O'Keefe picked for NASA post

Sean O'Keefe, who helped craft the Bush administration's management and technology agenda, has been tapped as the next administrator of NASA.

President Bush late today stated his intent to nominate O'Keefe, the current deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, for the NASA post. The move came as a surprise to some in government and industry who closely follow OMB.

"My guess is that they wanted someone that they could get over there fairly quickly," said Barry White, director of government performance projects at the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government. "Getting through the confirmation process is no small matter, and since O'Keefe has already been confirmed [as OMB deputy director], it should be relatively easy getting him over to NASA without a lot of delay."

Although Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government, has been calling the shots on technology issues, O'Keefe's departure is likely to leave a gap at OMB, where he has been spearheading new initiatives.

"A great deal of the president's efforts with the agencies is around the management agenda, and Sean has been a driver in all that," White said.

Dave Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), said O'Keefe has served a central role in "promoting cross-government initiatives, initiatives that Rep. Davis believes are crucial to the efficient running of the federal government.

"Davis has long been concerned that OMB is more 'B' than 'M.' Certainly, Sean O'Keefe's departure makes that shortcoming even more dire," Marin said. Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

As deputy director, O'Keefe is the second-in-command at OMB. He has been spending much of his time promoting the president's management reform agenda and handling the management and information technology issues that normally fall under the responsibility of the deputy director for management — a position for which Bush still seeks a nominee.

O'Keefe, who has no background in space issues, is expected to replace Daniel Goldin, NASA administrator for nearly 10 years. During his tenure, Goldin initiated a revolution to transform the United States' aeronautics and space program. Despite lower budgets, his "faster, better, cheaper" approach enabled NASA to deliver programs of high value without sacrificing safety.

O'Keefe had been part of the Defense Department management team when Vice President Dick Cheney was secretary under the former President Bush — first in 1989 as DOD comptroller and later in 1992 as Navy secretary. Before that, he served as staff director and professional staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee.

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