U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees.
Completed nomination questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations
- Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, of Oklahoma, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Mr. James “Jim” Morhard, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Mr. Joel Szabat, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the Department of Transportation
*Witness list subject to change.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
10: 15 a.m.
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. I would like to welcome our distinguished panel to today’s hearing. We will be considering the nominations of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mr. Jim Morhard to be the Deputy Administrator at NASA, and Mr. Joel Szabat to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs. I would also like to thank Leader McConnell, Senator Lankford, and Secretary LaHood for being here today to provide introductions for the nominees, and I’d like to welcome the nominees’ families and friends who are joining us today.
Dr. Droegemeier is an accomplished scientist and has an extensive background in academia as well as public service at the federal and state levels. Should he be confirmed, he will advise the President on scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of major policies across the federal government. Dr. Droegemeier’s scientific background is predominantly in atmospheric science and weather prediction, receiving his Bachelor of Science in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma and his Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Currently, he serves as the Vice President for Research, the Weathernews Chair Emeritus of Applied Meteorology, and the Director Emeritus of the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma. In addition, he also serves on the Oklahoma Governor’s Science and Technology Council and as the Governor’s Cabinet Secretary of Science and Technology.
Dr. Droegemeier is well-known to the Senate Commerce Committee. He previously worked with us as we developed the bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, when he testified before the Committee to make policy recommendations and notably said that we had “made science bipartisan again.” He has also previously testified before the Committee regarding science and the U.S. economy and on hurricane research. Dr. Droegemeier has twice been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, each time by voice vote. The first time as a Bush nominee and the second as an Obama nominee to the National Science Board, serving his last term as Vice Chairman. Dr. Droegemeier is eminently well qualified to lead OSTP, and I look forward to the Senate confirming him quickly to this position, which has been vacant since January of 2017.
Jim Morhard is also well-known to many of us, having spent 25 years working in the U.S. Senate in numerous capacities. Mr. Morhard currently serves as the Deputy Sergeant at Arms, but prior to this role, Mr. Morhard served as the Staff Director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In that position, he helped to develop and negotiate multiple appropriations bills, which included funding for space flight, spacecraft control, and NASA communications. As a testament to his reputation on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy has submitted a letter of support for Mr. Morhard’s nomination in which he says, “Based on my experience with Jim on the Appropriations Committee, if confirmed, NASA can expect to have a Deputy Administrator who will push an agenda of common sense and cost-effective solutions.” Mr. Morhard’s reputation for bipartisanship, deep knowledge and experience in the federal budget and appropriations process, as well as his experience in managing large organizations, will undoubtedly serve NASA well, and I look forward to supporting his nomination.
Finally, Mr. Szabat has a distinguished and lengthy career in the Federal Government, particularly at DOT, that makes him uniquely qualified for the position to which he has been nominated. Mr. Szabat currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, and has been fulfilling the responsibilities of the position to which he has been nominated since January 2018. If confirmed, one of his primary responsibilities will be to develop policies to improve air service and access to the commercial aviation system for small and rural communities like Aberdeen, Pierre, and Watertown in my home state of South Dakota. As I’ve noted, we are honored to be joined today by our former colleague and the former Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood is well known to this Committee as a bipartisan problem-solver, and his willingness to appear on behalf of Mr. Szabat, with whom he worked at the department, speaks volumes about the nominee’s qualifications.
As I have noted, all three of the nominees before the Committee today are exceptionally well-qualified for the positions to which they have been nominated, and if confirmed, will have an extraordinary opportunity to advance American progress in science, space, and transportation.
Once again, I would like to thank all of you for your willingness to serve in these important jobs, and I turn now to the Ranking Member for his opening remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing to consider nominees who are of paramount importance to space, science and aviation.
Gentlemen, welcome and congratulations on your nominations. I appreciate your willingness to serve.
Mr. Morhard, should you be confirmed, your experience managing the complex and critical security activities in the Senate will come in handy at NASA, as will your experience reviewing programs and negotiating budgets in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy wanted to be here today to introduce Mr. Morhard but he had a conflict, so I’d like to ask unanimous consent that his introduction of Mr. Morhard be included in the record.
The lives of our brave astronauts and the success of our most challenging and ambitious science missions will depend on your and Administrator Bridenstine’s ability to run the agency effectively. If confirmed, I would urge you to seek out the counsel of career professionals at the agency like Bill Gerstenmaier and Bob Cabana.
We will also consider the nomination of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier to be the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Dr. Droegemeier, there is no question in my mind as to your qualifications.
Indeed, Norm Augustine and Neal Lane wrote the committee saying you would be “an outstanding science advisor in any administration,” and that’s a pretty solid endorsement coming from those two.
On a personal note, Dr. Droegemeier, your work on extreme weather is of course very important to the people of Florida, and I appreciate you working with me to improve ways to get people to respond to hurricane warnings.
If confirmed, you have a tough task ahead of you, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d be happy for you to go over to the White House and start this afternoon!
And last, but not least we will also consider the nomination of Mr. Joel Szabat to serve at DOT. The office that you would be heading covers a wide array of aviation matters important to members of this committee and throughout Congress.
Mr. Szabat, I appreciate your many years of public service, including your service to this country in the U.S. Army, and look forward to working with you – especially as we hope to move an FAA reauthorization bill in the near future.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier
Mr. James “Jim” Morhard
Mr. Joel Szabat