San Diego Union-Tribune

December 8, 2001

Fiscal watchdog assured NASA job
    Senate panel says new boss must be at his frugal best

By Otto Kreisher 

WASHINGTON -- Sean O'Keefe, President Bush's choice to lead NASA, received assurances of quick confirmation from a Senate committee yesterday.

But O'Keefe was warned that many of NASA's programs,
particularly the international space station, are financially unsupportable and would not be rescued by Congress.

"The bottom line, fiscally, is this: There isn't going to be any massive infusion of new funds for NASA during Mr. O'Keefe's tenure," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in opening the Senate Commerce Committee's confirmation hearing.

Wyden led a dozen other senators in praising O'Keefe and assuring him of confirmation. O'Keefe would replace Daniel Golden, who resigned after nearly 10 years as NASA administrator.

O'Keefe, 45, was Navy secretary for Bush's father and gained a reputation for budget cutting at the Pentagon in the early 1990s under then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

O'Keefe has been Office of Management and Budget deputy director since March.

Wyden said O'Keefe "will bring to the job a reputation as a tough fiscal watchdog. His skills are especially needed at NASA."

Many of the other senators cited the fiscal chaos in the space agency, with massive cost overruns and reported waste in many programs.

Several emphasized the problems with the space station, the cost of which soared from a 1993 NASA estimate of $17.4 billion to current predictions of more than $30 billion for a much reduced program.

"Cost for the horrendously mismanaged international space station have shot out of control, while its capabilities have shrunk. Unless Mr. O'Keefe can get this program back in the box quickly, the space station will use up not only its own allotted resources, but will devour the dollars needed for NASA's other
high-priority missions," Wyden said.