President Donald Trump has nominated a longtime NASA administrator to become the next director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), according to a Feb. 7 release from the White House.
Christopher Scolese, currently the director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, would replace Betty Sapp, who has been at the helm of NRO since 2012.
The NRO is one of the intelligence community’s most secretive agencies, and runs and operates several classified overhead reconnaissance systems such as satellites. Because the NRO’s budgets are classified, little information is publicly available about individual programs. However, intelligence leaders have said the agency makes up about half of the intelligence community’s major acquisitions and has about 3,000 employees. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 put the agency’s budget north of $10 billion.
The NRO, among other tasks, monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, tracks terrorist and develops military targeting data. It also administers the massive EnhancedView contract, previously overseen by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Previously, Scolese served as the associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and as the agency’s chief engineer. A press release from August by the American Institution of Aeronautics and Astronautics said Scolese worked on several classified projects as an officer in the U.S. Navy, as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense and at the General Research Corporation.