|13th Administrator of NASA|
April 23, 2018
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Oklahoma's 1st district
January 3, 2013 - April 23, 2018
James Frederick Bridenstine
June 15, 1975
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Michelle Ivory (m. 2004)
|Education||Rice University (BA)|
Cornell University (MBA)
|Branch/service|| United States Navy|
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1998-2007 (Active)|
2015-present (Air National Guard)
|Rank|| Lieutenant Commander (Active)|
Lieutenant Commander (Reserve)
Major (Air National Guard)
|Unit||Oklahoma Air National Guard|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan|
James Frederick Bridenstine (born June 15, 1975) is an American politician and the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Bridenstine was the United States Representative for Oklahoma's 1st congressional district, based in Tulsa from January 3, 2013 to April 23, 2018. He is a member of the Republican Party.
On September 1, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Bridenstine to be the Administrator of NASA; he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 19, 2018. Bridenstine was on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology during his time in Congress. He is the first elected official to be appointed NASA Administrator. His nomination was controversial.
Bridenstine was born on June 15, 1975 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is a Jenks High School graduate, a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and was a Naval Aviator in both the active duty United States Navy and the United States Naval Reserve where he flew the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft as part of a carrier air wing with the former and in Central and South America in support of the War on Drugs with the latter. In 2015, he transferred his Reserve commission and joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard.[non-primary source needed] Bridenstine is an Eagle Scout. As of 2016, Bridenstine is a State of Oklahoma record holder in the 200M long course freestyle relay.
In the Republican primary election on June 26, 2012, Bridenstine defeated five-term incumbent U.S. Congressman John Sullivan 54% to 46%. Although he identified with the Tea Party and was perceived as running to Sullivan's right, Bridenstine's actual policy statements differed little from those of Sullivan. In the November 2012 general election, he defeated Democratic nominee John Olson 63%-32%, and won all five counties in the district. Bridenstine had effectively clinched a seat in Congress by ousting Sullivan in the Republican primary. The 1st is a heavily Republican district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+16, and has been in Republican hands since 1987. While in Congress Bridenstine joined the House Freedom Caucus with other conservatives.
Bridenstine ran unopposed in the 2014 election.
Bridenstine retained his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2016 election. Following the 2016 presidential election, Bridenstine was viewed as a possible candidate for either NASA administrator or Secretary of the Air Force under the Donald Trump administration. Bridenstine had already declared that he would not run for re-election in 2018 after making a three-term pledge.
Within the Armed Services Committee, Bridenstine has sat on the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. Within the Science Committee, Bridenstine has sat on the Subcommittee on Environment (Chairman) and Subcommittee on Space. He is a member of the Freedom Caucus and the House Baltic Caucus.
In the 2014 election cycle, Bridenstine's top campaign contributors were Northrop Grumman, Latshaw Drilling, American Optometric Association, Citizens United and the Every Republican is Crucial Political Action Committee. He received $29,000 from donors associated with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ), per an analysis of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Bridenstine's amendment to the defense appropriations bill came following a visit to Baku upon invitation of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic for 10 members of Congress and 32 Staff members that became the subject of an ethics investigation. The members received numerous gifts during the trip totaling thousands of dollars in value. In 2013, Bridenstine returned two of the gifts (a pair of rugs worth several thousand dollars) back to the donor. He turned over remaining gifts received during the trip to the House Clerk in 2015, following a watchdog report that indicated that the source of the funding for the trip had not been properly declared. The OCE and House Ethics committee found that lawmakers and aides had no way of knowing that the trip was funded improperly.
Bridenstine was one of three co-chairs of the Veterans Coalition supporting Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential campaign. He was joined in "Vets for Ted" by former U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire and Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell. Bill Connor was national director of the coalition.
On September 1, 2017, the White House announced that Bridenstine was President Donald Trump's preferred pick to head NASA. The choice was quickly criticized by both Republican and Democratic politicians, saying that NASA should be headed by a "space professional", not a politician or a Trump ally. Critics drew attention to Bridenstine's lack of formal qualifications in science or engineering (unlike previous appointees to that post). Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio said that Bridenstine's political history could prove controversial and delay the confirmation process, saying "I just think it could be devastating for the space program", while Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, also of Florida and a former Payload Specialist for NASA who flew on STS-61-C, said "The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician."CNN found that Bridenstine's Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts were entirely deleted, while most of the interviews on his Soundcloud were deleted, at a time when Congress would be examining his record for his confirmation hearing.
Bridenstine has criticized NASA spending on climate science and has supported increased privatization of U.S. civil and military space activities. According to NPR, Bridenstine's climate change denial views "are sure to alarm scientists, because NASA conducts a huge amount of the global research on climate change." NASA finds that climate-warming trends are "extremely likely due to human activities" and has written on its website that "the small amount of dissent tends to come from a few vocal scientists who are not experts in the climate field or do not understand the scientific basis of long-term climate processes".
Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said he was "very impressed with [Bridenstine's] deep knowledge of space technology issues and his record of strong leadership in promoting positive change." The decision to pick Bridenstine was also praised by Senator Ted Cruz.
According to Science Magazine, "many expect that Bridenstine, who has written about the commercial potential of exploiting lunar resources, could shift the agency's emphasis [from its long-term mission of sending humans to Mars] toward the moon."ABC News wrote that Bridenstine is in favor of both human missions to the Moon and Mars.
Bridenstine has focused heavily on space policy during his tenure in Congress, stating "[o]ur very way of life depends on space, the way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food and energy, the way we conduct banking." In April 2016 at the 32nd Annual Space Symposium, Bridenstine introduced H.R. 4945, the American Space Renaissance Act, comprehensive reform legislation with provisions affecting national security, civil, and commercial space policy.
In addition, Bridenstine has proposed legislation related to the regulatory process overseeing certain non-traditional space activities, and helped secure funding for the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Recognizing his efforts, in 2015 SpaceNews named Bridenstine as one of five game changers in the world in space.
Before becoming the chief administrator of NASA, Bridenstine rejected the scientific consensus behind global climate change and in a 2013 speech on the House floor stated that global temperatures stopped rising ten years earlier. Bridenstine criticized the Obama administration for spending "30 times as much money" on climate science as on weather forecasting; PolitiFact said that assertion was "mostly false".
In 2017, Bridenstine supported James Langevin's legislation requiring the Defense Department to report on the effects of climate change on military installations and strategic battle plans. According to journalist Keith Cowing, Bridenstine's support for the Langevin amendment "was widely seen as being instrumental in its passage."
In the 114th Congress, he was the Chairman of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. In that role, he has pushed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "... to integrate commercial data into its weather forecasting models." In September 2016, NOAA awarded two contracts to private weather satellite firms to provide data for its use.
By May 2018, Bridenstine had reversed his position on climate change. At a town hall meeting in Washington D.C., Bridenstine stated that "I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we humans beings are contributing to it in a major way. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We're putting it into the atmosphere in volumes that we haven't seen, and that greenhouse gas is warming the planet. That is absolutely happening, and we are responsible for it."
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 1st congressional district
| Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration