David Radzanowski, currently the Chief of Staff and advisor to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, was on Thursday confirmed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate to be the next NASA Chief Financial Officer. He replaces Beth Robinson.Radzanowski has a long background at NASA. He was the Deputy Associate Administrator for Program Integration for the Space Operations Mission Directorate and was responsible for transitioning and retiring the shuttle, which was well-run regardless of what one thinks of the act of retiring the shuttle. Radzanowski has a bachelor’s degree in Astronomy-Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy.
Elizabeth “Beth” Robinson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 5, 2009, as NASA’s Chief Financial Officer. She served in that role from Nov. 9, 2009, until recently leaving for private industry. Her tenure at NASA was controversial in part because of efforts under her tenure to preclude funds from both the SLS and Orion programs for termination liability. As AmericaSpace recently reported, termination liability allows for funding to be withheld to pay for any financial liabilities associated with terminating a program, meaning it is very program specific and calculated on an on-going basis. NASA has great discretion in how it assesses termination liability of a program, basing it on a range of factors from Congressional support to technical risk to the number of programs canceled. Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for the Orion and SLS programs, and that both were programs of record under the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and faced nominal technical challenges, the former NASA CFO nonetheless recommended that between 10–20 percent of funding for those programs was withheld annually for termination liability.
From the perspective of Orion and SLS supporters, Radzanowski moving into the NASA CFO position represents positive change for the space agency. However, the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Branch Chief for Science and Space Paul Shawcross remains, as does his opposition to both the Orion and SLS programs.