Trump nominates official to oversee America’s spy satellites

President Donald Trump nominated Christopher Scolese on Thursday to become the new director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the onetime classified organization that operates and oversees America’s network of spy satellites.

The Pentagon confirmed his nomination in an email sent to CNN

“Mr. Scolese’s previous industry and government experience make him an ideal nominee,” Pentagon spokesperson Audricia Harris told CNN.

“Mr. Scolese’s nomination has the full support of the Director of National Intelligence and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence,” she added.

Scolese is currently the center director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a post he’s held since 2012. He previously served as NASA associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington.

The job is currently held by Betty Sapp, who has been serving in the role since 2012, when she was appointed to the position during the Obama administration.

“Mr. Scolese is the right person to build on the sound technical foundation and progress delivered by Ms. Sapp during her tenure,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a statement issued Friday.

“During his time at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he distinguished himself in a variety of roles, including acting administrator, associate administrator, and chief engineer,” Coats added.

Established in 1961 during the height of the Cold War, the existence of the National Reconnaissance Office and its mission were classified until 1992, shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

One of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, it is jointly overseen by the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Satellite intelligence, seen as increasingly critical, plays a role in everything from keeping tabs on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and detecting enemy missile launches to monitoring Russian and Chinese military activity.

The need to help safeguard US satellites has been cited by the Trump administration as a reason why the US needs a space force

The 3,000 US personnel overseen by the National Reconnaissance Office include members of the military and the CIA and Defense Department civilians.