Trump has been facing really tough choices and dilemmas in his cabinet picks. Better not to elaborate here and now. But it occurs to me that for NASA, there is a very clear winner for the kind of criteria he has been thinking of:
Why not bring back Admiral Steidle to run NASA?
Anyone who knows NASA would remember that scary no nonsense Admiral. Everyone who wants to feed hippopotami and crocodiles in the swamp would cringe at the memory. Steidle was George W Bush's appointment to run his first (more energetic and more credible) "return to the moon" thrust,
but he inserted so much competition and strict quality standards that everyone into pork barrel waste complained, and Bush caved in to accept the Ares pork barrel project developed by lobbyists and cancelled for gross overruns a few years later. If Trump really wants to drain the swamp, and introduce competition in aerospace procurement, Steidle would be the guy. ANYONE who goes to teh usual DC social registers of politicians and lobbyists instead... would be undermining the core
of Trump's position. (Will Trump drain the swamp, or the swamp drain Trump? Steidle would be a great step to make it the former.)
The best argument against Steidle for NASA would be Steidle for DOD.
George W Bush picked Steidle because of his famous "shoot-out" at DOD between competing new fighter planes. Could one have run that shoot out better, technically? To be honest, I would ask some people at Boeing about that. If they see a pro-Lockheed bias, that would be worth considering, since Boeing has a lot to give NASA in critical technology areas. But who else is there?
What about trying to get real economic benefit form space activity? At NASA, Steidle hired John Mankins to run HR&T (technology) competition. Mankins, again, is a human with human foibles, but he was far more serious and real about trying to get real economic benefits (and real technology quality and innovation) than any of the swamp feeders we have seen lately, in so many parts of the federal government.. rising high by lies and stealing from the public. (It really did become a swamp in recent years, and it would take great skill to avoid being tied up and conned by it.)
Trump is facing at least two fundamental difficulties in staffing:
(1) The skills needed to run a complex organization like the US executive branch are very different from those needed to win an election. I remember very well the importance of balancing the PR part and the issues part in Senator Specter's office! And what my father said about balancing manufacturing and marketing in complex companies with a heavy manufacturing/technology component. (Actually, my father, Walter J. Werbos, taught some classes on marketing at Wharton, and someday I should check the time... and the "J" style percolating?).
(2) From the DC scene and the election scene, Trump has been overloaded with possibilities one might characterize as ideologues (on the same message but not heavy in admin credibility) or as
killer wimps (his terms are a bit stronger, and not to be repeated, but yes he would include Jeb Bush and probably even Mario Rubio in there). Steidle is a great example of someone just as intense as Trump wants to be in draining the swamp, for that reason not part of the lobbyists' wish list, but with strong admin capability and commitment to integrity along with the nonwimp intensity needed to make Trump's best hopes real.
As I do other things.. yet respond to feedback... I am reminded that Lowell Wood, Ed Teller's old sidekick (or lead apparatchik manager) is another person of that same type. There are kooks out there who would say that Ed Teller and Lowell Wood are litmus-test-failing liberals... but hey, I do hope someone in this machine knows or can easily find out who Ed Teller really is. If winning the struggle with the Moslem Brotherhood is really top priority, and tough honest and capable people get the priority they need (Not killer wimps popular with PR types)... Lowell Wood could do lots of important and useful things.
As , by the way, could really serious econmists from Wharton. Too bad Larry Klein is not around so much more... but I sure remember Mark French and the Annual Model group, infinitely more real and less corrupt than some companies which won more of the big model market by telling government folks "our model can tell Congress whatever you want them to hear." (I was there in the sessions organized by Wharton's competitors, and know very concretely how that part of the swamp was fed with calculated lies. They wanted to sell their stuff to folks like what I was in the 1980's, building the main models predicting more than half the energy sectors of the US economy, back when there was more investment in strict quality control and truth.)