Trump pick for top NASA role has no past experience in space operations
The White House has tapped a long-time Senate aide with little experience in space operations or technology to be the No. 2 official at NASA.
The White House announced on Thursday that President Trump picked James Morhard, who currently serves as the Senate’s deputy sergeant at arms, for the deputy administrator post at the U.S. space agency.
Morhard has a long career in Washington, including stints as the staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee and a job in the Secretary of the Navy’s Office of the Comptroller.
But absent from his resume is experience in space operations.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had said publicly that he wanted Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut who runs the agency’s Glenn Research Center, to be tapped as his deputy.
But according to The Washington Post, Morhard got the nomination because of his close ties within the Washington establishment.
Trump has expressed ambitions for reinvigorating NASA, which has for years seen frequent shifts in its mission based on each new presidential administration.
Last year, Trump relaunched the National Space Council with Vice President Pence at the helm. And just last month, he said he would order the Pentagon to establish a so-called “Space Force,” a sixth branch of the military intended to defend U.S. interests beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
The U.S. ceased human spaceflight from its own soil in 2011 when the space shuttle was officially retired. Since then, Americans have hitched rides to the International Space Station with other countries, like Russia.