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Sean O'Keefe


Sean O'Keefe (born January 27, 1956) is a former Administrator of NASA, leading the space agency from December 2001 to February 2005. His tenure was marked by a mix of triumph and tragedy, ranging from the tremendous success of the Mars Exploration Rovers to the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

On February 21, 2005, after resigning from NASA, O'Keefe replaced Mark Emmert as chancellor of Louisiana State University. O'Keefe is also a member of the board of directors of DuPont corporation.

Asteroid 78905 Seanokeefe was named after him "for his vision and leadership in advancing the spirit of exploration during his tenure as the 10th NASA Administrator."[citation needed]


Tenure as LSU Chancellor

Sean O'keefe has being credited with the establishment of the LSU endowment through the Forever LSU fund raising campaign--his second campaign as LSU's Chancellor. The first, known as "Welcome to the Now (Evo Devo)," was not as successful. He has become popular among students for his ability to interact with them, especially during Chats with the Chancellor that occur across the campus periodically throughout the semesters, as well as his encouraging emails.

Tenure as NASA Administrator

O'Keefe became NASA Administrator on December 21, 2001 after his nomination by President George W. Bush was confirmed by the Senate. O'Keefe's tenure at NASA can be naturally divided into roughly three equal periods, each marked by a single problem or event of overriding importance:

  • December 2001 through January 2003: O'Keefe eliminated a $5 billion cost overrun in the construction of the International Space Station.
  • February 2003 through December 2003: O'Keefe helped NASA to cope with the trauma of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and its aftermath.
  • January 2004 through February 2005: O'Keefe re-organized NASA to start working on President George W. Bush's newly announced plan to send humans to the Moon and Mars.

Sean O'Keefe came to NASA with a background in accounting and management of large government agencies (he was a former Secretary of the Navy and Deputy Director of OMB). As was the case with NASA's legendary Administrator, James Webb, O'Keefe had no formal training in science or engineering however his deputy and his senior staff had ample expertise - again, as was the case with Webb.

Sean O'Keefe's most controversial decision occurred in February 2004, when he attempted to cancel an upcoming mission by the Space Shuttle to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope. O'Keefe claimed that, in light of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the mission would be too risky, especially since if the shuttle was damaged while visiting the Hubble, the shuttle would not have enough fuel to dock with the space station as a "safe haven." While supported by members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) this decision was assailed by numerous astronomers, who felt that the Hubble telescope was valuable enough to merit the risk.

In late October 2006 O'Keefe's successor , Mike Griffin reversed this decision after several years of study. Griffin had previously expressed a willingness to send up a repair mission and to launch the Discovery on July 13, 2005 to the International Space Station (see STS-114). One of Griffin's first actions as NASA administrator was to organize a group at Goddard Space Flight Center to study and prepare for a potential Hubble maintenance mission with the Shuttle. The final Hubble mission, tentatively scheduled for May 2008, will service Hubble's gyroscopes and install two new instruments: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3.

In 2004, O'Keefe drew some criticism for openly campaigning for a gubernatorial candidate (Riley, AL-R) and a member of Congress (O'Keefe's commercial flight was grounded due to weather and he never attended the event). He defended his action by saying that he was campaigning as a private citizen.

O'Keefe responded to President Bush's Vision for Exploration by hiring retired Navy Admiral Craig E. Steidle who had previously led development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as an associate administrator in charge of a new office - Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD). A mission architecture for lunar exploration was developed based on four launches of medium-lift vehicles and four space rendezvous per mission. This mission architecture was immediately scrapped by Michael Griffin upon his arrival at NASA. NASA started over with the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), sixteen months after the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) had been announced by President Bush. That architecture led to the Ares 1 and Ares V launch vehicles and the Orion Crew Exploration vehicle which are now under development by NASA.

Career before and after NASA

Before his jobs at LSU and NASA, O'Keefe served as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget from January to December 2001, a job that strengthened his reputation, in the eyes of some, as a "bean counter" — someone who counts every penny[citation needed].


Prior to that, O'Keefe served as United States Secretary of the Navy from 1992-1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

Prior to joining the administration of George H. W. Bush, O'Keefe was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy, an endowed chair at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He was also a Professor of Business Administration and Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Pennsylvania State University.

Before serving as Secretary of the Navy, O'Keefe had been Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Defense since 1989. Before joining the Department of Defense, he served on the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations staff for eight years, and was Staff Director of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

O'Keefe recently confirmed to the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, his membership in the all-male exclusive Bohemian Club. As a member of the Wayside Log camp, O'Keefe traveled during July, 2005, to visit the famous Bohemian Grove grounds near San Francisco, California.[citation needed]

Management Style


O'Keefe earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 from Loyola University New Orleans, and a Master of Public Administration degree in 1978 from the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.


  • The Career and Education portions of this article are based on public domain text from NASA.
  • Some definitions are from
Preceded by
Daniel Howard (acting)
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Frank B. Kelso II
Preceded by
Daniel Mulville (acting)
NASA Administrator
Succeeded by
Michael D. Griffin
Preceded by
Mark Emmert
Chancellor of LSU
Succeeded by
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sean_O'Keefe". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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