Senate confirms Griffin as new NASA chief

The Senate has confirmed Michael Griffin as NASA's 11th administrator. He succeeds Sean O'Keefe, who announced his resignation in December 2004.

Griffin was confirmed late Wednesday and reported to work the very next day, holding a nationwide question-and-answer session with NASA employees. He told them his first priority would be on Return to Flight efforts, the relaunching of the shuttle Discovery, scheduled for next month.

'It's going to be difficult, it's going to be hectic, but we will do it together,' he said.

During his confirmation hearing April 12 before the Senate Commerce Committee, Griffin said 'the strategic vision for the U.S. manned space program is of exploration beyond low Earth orbit.' He also told the senators that, while the United States will need allies and partners, the country 'should avoid dependence upon other nations for critical spacefaring systems.'

In addition to returning NASA to manned space flight, Griffin faces other challenges at the agency. A report released last week by the agency's inspector general criticized the organizational structure of NASA's IT and information security functions. CIO Patricia Dunnington has been ordered to gather information on best practices at other federal agencies and in the private sector to reorganize these functions, and Griffin is supposed to be briefed on her findings by the end of November.

Also last week the General Accountability Office issued a report that the auditor of NASA's 2004 financial statements issued a disclaimer because of 'pervasive errors' and 'data integrity issues.' During the confirmation hearing, Griffin said he would spend part of his first day at work looking into the agency's financial management woes.

Griffin worked at NASA in two previous stints, as chief engineer and associate administrator for exploration, and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also served as deputy for technology at the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

He comes back to NASA from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, where he served as space department head. Prior to that he was president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel Inc. of Arlington, Va., the technology venture capital firm funded by the CIA, and also held several positions at Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

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