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Lightfoot to be Acting NASA Administrator, CFO Radzanowski to Stay On - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 12-Jan-2017
Updated: 22-Jan-2017 10:55 PM

Update, January 22, 2017:  Contrary to what was stated at the January 12 town hall meeting, Radzanowski did not, in fact, remain at NASA after the end of the Obama Administration.  He resigned on January 20, 2017.

Original story, January 12, 2017: In a farewell "town hall" meeting with employees today, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Dava Newman said thanks and farewell to agency employees.  Both are political appointees and will end their tenures at noon on January 20 when President Obama leaves office.  Bolden announced that Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will take over as Acting Administrator at that point.  He also said the Trump transition team has asked another political appointee, NASA Chief Financial Officer (CFO) David Radzanowski, to remain at least temporarily.

The town hall meeting was an internal agency event accessible over the Internet to employees at all of NASA's facilities.  It was an emotional occasion for both Bolden and Newman.  Bolden has been Administrator since July 2009; Newman was confirmed as Deputy Administrator in April 2015.  Both choked back tears while thanking their colleagues and expressing optimism about NASA's future.  Actor LeVar Burton appeared in a video tribute to Bolden.   Bolden presented Newman, as well as chief of staff Mike French, with NASA Distinguished Service Awards.  Bolden did not announce his plans for after January 20 (he is a retired Marine Major General), but Newman said she will be back teaching at MIT very soon.  She is the Apollo Professor of Astronautics there.

Lightfoot is a former Director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, having begun his NASA career there in 1989.   He transferred to NASA Headquarters in 2012 to serve as Associate Administrator, the highest ranking civil service position in the agency.  It is traditional for the highest ranking NASA civil servant to take over as acting administrator during changes in presidential administrations.  The Trump transition has not always followed traditional paths so today's announcement provided some degree of reassurance.  Bolden said the Trump transition team officially told NASA yesterday that Lightfoot will serve in that job.  A mechanical engineer, he has served in many capacities at Marshall, Stennis Space Center and Headquarters, including assistant associate administrator for the space shuttle program (2003-2005) at headquarters and manager of the space shuttle propulsion office at MSFC (2005-2007).  He was named MSFC Deputy Director in 2007 and Director in 2009.


Robert Lightfoot.  Photo credit:  NASA

Lightfoot said today that he looked forward to leading the agency until a new administrator is in place.  He urged the NASA workforce to remain focused on executing NASA's programs and promised to keep them informed as the transition unfolds.

Radzanowski was confirmed by the Senate as NASA CFO in September 2014.  He had previously served as Bolden's chief of staff and before that was Deputy Associate Administrator for Program Integration for what was then called the Space Operations Mission Directorate.  Before joining NASA, he was branch chief for science and space at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and before that a space policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service. 


David Radzanowski. Photo credit:  NASA

No time limit was mentioned for how long he will remain as CFO.  Bolden said only that Radzanowski would stay "for some period of time."


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