Jeffrey DeWit, Arizona State Treasurer, was nominated by the White House Nov. 29 to be NASA's next chief financial officer. Credit: Office of the Arizona State Treasurer

WASHINGTON — The White House announced Nov. 29 it plans to nominate the treasurer of the state of Arizona to be NASA’s next chief financial officer.

In a statement issued late Nov. 29, the Trump administration said it plans to nominate Jeffrey DeWit to the post, one of four at NASA that requires Senate confirmation. Such announcements normally precede a formal nomination by a few days.

DeWit has a strong background in finance, but none in space. He founded the trading company ECHOtrade in 1999 and served as its chief executive until being elected as treasurer of Arizona in 2014. Before founding ECHOtrade he worked as Smith Barney and the Chicago Board of Trade.

During the 2016 presidential election DeWit worked on the campaign of Donald Trump, including serving as chief operating officer and chief financial officer. DeWit, who previously announced he would not run for reelection as Arizona Treasurer in 2018, had been rumored to be considering a run for the Senate seat held by Jeff Flake, a Republican who announced earlier this fall he would not run for reelection.

The position of chief financial officer at NASA has been vacant since the start of the Trump administration in January, when David Radzanowski stepped down. Andrew Hunter, the deputy chief financial officer, has been serving as acting CFO since then.

The nomination means that the administration has nominated or retained people holding three of the four agency positions requiring Senate confirmation, with deputy administrator the exception. Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general since 2009, remained on the job after the change in administrations.

The White House nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to be NASA administrator in September, which the Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported on a party-line vote Nov. 8. The full Senate has yet to take up the nomination.

One senator who will play a key role when that nomination goes to the Senate floor is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) He expressed reservations when the nomination was announced, citing the desire not to politicize the agency. Rubio has not subsequently stated if he would vote to confirm Bridenstine as NASA administrator.

Rubio, appearing at an event here Nov. 29 held by Politico, did not discuss that nomination. However, he did praise Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who led opposition to Bridenstine’s nomination in the Commerce Committee, including reading comments previously made by Rubio shortly before the vote to advance the nomination.

Asked if he would campaign against Nelson, who is running for reelection in 2018, Rubio said he would campaign for a Republican challenger, “not necessarily as an attack against Sen. Nelson, who I respect and who I work with.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...