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A Private Space Setback: Bill Richardson Withdraws from Secretary of Commerce Nomination January 5, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Uncategorized.
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Today, one of the most ideal candidates for Secretary of Commerce a space enthusiast could possibly concieve withdrew from his nomination to the position by the Obama transition team.

Richardson, an outspoken supporter of private space enterprise (as detailed in my now rather ironic previous post), was concerned over the delay of his Senate confirmation an ongoing pay-for-play probe in his state of New Mexico would have. As that Politico article notes, Richardson is confident that he will be cleared of any potential wrongdoing (and will remain as the Governor of New Mexico), but that the open-ended nature of the probe created an “untenable” delay (as Richardson’s statement put it).

“The Department of Commerce must play an important role in solving them by helping to grow the new jobs and businesses America so badly needs.

“It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department that I have asked the president-elect not to move forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months.”- Bill Richardson’s official statement

While it is dissapointing to see such an active supporter of private space enterprise no longer to be the point man for growing new industries and jobs in America, it is possible that the Obama transition team could simply appoint another space enthusiast in his place–the Obama team’s interest in the potential of the private space industry does not end with Richardson. From the Obama campaign space plan:

“…In achieving this vision, Obama will reach out to include international partners and to engage the private sector to amplify NASA’s reach. Obama believes that a revitalized NASA can help America maintain its innovation edge and contribute to American economic growth…”

Supporting Commercial Access to Space: Obama will stimulate the commercial use of space and private sector utilization of the International Space Station. He will establish new processes and procurement goals to promote the use of government facilities. We must unleash the genius of private enterprise to secure the United States’ leadership in space. ” –The Obama campaign Space plan

In addition to Obama’s overarching interest in a proactive role in both prviate and public space policy (which includes the resurrection of the National Aeronautics and Space Council to help coordinate the two, as detailed in that linked space plan), it’s entirely possible Richardson could return to the Administration in a different capacity, perhaps one even more directly related to space policy (potentially with the Council itself):

“Obama accepted the withdrawal with regret, saying in an accompanying statement that he looks forward to Richardson’s “future service to our country and in my administration.”

Richardson said he had told Obama that  [he’s] “eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful.” – “Richardson exits Cabinet due to probe“, Politico.com

So while this is a dissapointing setback to not have Richardson himself at the helm building the private space boom, clearly the Obama administration is dedicated to the cause, and Richardson himself may be back before long in another capacity.

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