Sean O'Keefe

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For the record producer, see Sean O'Keefe (producer).
Sean O'Keefe
Sean O'Keefe.jpg
Official NASA photo.
Administrator of NASA
In office
December 21, 2001 – April 13, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Daniel Goldin
Succeeded by Michael D. Griffin
Personal details
Born (1956-01-27) January 27, 1956 (age 58)
New Orleans, Louisiana[1]
Nationality American
Relations Great-grandfather Arthur J. O'Keefe

Uncle Michael H. O'Keefe

Occupation Chairman and CEO, EADS North America [2][3]

Sean Charles O'Keefe (born January 27, 1956) is the chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc., formerly EADS North America, a subsidiary of the European aerospace firm EADS,[2][3] a former Administrator of NASA, and former chancellor of Louisiana State University (LSU).[4] O'Keefe is also a former member of the board of directors of DuPont. He resigned from LSU on January 16, 2008.[5]

Asteroid 78905 Seanokeefe was named after him in honor of his time as NASA Administrator.[6]

O'Keefe and his teenaged son were among four survivors of a plane crash on August 9, 2010 near Aleknagik, Alaska.[7][8] O'Keefe sustained serious injuries in the crash of a de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter seaplane in which former United States Senator Ted Stevens and four others perished.[9][10][11]

Education and family[edit]

O'Keefe's great-grandfather was Arthur J. O'Keefe, Sr., who from 1926 to 1929 was the mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana. His grandfather, Arthur O'Keefe, Jr., was a member of the Louisiana State Senate from New Orleans from 1948 to 1950. His uncle is the former State Senate President, Michael H. O'Keefe.[12]

Sean O'Keefe was born in Monterey, California, to the former Patricia Carlin (died 2010) and Patrick Gordon O'Keefe (born c. 1927), both natives of New Orleans. Patrick O'Keefe became a United States Navy engineer and over the years worked on nuclear submarines.[13] The O'Keefes therefore lived on several naval bases during Sean's childhood. In 1973, he graduated from Wheeler High School in North Stonington, Connecticut. He then studied at Loyola University New Orleans, from which he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1977. Many in his family attended Loyola. O'Keefe subsequently acquired his Master of Public Administration degree in 1978 from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York.[14] His wife Laura and children, Lindsey, Jonathan, and Kevin, reside in northern Virginia.

Career before NASA[edit]

After receiving his master's, he began his career as a budget analyst for 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 became Controller and Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Defense in 1989. O'Keefe served as acting United States Secretary of the Navy from 1992–1993 under President George H. W. Bush.[14]

After Bush left office, O'Keefe was Professor of Business Administration and Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Pennsylvania State University. He next became the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy, an endowed chair at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. [Professor of Business Administration and Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Pennsylvania State University.[14]

Joining the George W. Bush administration, O'Keefe served as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget from January to December 2001, a job that strengthened his reputation as a "bean counter" — someone who counts every penny.[15]

Tenure as NASA Administrator[edit]

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

Sean O'Keefe came to NASA with a background as a former Secretary of the Navy and Director of OMB. As was the case with James E. Webb who served as administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968, O'Keefe had no formal training in science or engineering.[14] O'Keefe's chief of staff until 2003 was Courtney Stadd.[16]

One of Sean O'Keefe's most controversial decisions occurred in January 2004, when he cancelled an upcoming mission by the space shuttle to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope.[17][18][19] O'Keefe claimed that, in light of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, 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.[20][21] In late October 2006, O'Keefe's successor, Michael Griffin, reversed the decision, regarding the mission to Hubble, after several years of study. After several delays, the final Hubble mission, STS-125 was successfully completed in May 2009.[22]

In the buildup to the 2004 election, a scuffle in the press occurred between Sean O'Keefe and NASA climatologist James Hansen. In 2003, it was revealed, Mr. O'Keefe warned Dr. Hansen not to discuss humans' role in global warming. "The administrator [Mr. O'Keefe] interrupted me," Dr. Hansen said in the New York Times, "he told me that I should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference, because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference." O'Keefe's spokesperson said that O'Keefe did not admonish Hansen or mean to suggest that research efforts should be cut.[23]

In 2004, O'Keefe drew criticism for openly campaigning for Bob Riley who was running for re-election as governor of Alabama and a member of Congress[who?]. He defended his action by saying that he was campaigning as a private citizen.[citation needed]

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 I and Ares V launch vehicles (later canceled) and the Orion Crew Exploration vehicle.

O'Keefe tendered his resignation on December 13, 2004.[24]

Tenure as Louisiana State University Chancellor[edit]

O'Keefe has been credited with the establishment of the Louisiana State University 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 became 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. He announced on January 16, 2008, that February 1, 2008 was his last day as chancellor.[5]

O'Keefe lightly discussed his membership in the exclusive Bohemian Club to the Louisiana State University student newspaper The Daily Reveille. As a member of the Wayside Log camp, O'Keefe traveled during July 2005, to visit the famous Bohemian Grove near San Francisco, California.[25]

CEO of EADS North America[edit]

In October 2009, O'Keefe was brought in as CEO of EADS North America. O'Keefe's Washington connections were noted at a time when EADS was trying to secure a $35 billion contract for U.S. Air Force in-air refueling planes in a competition with Boeing.[2]O'Keefe brought aboard Paul Pastorek, the Louisiana state superintendent of education from 2007 to 2011, as the EADs chief counsel and corporate secretary.[26]


  1. Jump up ^ [1]
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c "EADS taps government vet" Politico 10-22-09
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b "EADS North America names Sean O'Keefe as Chief Executive Officer". EADS. October 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  4. Jump up ^ History of LSU, Louisiana State University, January 15, 2010
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b Barrow, Bill (January 16, 2008). "O'Keefe resigns as LSU Chancellor". The Times Picayune. 
  6. Jump up ^ NASA JPL. "78905 Seanokeefe (2003 SK85)". JPL Small-Body Database. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  7. Jump up ^ By the CNN Wire Staff (August 14, 2010). "Former NASA chief's condition improves as investigation continues -". Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  8. Jump up ^ "Ex-NASA chief O'Keefe survives Alaska crash that killed". USA Today. 10 August 2010. 
  9. Jump up ^ Yardley, William; Robbins, Liz (August 10, 2010). "Former Senator Ted Stevens Is in Plane Crash". The New York Times. 
  10. Jump up ^ Robbins, Liz (10 August 2010). "EADS North America CEO in Alaska plane crash". MarketWatch. 
  11. Jump up ^ "Ex-Nasa head and Stevens feared on crashed Alaska plane". BBC. August 11, 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  12. Jump up ^ "000329 O'Keefe". Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  13. Jump up ^ "Ray Willhoft, "Trials, Triumphs, and a Mother’s Love"". Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b c d Leadership and Change at NASA:Sean O’Keefe as Administrator, W. Henry Lambright, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs Syracuse University
  15. Jump up ^ Overbye, Dennis (2008-08-05). "Inside Story of the Telescope That Nearly Wasn't Built". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  16. Jump up ^ Wilber, Del Quentin (August 7, 2009). "Former NASA Official Convicted of Steering Contract Money to Client". The Washington Post. 
  17. Jump up ^ STScI. "Servicing Mission 4 Cancelled". Space Telescope Science Institute. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  18. Jump up ^ Jonathan Bagger. "Future Hubble Servicing Missions Cancelled". The Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved May 26, 2009. 
  19. Jump up ^ NASA (January 16, 2004). "Hubble Servicing Mission SM4 Cancelled by NASA Headquarters (Internal Memos)". Retrieved May 26, 2009. 
  20. Jump up ^ Robert Roy Britt (March 10, 2004). "Decision to cancel Hubble criticized". CNN. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  21. Jump up ^ Jeff Foust (March 7, 2005). "Hubble slips away". The Space Review. Retrieved May 24, 2009. 
  22. Jump up ^ William Harwood for CBS News (May 20, 2009). "President Obama hails successful Hubble repair". Retrieved May 21, 2009. 
  23. Jump up ^ Revkin, Andrew C. (October 26, 2004). "NASA Expert Criticizes Bush On Global Warming Policy". The New York Times. ; "Subverting Science". The New York Times. October 31, 2004. 
  24. Jump up ^ Maugh II, Thomas H. (December 14, 2004). "NASA Chief Announces Resignation". The Los Angeles Times. 
  25. Jump up ^ An Elite Alliance[dead link]
  26. Jump up ^ "Sean Cavanaugh,Paul Pastorek Resigns as School Superintendent in Louisiana, May 11, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  • The Career and Education portions of this article are based on public domain text from NASA.

External links[edit]

Government offices
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
Academic offices
Preceded by
Mark Emmert
Chancellor of LSU
Succeeded by
Michael V. Martin