Read our COVID-19 research and news.

Donald Trump

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Breaking: Trump picks NASA chief, NOAA second-in-command

President Donald Trump has announced his picks for two prominent science-related positions in his administration.

He intends to nominate Representative Jim Bridenstine (R–OK) to be the administrator of NASA, the White House announced tonight.

And he wants Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, a former oceanographer of the Navy, to be assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, the No. 2 job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Both nominees will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Bridenstine, a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives, has long been rumored to be Trump’s choice to run NASA—and the pick is already attracting criticism from some quarters.

Bridenstine has been a member of Congress since 2012. He is a former Navy pilot who “began his Naval aviation career flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier,” according to a brief biography released by the White House. It continues:

It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While on active duty, he transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.  After leaving active duty, Mr. Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve.  He holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University.  Mr. Bridenstine is currently a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

Gallaudet, a 32-year Navy veteran, has also served as commander of the Navy’s Meteorology and Oceanography Command. According to his White House biography:

Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change.  Dr. Gallaudet has led teams of Navy Sailors and civilians performing such diverse functions as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, assisting Navy SEAL Teams during high visibility counter-terrorism operations, and developing the Navy's annual $52 billion information technology, cyber security, and intelligence budget.  Dr. Gallaudet holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and masters and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, all in oceanography.

The selection of Gallaudet is drawing good reviews from some research groups. "Tim's mixture of operational expertise and scientific knowledge make him an ideal choice for this position," said Antonio Busalacchi, president of the the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, a consortium of 100 colleges and universities, in a 5 September statement. "His understanding of the vital collaborations between NOAA, private forecasting companies, and the academic community can help foster the movement of research to operational forecasting and advance the nation's weather prediction capabilities. Furthermore, his knowledge of Earth system science and his ability to align that science with budget and programs will be essential to moving NOAA forward in the next few years."

Update, 09/05/2017, 1:25 p.m.: This item has been updated to include a statement from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on Gallaudet.