NASA’s First Senate-Confirmed Trump Appointee Reports for Duty

NASA’s First Senate-Confirmed Trump Appointee Reports for Duty

Jeffrey DeWit has officially reported for duty as NASA’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  He is the first Senate-confirmed Trump appointee at the agency, almost 15 months after the Trump Administration entered office.

DeWit was the COO and CFO of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and State Treasurer of Arizona until last week.  NASA released a photograph of him meeting with Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot today.  (DeWit is on the right.)

DeWit was nominated by President Trump on December 1, 2017.  His nomination was not controversial and was considered under expedited procedures in the Senate that do not require a hearing or vote by committee.  He was confirmed on March 14, 2018.

DeWit has no background in space.  He is a financial professional who started his career at Smith Barney in 1992.  In 1999 he started his own firm, ECHOTrade, of which he was CEO.   He was elected as Arizona’s State Treasurer in 2014 and assumed office in January 2015.  As noted, in 2016 he was COO and CFO of the Trump campaign.  He has an MBA from the University of Arizona, a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance from the University of Southern California (USC),  an accounting degree, and a certificate in Public Treasury Management from the National Institute of Public Finance.

He is the successor to David Radzanowski, who was NASA’s CFO during the latter years of the Obama Administration.  Andrew Hunter has been serving as Acting CFO since Radzanowski left at the end of the Obama Administration.

The other two Senate-confirmed positions at NASA are Administrator and Deputy Administrator.  No one has been nominated for the Deputy Administrator position yet.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) was nominated to be NASA’s Administrator in September 2017 and was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee twice (his nomination had to be resubmitted when the second session of the 115th Congress began in January).  Both votes were along party lines, however, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not brought the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote yet presumably because he is not confident that it will be approved.

Lightfoot is retiring at the end of this month.  Acting NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said last week that the White House plans to get Bridenstine confirmed before Lightfoot leaves and there is no Plan B if that is not achieved.

If Bridenstine is not confirmed, however, under the Vacancies Act, the President must follow certain rules as to who can be appointed to fill a Senate-confirmed position like NASA Administrator.   He may appoint someone who has already been confirmed by the Senate for another position — like DeWit.   Or he can appoint a “senior officer or employee” of the agency if that person has served in that position for at least 90 days preceding the vacancy and is at least a GS-15 on the federal pay scale.


Editor’s Note:  The position of NASA Inspector General (IG) is also a presidentially-appointed Senate-confirmed position pursuant to the 1978 Inspector General Act, but are not subject to the same procedures as the other three.   IGs appointed under the act are non-political and not required to offer to resign at the end of a presidential administration.  Instead, incumbent IGs remain in place until or unless a President decides to replace them and notifies Congress of the reasons.

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