The U.S. Senate yesterday confirmed former astronaut and earth scientist Kathryn Sullivan as the 10th administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency issued a press release to mark the voice vote, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who leads NOAA’s parent department, issued a statement saying she was “pleased” with the move.
President Barack Obama nominated Sullivan for the job this past August. Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space, “[y]et despite her ample qualifications and obvious acumen, she may well look back and find that training for her space walk was easier than preparing to take the helm of NOAA,” write Michael Conathan and Shiva Polefka of the Center for American Progress in a blog post outlining "The Top 5 Challenges Facing the New NOAA Administrator." “By any estimation, NOAA faces massive challenges,” they write, “from the sequestration-worsened budget crunch crimping the entire federal government’s ability to carry out its congressional mandates, to the global climate crisis, to fishery management dilemmas threatening one of the nation’s oldest commercial industries.”