U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:00 a.m. on November, 2017, to consider four nominations subject to Senate confirmation.
- The Honorable James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Ms. Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Dr. Neil Jacobs, of North Carolina, to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Environmental Observation and Prediction
- Ms. Nazakhtar Nikakhtar of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Industry and Analysis
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Good morning. Thank you Congressman Bridenstine, Ms. Baiocco, Dr. Jacobs, and Ms. Nikakhtar for being here and for your willingness to serve in the important positions to which you have been nominated.
We have four well-qualified nominees before our Committee today.
Congressman James Bridenstine has been nominated to serve as the next NASA Administrator. He was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District and currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Congressman Bridenstine also has a distinguished military career, beginning in the Navy flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, from which 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, Congressman Bridenstine flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve and currently is a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
During his tenure in Congress, Representative Bridenstine has established a reputation as a leader on space policy. In fact, one of his most well-known supporters is former astronaut and the second human to step foot on the moon, Colonel Buzz Aldrin. Another supporter, John Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Clinton and current President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of him: “I have worked with members of Congress for 40 years. Only very rarely have I seen a member of Congress with such intensity and sophistication on an urgent national priority.”
I know that many on this Committee, particularly the Ranking Member, are passionate about the space program and the inspiring work of NASA. Congressman Bridenstine, we look forward to hearing more about your vision for the agency.
We are also joined today by Dana Baiocco who has been nominated to serve as a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Born and raised in Yorkville, Ohio, Ms. Baiocco joined the law firm of Jones Day in 1998 and became a partner in 2007. She was one of the founding partners of Jones Day’s Boston office, which opened in 2011. Ms. Baiocco has dedicated her legal career to product safety and liability issues that will serve her well at the CPSC.
Currently, the CPSC is led by a chairman who does not have a functioning majority. Earlier this month we reported favorably Ann Marie Buerkle to be Chairman and to an additional term on the Commission. It is my hope that the Senate will prioritize the Buerkle and Baiocco nominations soon, so we can move swiftly towards establishing a chairman with a functioning majority at the CPSC.
Neil Jacobs has been nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. If confirmed, he will serve as one of the Deputy Administrators of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dr. Jacobs is currently the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, where he directs the research and development of the aviation weather observing program, as well as the company’s numerical forecast models. He is the Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and also serves on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team. Prior to joining Panasonic in 2005, Dr. Jacobs worked on various analyses and modeling projects including NASA’s Earth Systems Science Program, NOAA’s satellite program, and the Department of Energy’s Ocean Margins Program. Dr. Jacobs’ experience makes him well-tailored to serve in a leadership role at NOAA.
Nazakhtar Nikakhtar has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis. Ms. Nikakhtar is currently a partner at Cassidy Levy Kent, a leading international trade law firm. For over a decade, Ms. Nikakhtar has successfully represented U.S. businesses – particularly those in the industrial, agricultural, chemical, and steel sectors – in international trade law matters, including trade remedy matters, customs matters, and World Trade Organization dispute settlement. Prior to private practice, she served at the Department of Commerce advising on legal and regulatory matters related to the enforcement of U.S. trade laws and bilateral trade negotiations, where she received several awards for her work. Her technical expertise makes Ms. Nikakhtar a well-qualified candidate to run the Industry and Analysis unit at the International Trade Adminisration.
As I’ve noted, all four of these nominees are well-qualified for the positions to which they have been nominated and I look forward to their swift confirmation. Once again, I would like to thank you all for testifying today and for your willingness to fill these critical posts.
I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to extend a welcome to our nominees this morning. In the interest of time, my opening will focus on our NASA nominee. I’ll include a statement in the record on our other witnesses.
It is certainly no secret how passionate I am about NASA having qualified and effective leadership. This passion comes from a deep respect I have for NASA and for everything the space program does to advance our national security, our economy, our understanding of cosmos and of ourselves, and for the hope and inspiration that NASA provides to all. It also comes from having witnessed, very directly, the tragic consequences when NASA leadership has failed us.
We have three new human spaceflight vehicles that are all at the most critical phase of their development. We have over 70 ambitious science missions in operation and 50 more under development. Now, more than ever, NASA needs – and deserves – an administrator who is up to the challenge of leading the agency through this critical juncture. Because at this juncture, success will mean our triumphant return to deep space and rapidly expanding economic activity in Earth orbit. Failure, on the other hand, could jeopardize the lives of brave astronauts and set back the search for life beyond Earth for decades. Failure is not an option.
The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive. More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration.
Frankly, Congressman Bridenstine, I cannot see how you meet these criteria.
While your time as a pilot and your service to our country in the military is certainly commendable, it does not qualify you make the complex and nuanced engineering, safety and budgetary decisions for which the head of NASA must be accountable. Moreover, your past statements on climate change are troubling from a scientific perspective and have sparked great concern from climate experts around the nation, which brings me to my greatest concern regarding your nomination.
Your recent public service career does not instill great confidence about your leadership skills or ability to bring people together. In fact, your record and behavior in Congress is as divisive and extreme as any in Washington.
You have advocated for discriminatory policies toward the LGBT community, which runs contrary to the civil rights of these Americans and poisons our national discourse.
On the House floor, you called President Obama dishonest, incompetent and vengeful – and followed it up by calling Vice President Biden “equally unfit and even more embarrassing.”
But your divisive behavior and remarks don’t stop there and haven’t been reserved just for Democrats.
You attacked Speaker John Boehner for reaching across the aisle. You later tweeted your opposition to Paul Ryan because he was critical of the vile remarks candidate Donald Trump made about sexually assaulting women.You made television commercials attacking my friend and fellow Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, deriding his work to find common ground on immigration and claiming he was working to make America less safe.
Later in Arizona, the GOP challenger to Senator McCain accused him of being directly responsible for the rise of ISIS. You then endorsed her in her Republican primary challenge to Senator McCain. Most of us believe John McCain is an American hero. As a bipartisan member of the Armed Services Committee, I can tell you that those who would do our country harm have no greater enemy than Chairman McCain.And you’ve supported the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that opposed Senator McConnell in his primary and any number of other Republican senators who did not meet the committee’s extremist ideals.
Mr. Bridenstine, you’ve gone to great lengths to try to convince folks that you want to keep NASA bipartisan and work across party lines, but that is not what you said in January 2014 at a convention in South Carolina.
These are your words not mine:
“You’ve got collusion between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, DC. They’re coming together and they’re making deals…You’ve got Republicans and Democrats trying to come together...But what we need is fighters. We need people who will stand up and say ‘no, we’re not going to do this anymore…”
Congressman Bridenstine, on behalf of every member who has devoted their career to reaching across the aisle to build consensus and to find working solutions for the American people, I take offense to that. That line of thinking is why Washington is broken.
NASA represents the best of what we can do as a people. NASA is one of the last refuges from partisan politics. NASA needs a leader who will unite us, not divide us. Respectfully, Congressman Bridenstine, I don’t think you’re that leader.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable James Bridenstine
Dr. Neil Jacobs
Mr. Nazakhtar Nikakhtar
Ms. Dana Baiocco