Senate confirms DeWit as NASA CFO

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Updated 2:30 p.m. with NASA statement.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate confirmed Jeffrey DeWit as NASA’s new chief financial officer March 14, completing an expedited process starkly different than the one for the agency’s next leader.

The Senate, on a voice vote, confirmed DeWit as chief financial officer. DeWit was nominated Nov. 29 for the position and renominated Jan. 8 to comply with Senate rules. His nomination was classified as “privileged” by the Senate, allowing him to skip a confirmation hearing or vote by the Senate Commerce Committee because of a lack of opposition.

DeWit is currently treasurer of the state of Arizona, elected to the position in 2014. He is expected to resign from that post and start work at NASA in the next few weeks, according to a report by the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.

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. Before founding ECHOtrade he worked as Smith Barney and the Chicago Board of Trade.

In a questionnaire submitted to the Commerce Committee, he outlined his financial experience and described how it would aid his work at the space agency. “These experiences and my skill set will allow me to be an effective and efficient CFO for NASA, helping propel the agency further in its mission,” he wrote. “As the son of a pilot who grew up around airplanes and aviation, I very much look forward to working hard on behalf of the great team at NASA.”

In that questionnaire, he cited the top three financial issues for NASA as warnings about acquisition management raised frequently by the Government Accountability Office, top management and performance challenges identified by NASA’s Office of Inspector General and “separating politics from the mission at hand” to maintaining the agency’s extensive international politics.

“In all three cases,” he concluded, “my strong financial organization leadership skills are perfectly suited to guide NASA through these challenges.”

“I personally met with Jeff during the confirmation process and I’m confident he will be a great fit with the agency’s CFO team,” said NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a March 15 statement. “In our discussions, Jeff demonstrated a genuine passion for being part of NASA, and I know he will be a staunch advocate for the agency within the administration, helping us move forward with our ambitious plans.”

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.

Lightfoot, in the NASA statement, thanked Hunter for his work as interim CFO. “Andrew and his team have helped keep the agency steadily moving forward during this transition time, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for their great work.”

The CFO position is one of four at NASA where presidential appointments require Senate confirmation. The administration retained the current inspector general, Paul Martin, and has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

The White House nominated Jim Bridenstine as administrator in September, and renominated him Jan. 8. In both cases the Commerce Committee favorably reported the nomination on a party line vote, but the full Senate has yet to take up the nomination amid widespread concerns Bridenstine lacks the minimum 50 votes needed to be confirmed.