Washington, DC: Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) today introduced NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe to NASA employees during O’Keefe’s inaugural visit to the Johnson Space Center. Later, DeLay and O’Keefe will join industry experts from the aerospace community at a reception.

Congressman DeLay’s statement follows:

“We’re pleased that our new NASA Administrator, Sean O’Keefe, is taking one of his first visits to the crown jewel of human space flight-the Johnson Space Center. This organization is special: Men and women working at JSC accomplished feats that have not been-and may never be- duplicated by any other nation.

“We hope that he’s here to usher in a vigorous new era of technological breakthroughs and advancements. NASA has been on a rocky road over the past year. It’s been a time of uncertainty.

“Many of our talented employees are wondering what lies ahead for NASA. They are concerned that we may pull back from the stars. They worry that America may stand down from our leadership in space exploration. They see shrinking budgets and lowered expectations.

“But that would be a huge mistake. We can’t close the cover right in the middle of the proudest chapter in the book of American achievement. Our strides in space are the boldest strokes of the ‘can-do’ spirit that defines us for the world.

“For those of us who believe America has a leadership role in space, we wrestle with a challenge. Recent events have shown that the public and elected officials are operating with only a partial understanding about the irreplaceable contribution space exploration brings to everyday life.

“As you know, this has meant ferocious budget battles, in which we’ve had to fight for every cent invested in NASA. We need to educate people about how the space program impacts every American.

“Here at the Johnson Space Center, we’re closest to the passion that captured America’s imagination. I’m speaking of the talent and tenacity that sent men to the moon and brought them home safely.

“It’s the dream that designed and built the International Space Station-providing a permanent human presence in space. It’s the vision that safely launches and operates the Shuttle and brings its precious cargo home, mission after mission. Human space flight is a source of pride and achievement for every American. It’s the highest refinement of our national tradition of exploration.

“Retaining U.S. dominance in space will require three things: Strong leadership, a bold challenge capable of engaging the public mind, and the vision to turn our dreams into destiny.

“Sean O’Keefe takes office with the intellect and experience to answer that challenge. He has a record of performance and he’s well-positioned to carry out President Bush’s agenda. I’m pleased that he is here at JSC to see what’s happening on the front lines of manned space flight. I’m extremely proud to be introducing him to the tremendously talented men and women that he’ll meet here today.

“Administrator O’Keefe worked closely with Vice President Cheney during their prior service in the Department of Defense. He comes to you directly from the Office of Management and Budget, so he has the knowledge and expertise to protect and sustain vital functions within this agency. Within his comments, we can see the outlines of a resurgent and dynamic NASA. Sean O’Keefe’s NASA will be an extraordinary asset for America.

“Administrator O’Keefe has spoken about the need to preserve and nourish the vital sense of entrepreneurship at NASA. He wants you to stretch the envelope of scientific advancement. He wants to cultivate a culture of exploration and achievement. In short, he wants you to focus on the things that have made NASA a great agency and a source of national pride.

“I wish Sean O’Keefe well and I’m ready to work closely with him as he stokes the furnace of creativity, invention, and achievement. All of us are committed to an agency focused on scientific accomplishments that awe the world, engage America, and rewrite the history books.

“Please join me in welcoming your new Administrator, Sean O’Keefe.”