The Orlando Sentinel reported this afternoon that NASA administrator Mike Griffin is planning on leaving office on January 20, on the assumption that his resignation will be accepted by the new Obama Administration when it takes office that day, along with other Bush Administration political appointees. How serious is he planning his departure? He “has already started taking stuff out of his office back to his house,” the Sentinel reported. Recent efforts by some to lobby to keep Griffin has backfired, sources tell the paper, as even backers of keeping Griffin temporarily, like Sen. Bill Nelson, “saw the lobbying as craven”.
Griffin would be replaced, on an interim basis, by current associate administrator Chris Scolese. (Recall that the agency’s current No. 2, deputy administrator Shana Dale, already announced her plans to resign on January 17.) As for a permanent replacement, the Sentinel claims that former astronaut Charlie Bolden “stands out above the rest” of the candidates, although doesn’t specify why Bolden is the frontrunner. Other candidates included in the report include Scott Hubbard, Sally Ride, Wes Huntress, and Alan Stern. Lori Garver, currently heading the transition team, would be in line to succeed Dale as deputy administrator.
If Bolden is a leading candidate to succeed Griffin, though, he hasn’t been informed. This afternoon Bolden participated in a live video chat organized by the Conrad Foundation. During the chat, someone asked him to comment on the report. “The only comment on that story I can offer you is that nobody has talked to me in an official capacity,” he responded. “I have not visited with the transition team or anybody from the Obama administration. I’m incredibly honored that my name would be floated around but those are things I haven’t been approached about yet so I can’t offer you an opinion or anything.”
One other tidbit missed in the Sentinel report: back in early 2002 Bolden was nominated to become deputy administrator shortly after Sean O’Keefe took over as administrator. That nomination was later withdrawn, though, after Congressional concerns about having an active-duty military officer (Bolden was a major general in the Marines at the time, having returned to the service after leaving the astronaut corps in the mid-90s) serving at NASA while the nation was at war. Fred Gregory became deputy administrator instead, and Bolden retired from the Marines a couple years later.
Also: NBC News is reporting that Bolden is a “lead candidate” to succeed Griffin and adds, through a spokesman, that Sen. Nelson considers Bolden a “top-notch individual”.