Jim Bridenstine

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Jim Bridenstine
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Official Portrait (NHQ201907240001).jpg
13th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Assumed office
April 23, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyJames Morhard
Preceded byCharles Bolden
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 1st district
In office
January 3, 2013 – April 23, 2018
Preceded byJohn Sullivan
Succeeded byKevin Hern
Personal details
James Frederick Bridenstine

(1975-06-15) June 15, 1975 (age 44)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Michelle Ivory (m. 2004)
EducationRice University (BA)
Cornell University (MBA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
 United States Air Force
Years of service1998–2007 (Active)
2010–2015 (Reserve)
2015–present (Air National Guard)
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Lieutenant Commander (Active)
US-O4 insignia.svg Lieutenant Commander (Reserve)
US-O4 insignia.svg Major (Air National Guard)
UnitOklahoma Air National Guard
Battles/warsWar 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.[1]

Early life, education, and military service[edit]

Bridenstine was born on June 15, 1975 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[2] He is a Jenks High School graduate,[3] a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University.[4] 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.[5][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.[6]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Bridenstine's official congressional portrait, 2013



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.[7][8][9][10] In the November 2012 general election, he defeated Democratic nominee John Olson 63%–32%, and won all five counties in the district.[11] 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.[12]


Bridenstine ran unopposed in the 2014 election.


Bridenstine retained his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2016 election.[13] 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.[14] Bridenstine had already declared that he would not run for re-election in 2018 after making a three-term pledge.[15]

Committee assignments[edit]

Bridenstine sat on the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Science, Space and Technology during the 113th,[16] 114th,[17] and 115th Congresses.[18]

Within the Armed Services Committee, Bridenstine has sat on the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces[19] and Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.[20] Within the Science Committee, Bridenstine has sat on the Subcommittee on Environment (Chairman)[21] and Subcommittee on Space.[22] He is a member of the Freedom Caucus[12] and the House Baltic Caucus.[23]

Campaign financing[edit]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Ethics investigation[edit]

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.[26] 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.[27]

Ted Cruz campaign[edit]

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.[28]

Political positions[edit]


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."[29] 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.[30]

In addition, Bridenstine has proposed legislation related to the regulatory process overseeing certain non-traditional space activities,[31] and helped secure funding for the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.[31][32] Recognizing his efforts, in 2015 SpaceNews named Bridenstine as one of five game changers in the world in space.[32]

Environment and climate[edit]

Before becoming the chief administrator of NASA, Bridenstine rejected the scientific consensus behind global climate change[33][34][35] and in a 2013 speech on the House floor stated that global temperatures stopped rising ten years earlier.[35] 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".[36]

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.[37] According to journalist Keith Cowing, Bridenstine's support for the Langevin amendment "was widely seen as being instrumental in its passage."[38]

In the 114th Congress, he was the Chairman of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.[39] In that role, he has pushed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "... to integrate commercial data into its weather forecasting models."[32] In September 2016, NOAA awarded two contracts to private weather satellite firms to provide data for its use.[40]

Reversal in climate change belief[edit]

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."[41]

NASA administrator[edit]

Bridenstine is sworn in as NASA's thirteenth administrator by Vice President Mike Pence.


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.[42] Critics drew attention to Bridenstine's lack of formal qualifications in science or engineering (unlike previous appointees to that post).[43][44] 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."[33][44] 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.[45]

Bridenstine has criticized NASA spending on climate science and has supported increased privatization of U.S. civil and military space activities.[43] According to NPR, Bridenstine's past climate change denial views "are sure to alarm scientists, because NASA conducts a huge amount of the global research on climate change."[34] 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".[46] Since his confirmation, Bridenstine has said that he agrees with the scientific consensus around human contributions to climate change.[47]

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."[48] The decision to pick Bridenstine was also praised by Senator Ted Cruz.[35]

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."[42] ABC News wrote that Bridenstine is in favor of both human missions to the Moon and Mars.[46][49]

The U.S. Senate confirmed Bridenstine on April 19, 2018, by a party-line vote of 50–49.[50][51][52] He became the first member of Congress to lead NASA.[46]


Bridenstine was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence at the NASA Headquarters building in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2018.[53][54][55]

SLS Program[edit]

Bridenstine speaking in front of the newly completed SLS Core for the Artemis 1 mission

In March 2019, Mike Pence pushed NASA to land humans on the Moon in 2024 instead of the initially planned 2028.[56] Bridenstine stated that in order for it to happen, the SLS would need to be accelerated, along with various other aspects such as the LOP-G, an orbiting space station around the Moon. Bridenstine also considered commercial Heavy-Lift rockets such as the Delta IV Heavy or Falcon Heavy. The idea was scrapped due to the logistical issue of docking an Orion and a European Service Module and the aerodynamics of using a Falcon Heavy.[57]

Private space companies[edit]

Jim Bridenstine has established a working relationship with SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk. Following the DM-1 mission in March 2019, Elon Musk posited the need for humans to have a base on the Moon, in which Bridenstine said "that's the goal."[57]


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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Sullivan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Kevin Hern
Government offices
Preceded by
Charles Bolden
Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration