Senate committee advances appointment of NASA CFO

Senate committee advances appointment of NASA CFO

On December 2, the Senate Commerce Committee was able to vote to advance Greg Autry’s appointment as Chief Financial Officer of NASA, which he will only fill for few weeks. In a short executive session, the Senate committee vote results were 14-12, along political lines, to forward Autry’s appointment to serve as CFO of NASA to the full Senate. To advance two other appointments, like Nathan Simington to become an official of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the Senate committee also decided on party lines.

Autry was nominated by the White House for the role in July. He serves as an assistant professor at the University of Southern California,where he deals with medicinal entrepreneurship and he concentrates his researchon the space sector. Following the 2016 election, he was part of the new NASA transition team of the Trump administration. He temporarily served as NASA’s White House envoy in early 2017 till when he resigned to return to USC.

It is unlikely that Autry will be retained until the Biden administration assumes office on January 20, a point pointed to in her inaugural speech by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the leading member of the committee. “The CFO of NASA is developing and executing a budget of more than $22 billion, and once again, I believe that choices on money priorities must be left to the incoming administration,” she said. During the conference, there was no other debate about Autry’s appointment. At a November 10 confirmation hearing by Senate committee, where representatives mainly presented their concerns to Simington, he was also largely dismissed.

“If approved, I l am looking forward to assisting Administrator Bridenstine as well as his outstanding team in executing the ambitious goals of the agency,” Autry said from the confirmation process in his inaugural speech. He acknowledged that his appointment had been supported by a previous NASA Cchief financial Oofficer, David Radzanowski, writing in response to the Senate committee that Autry “comprehends the position of the CFO and its obligations.”

One member of the committee, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), asked Autry about the success he wanted to see in the commercialization of low Earth orbits. This agency program earned just a portion of the $150 million sought by NASA Agency in the fiscal year 2020, which is likely to drop short of a comparable budget for the fiscal year 2021. In order to optimize the investment which will be done in the International Space Station and promote commercial growth, Autry labelled it “critically important.” However, he got to add that his opinions were personal and that he would have a little role as CFO in policy making on that or even other problems. “The CFO’s job at NASA is not a political position,” he said. “My job is to ensure we do what you people want done as well as we provide detailed report back to you reliably that it has been executed.”

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