White House Pulls the Plug on Bolden Nomination to No. 2 Position at NASA

By Keith Cowing
March 13, 2002
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The White House has pulled the plug on Charles Bolden’s nomination to be Deputy NASA Administrator – and did so at the last moment. No specific reason has been given by the White House. Word reached NASA late yesterday. Bolden was scheduled to have his confirmation hearing today before the Senate. Members of Congress were shocked and angered at hearing the news.

Bolden’s appointment may have been torpedoed by Armed Services Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). According to multiple sources on Capitol Hill Levin sent a letter to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez requesting evidence that a precedent exists for placing an active duty military officer into a Senate-confirmed slot – one designated as being for a civilian appointee. Levin reportedly expressed a preference that Bolden resign his commission if he wanted to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator.

While Bolden was apparently ready to make these hard choices, others at the White House and NASA felt that he should not be put in such a position. After some discussions on the matter at the highest level of government, all parties agreed to the withdrawal of Bolden’s name.

NASA Issued the following statement from Adminstrator Sean O’Keefe this afternoon:

“The following is a statement by NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe after being advised of a White House decision to withdraw the nomination of Major General Charles F. Bolden, U.S. Marine Corps, as the agency’s next Deputy Administrator.

“We are disappointed that General Bolden isn’t able to join NASA at this time. His impeccable credentials as an astronaut and military aviator made him an excellent selection. However, at this critical juncture in our nation’s history, we must understand how vital it is for America to focus all its military resources on the immediate national security imperatives.

“Senior military leaders of General Bolden’s caliber are a rare and precious resource. The Marines are very fortunate to be able to keep him among their ranks. Given the ongoing war on terrorism and the imperative expressed by the Secretary of Defense that all uniformed military personnel serve to advance the President’s objectives to win the war, we fully support the President’s decision.”

Bolden, 55, currently serves as the Commanding General, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in San Diego.

As a NASA astronaut, Bolden piloted Space Shuttles on STS-61C in 1986 and STS-31 in 1990. He commanded two missions, STS-45 in 1992 and STS-60 in 1994. Over the course of his four space flights, Bolden logged more than 680 hours in orbit, assisted in deploying the Hubble Space Telescope and commanded the first mission that included a Russian cosmonaut.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.