Obama Taps White House Budget Official for Top NASA Financial Job

by

WASHINGTON — The White House said Sept. 16 it intends to send one of its senior budget officials to NASA to manage the U.S. space agency’s perennially troubled finances.

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the NASA chief financial officer post, Elizabeth “Beth” Robinson, is currently director for budget at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), overseeing the development, enactment and execution of the president’s annual budget request.

“My administration is committed to economic recovery, pushing the boundaries of science and space exploration and investing in the future of arts and the humanities, and these individuals will serve my team well as we work to accomplish these goals,” Obama said in a statement announcing his intent to nominate Robinson, as well as fill a senior Treasury Department post and appoint three people to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

If the U.S. Senate approves Robinson’s nomination, she will replace Ronald Spoehel, a former vice president of investment banking at the now-defunct Lehman Brothers and NASA’s top accountant since September 2007.

Robinson, like Spoehel, stands to inherit an office that last received a clean independent audit in 2002. NASA also has struggled to merge financial management of its 10 field centers and headquarters to a single integrated system for keeping track of the agency’s approximately $18 billion annual budget. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report in March saying 10 out of 13 NASA programs costing $250 million or more were exceeding their budgets by an average of 13 percent.

In contrast to Spoehel’s corporate background and accounting credentials, Robinson is a geophysicist by training who spent several years as a House Science Committee staffer before moving to OMB in 1998, where she began as a program examiner for energy issues and rose to deputy assistant director for budget review and concepts. In 2003, she moved to the Congressional Budget Office where she was deputy director.