One NASA-related highlight of the House Science and Technology Committee hearing that features John Holdren was his statement that a nominee for NASA administrator could be announced “soon”, as he said at one point in response to a question. Later, he said:
I also have some reason for optimism that the President will be nominating a permanent administrator for NASA very shortly, and that that will help put at least that concern to rest, because I think it will be an outstanding person. The President’s concern has been to get the right person for that job. That fact that we don’t have one until now is not for lack of effort.
That may sound promising, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard such statements. Holdren told Nature he hoped to have “a new administrator in place in the next month”—in an interview a little over a month ago, for example. And President Obama himself said he planned to make a pick “soon”—in comments back in March. So initially it was hard to get one’s hopes up too much about this.
But this time the value of “soon” might indeed be measured in days, rather than weeks or months. NBC News reported late this evening that the administration will nominate Charles Bolden after a White House meeting on Monday. (The article says that Bolden will be “appointed”; the position of administrator requires Senate approval, so it would only be a nomination.) The news comes from a source kept anonymous “because there was no official authorization to speak about it publicly”.
If true, though, (and keeping in mind that this is not the first time a nomination was said to be imminent) Bolden would be an interesting choice. After all, Sen. Bill Nelson has been pushing for him since Bolden’s name first surfaced in connection with the job in January, even while the Obama Administration considered other candidates, some of whom were reportedly rejected by Nelson and other members of Congress. Bolden would likely have a smooth, and possibly very rapid, confirmation process in the Senate, barring an unforeseen problem or anonymous hold. However, why would the administration wait until now to nominate Bolden? Had they run out of other potential candidates? Did they strike some kind of understanding with him and/or Nelson? And what does the nomination say—if anything—about the independent review of NASA’s human spaceflight programs led by Norm Augustine that’s starting soon?