OMB Deputy Director Sean O'Keefe to become new NASA administrator, sources say

Wednesday, November 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and co-author of a recent study highly critical of NASA, will be named the new space agency administrator, sources said Wednesday.

Republican congressional aides said that President Bush planned to name O'Keefe to the NASA job this week and that O'Keefe has told associates of his plans to leave OMB.

O'Keefe was named to the OMB job in February. He played a major role in a recent report analyzing NASA's budget problems, including the agency's announcement that it would have a $4 billion overrun in the construction of the International Space Station.

Last week, O'Keefe told the House Science Committee that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was badly in need of new leadership, although it had been well-served by Daniel Goldin, the outgoing administrator.

``The administration recognizes the importance of getting the right leaders in place as soon as possible and I am personally engaged in making sure that happens,'' O'Keefe said in testimony before the committee.

Goldin announced last month that he would leave NASA at the end of this week after more than nine years as head of the space agency.

A report from a task force led by Thomas Young found that NASA's estimated cost of the International Space Station would reach more than $30 billion and would not be completed before 2006. In 1993, NASA said the station would be completed in 2002 and cost about $17.4 billion.

But O'Keefe, in his testimony about the report, said NASA's cost estimate ``is not credible'' and called for major changes in the design and management of the space station and NASA's human space flight program.

``While unpleasant in the near-term, these reforms are the medicine that will restore NASA's health and produce great benefits to the nation in the long run,'' he said.

O'Keefe served as a security and management expert in the Department of Defense during the administration of former President Bush and received a distinguished public service award from the president and Dick Cheney, who then was secretary of defense.

He has written widely in journals on defense management subjects and has conducted seminars on strategic studies at Oxford University in England.

O'Keefe is a 1977 graduate from Loyola University, New Orleans, and holds an advanced degree from the Maxwell School.