One of the biggest science and technology positions still open in the Obama Administration was filled today when the President announced General Charles Bolden, Jr. (USMC, retired) would be the nominee for NASA Adminstrator (H/T Wall Street Journal and Dynamics of Cats). General Bolden is a former astronaut, and served in NASA as assistant deputy administrator in the early part of the 1990s. Lori Garver, a former NASA official during the Clinton Administration, has been nominated as Deputy Administrator.
Bolden’s name has been bandied about since the beginning of the year, suggesting some reservations in the White House or other space constituencies. Gen. Bolden’s employment by NASA contractors following his astronaut service may have given some quarters pause, particularly when the agency wil be forced to navigate new territory when the Space Shuttle is retired, something supposed to happen next year. As the Obama Administration has instituted an agency review of human spaceflight operations, there will likely be some pressure to change old institutional habits, including relationships with contractors. Ms. Garver’s experience with contractors also suggests potential resistance to change. Since the investments in resources required for what NASA does are large, making big changes requires extra effort. These may not be the right people for making big changes.