Nominees for the Space Agency, New York Times
"Unfortunately, General Bolden lacks deep expertise in space science and engineering and his past ties with the aerospace industry will raise conflict of interest problems. Before the Senate confirms him, it should probe how well fitted he is to guide the agency through a difficult transition from the space shuttle to follow-on vehicles designed to reach the Moon and beyond."
Keith's note: When it comes to NASA, there's just no satisfying the NY Times, it would seem. Let's peer into their (anonymous) shallow, drive-by analysis. Tick tick tick - Oops, I find a flaw: Sean O'Keefe - with admittedly zero technical expertise - guided the VSE from nothing to Presidential and Congressional endorsement. Yet uber techie Mike Griffin was handed the VSE on a silver platter, took the Shuttle/Orion gap, made it longer, and then fumbled by designing a rocket that is still not fully out of PDR after 3 years and in danger of cancellation. If Griffin made a "second guess" it certainly was not the right one.
Marc Boucher Editor's note: It's so easy to criticize a nominee. In reading the op-ed I get the sense that he's both qualified and not-qualified, which is it? Here's what I know, NASA needs leadership. Is Charles Bolden a leader? Someone people can talk to, who will listen to what his experts tell him and be able to make an informed decision on critical issues? I believe he is.
NASA had an technical expert in Mike Griffin, and look at the agency now. Sure Griffin understood the technical details - but was he a leader? Not the kind that NASA needed. Finding the right mix of skill sets and leadership is hard to do for an agency like NASA. Right now NASA needs a leader more than an engineer at the top. NASA has plenty of qualified engineers to provide expert advice to Bolden. Let's get on with the confirmation hearing as quickly as possible and let Bolden get on with the job.
History teaches us that leaders, even if they lack some skills can get the job done. Lest we forget who guided NASA during the Apollo years. It was James Webb, a former Marine pilot with a law degree and Washington insider. He wasn't an engineer and yet he managed in his seven year tenure to lead NASA at its most critical time.
Frank's note: The New York Times has had an anti-NASA bias for nearly half a century. This is the same newspaper that continually criticized the Apollo program but when the Saturn V assembly lines were closed in September 1969 decried the move as "abandoning" the capability for manned lunar missions. First they criticized the VSE as a questionable series of goals, then claimed it would never win Congressional support, then has continually raised the issue of funding-funding for manned spaceflight that it has always opposed. Truth of fact: who cares what they think anyway?