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Remarks by Vice President Pence at Swearing-In Ceremony of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Call to the International Space Station

Status Report From: White House
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Remarks by Vice President Pence at Swearing-In Ceremony of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Call to the International Space Station

NASA Headquarters
James E. Webb Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

2:41 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon. It is a great honor to join all of you here today at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and via NASA TV to be able to speak to Team NASA all across the United States of America.

It is a great privilege for me to be here today to be able to usher in, on behalf of the President of the United States, what we believe is a new chapter of renewed American leadership in space with the swearing-in of the newest Administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine. (Applause.)

Let me thank a few people who are here, bring a few reflections, and then we'll get down to business because I know that's what NASA is all about — not wasting a lot of time but getting a lot done and getting it done quickly and efficiently.

First and foremost, I want to thank several of our honored guests who are here. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, thank you for your great leadership on behalf of space and for being with us here today. (Applause.)

I also want to recognize the Bridenstine family that's with us today. You'll see a little bit more of them in a few minutes. But Jim's long and distinguished career in uniform and in public service would not have been possible without the dedication of his wonderful family — his wife, Michelle, and their three children, Walker, and Sarah, and Grant. We are honored to have you with us there today. (Applause.)

And to all of our distinguished guests, it's a great privilege to be here at the James E. Webb Auditorium and to also be joined by the men and women of NASA of this facility and all of those scattered across the 20 centers and facilities in 13 states and two foreign countries. Thank you all for your time and your attention to this important moment in the life of this agency and in the life our nation.

And first and foremost, I want to bring greetings from a great champion of American leadership, a champion of the pioneering work of NASA, and a man who is absolutely committed to renewing American leadership in the boundless expanse of space. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

Since the very first day of our administration, President Trump has been keeping his promise to restore America's proud legacy and leadership in space.

Last year, after it had lain dormant for nearly a quarter of a century, President Trump kept a promise that he made in the course of the campaign and relaunched the National Space Council. And it is my great honor, as Vice President of the United States, to serve as the Chairman of the newly renewed National Space Council. And we've been busy and hard at work. (Applause.)

Last December, President Trump also signed the first set of the National Space Council's recommendations. Under Space Policy Directive-1, we will send American astronauts back to the moon. And after that, we will establish the capacity, with international and commercial partners, to send Americans to Mars. And NASA will lead the way. (Applause.)

But today marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for this storied agency, because President Trump has chosen a distinguished leader to serve as Administrator of NASA in this new era of human space exploration: the honorable Jim Bridenstine.

This year marks NASA's 60th anniversary. And as President Trump said just over one year ago, before signing the first NASA Authorization Act in seven years, in his words, for the past six decades, "NASA's work has inspired millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on Earth."

For my part, I've seen the importance of your work firsthand. I've traveled on the President's behalf to meet with the men and women of NASA at Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers, and at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

I was also inspired to meet the newest class of astronauts not too many long ago — men and women who embody the courage and pioneering spirit that has always defined this country and will continue to spur our nation on to break new barriers, set new records, and carry America to even greater heights.

The work that NASA does every day is essential also to America's national security. It's essential to our prosperity. And in a very real sense — as President Trump knows well — the work of NASA speaks to the very character of our nation. No matter what role you play in this great organization, you can be assured you have an advocate, and an ally, and a champion in President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

The budget the President advocated for and signed last month demonstrates our administration's commitment to ensure that you have the resources and support you need to continue to advance American leadership in space.

But as all of you here at NASA and around the country understand very well, mission success depends on more than just resources alone. It requires leadership. You need clear, ambitious goals. But you also need proven leaders who can implement a practical plan and achieve it.

You need schedules that are realistic, but driven by the same sense of urgency that's spurred history's greatest pioneers and explorers, and a constancy of purpose that will sustain your work through triumphs, and tragedies, and through transitions. That's exactly the kind of leadership that you will have, starting today, with NASA's new Administrator, Jim Bridenstine. (Applause.)

Let me also, at Jim's urging, acknowledge someone else I just swore in a few minutes ago. A man who brings an extraordinary background in public service and private life, who also joins us here today with his wonderful family, the new Chief Financial Officer of NASA, Jeff DeWit is with us today. Thanks for stepping up. (Applause.)

But about our new Administrator, it's a great joy to be with you today. Following in the tradition of the leader who is memorialized by this — the name on this auditorium, the great James Webb — Jim Bridenstine comes from a distinguished career in the military, in public service, in management, and in business. And he will bring that full range of experience, as well as character, to his new role leading this vital agency.

Jim Bridenstine began his career as a naval aviator, flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln where he performed combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the course of his distinguished service, Jim gathered 1,900 flight hours and executed more than 300 carrier arrested landings. An extraordinary accomplishment.

He went on to fly the F-18 Hornet at the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center. And after nine years of active duty, he served as the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.

But that didn't stop him from continuing to serve in uniform. In 2012, he was promoted Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy Reserve, while flying missions to combat drug trafficking in Central and South America.

For the past six years, Jim has spent more time here in Washington, D.C. than he had in his prior life. He's represented the people of Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives with distinction, where he served on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. And Jim Bridenstine played a lead role in authoring the American Space Renaissance Act, and earned a reputation, quite frankly, as one of Congress's most dedicated champions of American space leadership.

Now, that's not surprising, though, given Jim's reputation for educational excellence as well. He actually triple majored as an undergraduate at Rice University — triple majored — (applause) — and earned his MBA at Cornell University.

Jim's professional experiences, as well, will contribute to his ability to lead the extraordinary efforts of this agency. From real estate and ranching, to public policy, they've given him the kind of outstanding managerial skills that made James Webb such a successful manager of NASA. And we know, will lead to a great success — a great success under the administration of Jim Bridenstine.

Above all, Jim brings to this position an unrivaled passion for America's space program; an unwavering respect for the more than 18,000 scientists, engineers, astronauts, lawyers, contract officers, analysts, security personnel of this great organization — men and women who each and every day make NASA the extraordinary institution that it is, cherished by everyone who carries the name, "American." Jim Bridenstine understands the words of NASA's vision to "reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of" mankind.

Jim, President Trump and I are absolutely confident that with your background in military service, with your understanding of public policy, with your experience in management and with your love for American leadership in space, that you will bring all of those qualities to bear, along with your character, on a new chapter of renewed American leadership in space as the newest Administrator of NASA.

And so, on behalf of President Trump, it's my great privilege to administer to you the oath of office. If your family would like to join us up on stage, we'll do that now.

MR. BRIDENSTINE: Thank you.

(The oath of office is administered.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Congratulations.

ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: Thank you. (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege for me to introduce to you the new Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jim Bridenstine. (Applause.)

ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you for those exceptionally kind remarks. Thank you, also, to you and the President, and for what you are doing to ensure that the United States of America remains the preeminent space-bearing nation in the world.

In these last few days, I have heard numerous times, "Welcome to the NASA family." I will tell you it truly does feel like a family here, and I am very humbled to be a part of it.

Speaking of family, this is really only possible because of my family: my wife, Michelle, my children, Walker, Sarah, and Grant. They have all been so supportive in all that I do, and I am thrilled that you guys are here with me today. Thank you. (Applause.)

Thank you also to my congressional staff who have spent an inordinate amount of time and work helping me develop and promote our space policy objectives in Congress. They, along with the NASA political staff, have supported me throughout the confirmation process and ensured that I was as prepared as possible every step along the way.

I would not be here without the time, education, and support of stakeholders across the entire space community, from industry to academia and government. All of you have been great partners and have been immensely helpful and invaluable resources for me and my team.

To my friends in Congress: Chairman Ted Cruz, thank you for all the help you have provided. I'd also like to thank Chairman Smith and Chairman Babin and Ranking Member Perlmutter. Your friendship has been invaluable and your bipartisan — that's important in space — it's been very bipartisan — your bipartisan leadership has been critical to our country. I am excited to continue working with you in this new role.

I also want to thank Robert Lightfoot for his strong leadership as the Acting Administrator during a time of transition and for his decades of service to NASA and to our great country. (Applause.)

His legacy is one of commitment to our mission and leadership in all capacities. NASA has a history of great leaders, from the early days of Hugh Dryden and James Webb, to our most recent leaders, Sean O'Keefe, Michael Griffin, and Charlie Bolden. I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities as we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.

NASA represents what is best about the United States of America. We lead, we discover, we pioneer, and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

MS. WANG: ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us? (Laughter.) ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us? It is 220 million miles away. ISS? This is headquarters. How do you hear us? I'm being told in my ear that we're connecting through Johnson Space Center right now.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did you pay the bill? (Laughter.)

MS. WANG: ISS, this is headquarters. How do you hear us?

MR. TINGLE: This is crew of Expedition 55 onboard ISS. We hear you loud and clear. And a hearty congratulations to our new administrator. Congratulations on your selection to lead NASA as you report to duty.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Bridenstine, welcome onboard the International Space Station.

ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: Well, thank you. (Applause.) In case you didn't know, you got a really loud ovation here on Earth. So thank you for what you're doing for our country. Thank you for congratulating me. We have a really special guest here today. He's the Vice President of the United States, and I think he might have maybe a few thoughts for you and maybe a few questions. So I'm going to turn the mic over to the Vice President.

MR. TINGLE: Sounds great. Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. The Administrator and I are delighted that you'd help us make this occasion special. Been a long day for you all, but it's an honor to be able to speak with each one of you. And let me just say hello to the International Space Station. To Andrew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Scott Tingle, on behalf of President Donald Trump and a proud nation, thank you for your service in space. (Applause.)

MR. TINGLE: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. It's truly an honor to serve in such a great capacity at the leading edge of human space flight. And we're honored to have this meeting with all of you today.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we appreciate you men, not only your courageous service in space but also helping to make this a special occasion. As you all know, we now have a new administrator at NASA. But a year ago, President Trump relaunched the National Space Council, and our administration is going to continue to work to ensure that the United States continues to lead in space. You are all a part of that today, but I know how proud you are to know that your nation is once again stepping forward to lead in space, and particularly to lead in human exploration. But I thank you for being part of a vanguard of space in this day. And you have our prayers and our gratitude.

They did tell me I could ask a couple of questions of you while we have the connection. Andrew and Ricky, I understand you two are space veterans. Could you maybe reflect on how you've seen our space capabilities change over the course of your career?

MR. FEUSTEL: Certainly can. And again, welcome to the Space Station. It's a privilege for us to speak with you both today and the rest of the folks at headquarters. For myself, as an astronaut for the last 18 years, I've seen us progress from the days of shuttle and the retirement of that spacecraft, and embarking on a new endeavor after we had completed the space station now, to move into commercial crew opportunities, and also with NASA's development of the Orion spacecraft that we hope will take us off to distant destinations beginning, we hope, with the moon, and eventually onto Mars and wherever that might lead us.

But we're really excited about that and happy to have seen the shuttle do the work that it did. It was a magnificent spacecraft, and we certainly wouldn't have the International Space Station without it. But we're happy and excited to continue to move on with our capability.

MR. ARNOLD: Good afternoon, it's great to be here with you today. Again, congratulations. I'll just tack onto what Drew said. We have the distinct privilege of help building the International Space Station. And now for us to live up here with an international community at the leading edge of science and laying the groundwork in preparation for exploration, it's just an absolute thrill to have that opportunity to live and work here with the crew that we're here with.

THE VICE PRESDIENT: How about a big round of applause for Andrew and Ricky, these great space veterans. (Applause.) These are extraordinary Americans. Thank you both.

And, Scott, I'm jealous of all three of you, to be quite honest about it. But, Scott, this is your first space mission. Can you reflect on your training? What's been the greatest challenge living and working in space for those that are looking on?

MR. TINGLE: Well, the training was fantastic. You know, we have a lot of great folks that put their heart and soul into this back at home in all of the centers, as well as in our international partners.

The team will water your eyes if you go through the process and watch the process work on yourself as you go through the training. By the time you get to the end of training, you feel so ready to go that you're just — you're not even afraid, you're not anxious, you're not anything. It's just you want to go do the job. And when we got up here, everything clicked. Everything clicked in really well and fit into the right spots. So a lot of great things to say about our training team back at home.

THE VICE PRESDIENT: Oh, that's great. I know they appreciate hearing that. But why don't we give Scott a round of applause too? First timer. (Applause.) Well done, Scott. Well said.

This would be for the whole team. You know, the President has signed his first space policy directive that we're going to renew America's commitment to human space exploration, starting with the moon on to Mars. Any one of you can take this one. The work you're doing on the International Space Station, the experiments, can you reflect on how that's going to contribute to our ability to carry missions to the moon and to Mars?

MR. TINGLE: Well, one of the most important things we're doing is an experiment called AMS, and it's a spectrometer that we're measuring anti-matter, trying to find evidence of anti-matter. But we're also looking at radiation. And the radiation problem is one of the biggest problems that we have to solve if we want to have a more robust presence in space. We have to learn how to send our people long duration, long distances in space, and protect them from the intense radiation that they will have to live in and work in for that.

And so that's one of the experiments that we're doing that I think is very important to our future endeavors towards Mars.

MR. FEUSTEL: I think what's been really encouraging to me is to see the science that we're doing up here that gives us the ability to monitor the Earth and what's going on down beneath us.

I think it's important as a species that we develop the capability to live off of the planet because we know that there are challenges on Earth, and we also know that single-planet species don't last forever, and the dinosaurs are evidence of that. So changes might be far off for us. In fact, catastrophic changes may be far off, or they might be tomorrow depending on what else is out there lurking in space that could collide with the planet or cause other challenges for us.

So I think it's important as humans to understand what's happening to the Earth, and this is a great platform to do that. And our ability to start into exploration will give us opportunities to live and work in space, and provide capability for us to be not a single-planet species.

MR. ARNOLD: The International Space Station, I really believe, is a beacon of hope, of what humans can accomplish when they put aside their differences and work together for the common good. And so I'd like to think that the groundwork we've laid here by the construction of the International Space Station, the science we're doing together, and just the work and trust we're building with one another, that we are laying the foundation for a robust human presence in the solar system. And I'm encouraged to hear that the United States is going to lead that effort.

And what we're doing here with our international partners — we're showing what we're capable of as a species. And I look forward to watching the next generation pick up the torch and carry it for us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to give the Administrator the last word here, but I am — I'm actually told, Andrew, that you're a fan of the Indianapolis 500-mile race?

MR. FEUSTEL: There aren't not many racing vehicles that I am not a fan of. But, yeah, I've been watching races every weekend, getting some great shots from up above, and folks can look forward to another one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway here coming up in a couple of weeks.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll tell you what, Andrew, I know that all those racecar drivers would be a little jealous of the speed that you're lapping right now. (Laughter.) So I share your passion for motorsports, especially the Indy 500. Had to make that connection.

Listen, I'm going hand it back to our new Administrator. I think we're about down to our time. I know it's late in the evening for all of you. I thought I would give him the last word.

But I hope all of you, even from the International Space Station, can see that in President Donald Trump, America is leading in space once again. We have a President that is absolutely determined to build on all of the extraordinary work of the past six decades of NASA and make that just a preamble to great, great American leadership in the cosmos.

So God bless you. Godspeed. And thank you for your courageous service in space. It's an honor to be with you all. Here is the Administrator for the last word. (Applause.)

MR. TINGLE: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: Well, thank you so much, Mr. Vice President. Since you were able to plug Indianapolis, I'm going to go ahead and plug the great city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. All of the truss structures on that International Space Station were built in my hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Applause.) So we're — I like to say we have maybe a little more speed than the Indianapolis 500.

But it's an honor to have you here today. We are down to our remaining two minutes. I just wanted to say, America loves what you guys are doing; that we are thrilled for your levels of education, your commitment to the program, your commitment to our country. And we're thrilled that you were able to join us today on this very special day. I am deeply honored. So thank you all so much. (Applause.)

MR. TINGLE: Thank you, sir. It's an honor for us as well. And congratulations.

ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: And I'm sure we'll be talking again soon. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

MS. WANG: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude our program today. Please join me one more time in a round of applause for the vice President of the United States and our new NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine. (Applause.)

END 3:11 P.M. EDT

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