercial sector to ensure that American companies remain world leaders in space technology.
  • The new strategy ensures that international agreements put the interests of American people, workers, and businesses first.
  • The National Space Strategy prioritizes regulatory reforms that will unshackle American industry and ensure we remain the leading global provider of space services and technology.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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Congressmen Urge Senators to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

A group of 61 House members has sent a letter to the Senate urging the body to approve the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as the next administrator of NASA.

“As the Congressman from the 1st District of Oklahoma, Jim has been an active member of the House Space Subcommittee, distinguishing himself as one of the most engaged, passionate, and knowledgeable members of the Subcommittee,” the letter states. “In 2015, SpaceNews named him one of “five space leaders in the world making a difference in space.” He authored several provisions in the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act and co-authored the bipartisan American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act.”

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Senate Approves NASA CFO

Jeffrey DeWit (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to run NASA might still be in limbo, but the Senate did accomplish something involving the space agency: confirming Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the chief financial officer (CFO).

“It is encouraging to see more members of the agency’s leadership team being named,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. “Jeff’s solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation’s aeronautic and exploration initiatives.”

DeWit formerly serves as state treasurer of Arizona and chairman of the Arizona State Board of Investments. He was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014, and he said he did not plan to run for reelection this year.

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House Space Subcommittee Members Criticize Inaction on Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Members of the House Space Subcommittee were none-too-pleased on Wednesday when Robert Lightfoot showed up to testify about NASA’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

It had nothing to do with Lightfoot, whom members praised effusively for the job he’s done as acting administrator over the past 13 months. Lightfoot, a career civil servant, took over after Charles Bolden resigned as the President Barack Obama ended his term.

Instead, their anger was focused on the Senate, which has yet to take action on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA’s administrator six months after President Donald Trump nominated him.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s Proposed Human Exploration Plan

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would launch the first element of a human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in 2022 under a proposed exploration plan that would make use of commercial and international partnerships.

A power and propulsion module would be followed soon afterward by habitation, airlock, and logistics modules. The gateway would serve as a base for astronauts to explore the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 lifted off from the surface in 1972.

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A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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Bridenstine Nomination to Run NASA Remains Blocked in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Bloomberg has an update on the impasse in the Senate over the Trump Administration’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator.

Bridenstine has been blocked by all 49 Senate Democrats. Florida’s Congressional delegation enjoys an outsized influence on NASA because of Cape Canaveral, and Senator Bill Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, isn’t a Bridenstine fan. His colleague Marco Rubio, the junior senator for the Sunshine State and a Republican, doesn’t want Bridenstine, either. With fellow Republican John McCain of Arizona absent for cancer treatment, that leaves confirmation 50-49 against….

Beyond [Acting Administrator Robert] Lightfoot, the lack of movement on Capitol Hill effectively leaves NASA leadership to Scott Pace, executive director of the National Space Council, which [Donald] Trump revived last summer. The council has taken a direct role in overseeing NASA’s priorities, including the administration’s 2017 directive to return astronauts to the moon, but doesn’t have the same hands-on role an administrator would. Bridenstine has attended both National Space Council meetings, in October and last month, but only as an observer.

Rubio has argued that the NASA post shouldn’t be occupied by a politician, particularly one with stridently partisan positions. “It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics, and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” he told Politico in September.

Bridenstine, a member of the highly conservative House Freedom Caucus, has drawn Democratic opposition for his views on gay marriage and abortion rights, as well as past statements dismissing climate change. And he may have rubbed Republican Rubio, and possibly McCain, the wrong way on account of his past support for their primary opponents.

In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot with an interest in space issues, produced several advertisements supporting Texas Senator Ted Cruz in his failed quest for the Republican nomination. Those ads criticized Rubio, also a candidate, for his position on immigration and attacks on Cruz. Rubio has reportedly denied a connection between Bridenstine’s past barbs and his opposition to the NASA nomination. Bridenstine also supported McCain’s Republican rival, Kelli Ward, in a fierce 2016 primary campaign that McCain eventually won.

Read the full story.

Report: Nield Departure from FAA Linked to Space Deregulation Push

FAA AST’s George Nield

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.

But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.

The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.

Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.

Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.

Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.

Read the full story.

Senate Commerce Committee to Vote on NASA CFO Nominee; Bridenstine’s Nomination Remains in Limbo

Jeffrey DeWit (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

UPDATE: DeWit’s nomination is no longer on the schedule. His nomination does not actually require committee approval.

The Senate Commerce Committee will consider the nomination of the former CFO and COO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to become NASA CFO on Wednesday.

Jeffrey DeWit currently serves as state treasurer of Arizona and chairman of the Arizona State Board of Investments. He was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014, and he said he did not plan to run for reelection this year.

If approved by the Commerce Committee, DeWit’s nomination would be sent to the full Senate for a vote.

In January 2016, Trump named him campaign chairman for Arizona. At the end of July, DeWit became COO of the national campaign.

The Trump campaign said DeWit would “focus on the operational aspects of the campaign including budgetary and logistical matters. He will create operational efficiencies as the campaign moves into the general election phase.”

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Sens. Cruz & Nelson Criticize Plan to End ISS Financial Support

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

Senators express concerns over proposed cuts to the International Space Station
in letters to Director Mulvaney, Acting NASA Administrator Lightfoot

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sens. Ted Cruz & Bill Nelson PR) – Last week, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competiveness, and the ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent the following oversight letters to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. In the letters, the Senators expressed their concerns with the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA, which proposes ending direct U.S. Government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025.

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