NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who in the past three years led the Agency through an aggressive and comprehensive management transformation and helped it through one of its most painful tragedies, has resigned his post.
In his resignation letter to President Bush, O'Keefe wrote, "I will continue until you have named a successor and in the hope the Senate will act on your nomination by February."
"I've been honored to serve this president, the American people and my talented colleagues here at NASA," O'Keefe said. "Together, we've enjoyed unprecedented success and seen each other through arduous circumstances. This was the most difficult decision I've ever made, but it's one I felt was best for my family and our future."
O'Keefe, 48, is NASA's 10th administrator. Nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he was sworn into office Dec. 21, 2001. It was O'Keefe's fourth presidential appointment.
After joining NASA, O'Keefe focused his efforts on successfully bringing financial credibility to the Agency and eliminating a $5 billion budget shortfall for the International Space Station program. He introduced several innovative management and budget reforms and led all federal agencies in the implementation of the President's Management Agenda, designed to make government more responsive and efficient. In three of the original five agenda categories, NASA's performance is at the highest standard.
The tragic loss of seven astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere during STS-107 on Feb. 1, 2003, focused the nation's attention on the future of America's space program.
O'Keefe directed significant changes in the Space Shuttle's safety and management programs. He was a key architect of the president's vision for space exploration, announced in January 2004 during a speech by the president at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The vision for space exploration led a transformation of NASA and has positioned the Agency to meet the challenges of safely returning the Space Shuttle to flight, completing the International Space Station, exploring Earth's complexities and returning to the moon, going on to Mars and beyond.
"The president and Congress have demonstrated their faith in us. We need to seize this opportunity," O'Keefe said. "NASA has a new direction that will push the boundaries of technology, science, space flight and knowledge, and will inspire new generations of explorers for years to come and secure this great nation's future."
Encouraging students to study mathematics, science and technology has been a priority for O'Keefe. In April 2002, he unveiled a new Educator Astronaut program, in which a select few of outstanding teachers would be chosen to join NASA's Astronaut Corps. The new Educator Astronaut candidates were introduced in May on Space Day and are in training at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
During his tenure, O'Keefe realized a number of significant mission triumphs, including Cassini's exploration of Saturn and its moons, the successful hypersonic test flights of the X-43A and the historic landing of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the Red Planet in January 2004.
"NASA is the only agency in the world where its people are allowed to dream big and then work to make those dreams come true. Who wouldn't treasure the opportunity to be a part of pioneering history?" O'Keefe wrote in his resignation. "I'm humbled by the dedication and determination of the NASA family and their commitment to the future of exploration. I wish each of them the very best. I am confident in their ability to carry out what we've started."
O'Keefe first joined the Bush administration as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, overseeing preparation, management and administration of the federal budget and government-wide management initiatives.
From 1989 to 1992, he served as comptroller and chief financial officer of the Department of Defense. President George H. W. Bush appointed him Secretary of the Navy in July 1992.
Before joining then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's Pentagon management team, he served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations staff for eight years, and was staff director of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
His public service began in 1978 when he was selected as a Presidential Management Intern.
O'Keefe is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration; a member of the Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology; and a Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics.
During his academic postings, he was a visiting scholar at the Wolfson College of the University of Cambridge, England; a member of the Naval Postgraduate School civil-military relations seminar team; and seminar leader for the Strategic Studies Group at Oxford University, England.
O'Keefe served on the national security panel to devise the 1988 Republican platform and was a member of the 1985 Kennedy School of Government program for national security executives at Harvard University.
In 1993, he received the Distinguished Public Service Award from the first President Bush. He was the 1999 faculty recipient of the Syracuse University Chancellor's Award for Public Service; recipient of the Department of the Navy's Public Service Award in December 2000; and has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from several prestigious educational institutions. In March 2003 and 2004, he was recognized and honored by Irish American magazine as one of the Top 100 Irish Americans.
He is the author of several journal articles, contributing author to "Keeping the Edge: Managing Defense for the Future" released in October 2000, and in 1998, co-authored "The Defense Industry in the Post-Cold War Era: Corporate Strategies and Public Policy Perspectives."
O'Keefe earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 from Loyola University, New Orleans, and his Master of Public Administration in 1978 from the Maxwell School of Citizen-ship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, N.Y.
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