Category: Space Law

Rubio Hits 365-Day Mark in Space, Eager to Get Home

Rubio Hits 365-Day Mark in Space, Eager to Get Home

Today Frank Rubio becomes the first U.S. astronaut to spend one year in space. Others have come close, but the 365-day mark has been met by only four other humans until now, all Russians. Two more Russians are joining the list along with Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin. The trio arrived on Soyuz MS-22 last year and had to stay an extra six months after that spacecraft suffered a technical failure and had to be replaced, with a resulting change to the crew rotation schedule.

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Sen. McCain Diagnosed with Brain Tumor

Sen. McCain Diagnosed with Brain Tumor

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), he has a profound influence on national security space programs.  He had already delayed his return to Washington to recover from a medical procedure over the weekend to remove a blood clot. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is substituting for him at SASC hearings this week.

As chairman of SASC, McCain is in charge of drafting the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that sets policy and recommends funding for the Department of Defense (DOD). SASC also recommends to the Senate whether to approve or disapprove presidential nominees for civilian and military DOD positions including those who oversee DOD space programs and operations such as the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command and Commander of Air Force Space Command. It is difficult to overstate his influence on the national security space sector.

Senator John McCain.  Photo credit:  McCain website.

McCain is a harsh critic of Russia and in recent years has become particularly well known in the space community for his opposition to the use of Russia’s RD-180 engines for the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket.  Initially he tried to limit their use for national security launches by prohibiting additional engine purchases and insisting on development of a U.S. launch vehicle using U.S. engines by 2019.  He finally relented on the timeline last year, agreeing to push it out to 2022 as requested by the Air Force.  Just last month during debate over a Russia sanctions bill, however, he broadened his efforts to limit the use of any Russian rocket engines for civil or commercial launches, too.  His amendment failed.

SASC already has completed markup of the FY2018 NDAA.  It is awaiting floor action in the Senate.  The House version passed last week.  Once the Senate passes its bill, a compromise will have to be negotiated, a process in which the chairmen of the two Armed Services committees play a crucial role.  Both bills direct DOD to reorganize how it deals with space programs, but the two approaches are dramatically different.  The issue will be one of the many difficult topics they will have to thrash out. SASC wants a new DOD Chief Information Warfare Officer with broad authority over space programs. The House wants a Space Corps within the Air Force and a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command.

At McCain’s request, the Mayo Clinic, which is treating him, released a statement explaining that “tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot” that was removed.  The statement is posted on McCain’s website.  McCain himself conveyed optimism and confidence that “any future treatment will be effective” and a decision on when he will return to the Senate will be made after further consultations with his medical team.

Donley, Kehler Join Anti-Space Corps Chorus While House Moves Ahead

Donley, Kehler Join Anti-Space Corps Chorus While House Moves Ahead

On Friday, the House passed legislation that would create a Space Corps within the Air Force while a former Secretary of the Air Force and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) argued against it at a seminar across town.

Michael Donley served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2008-2013 as part of his 39 years of government service. Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) served of Commander of STRATCOM from 2011-2013 and Commander of Air Force Space Command from 2007-2011.  At a meeting sponsored by George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and the Aerospace Corporation, they echoed comments by current Air Force officials that now is not the right time to separate space from the rest of the warfighting force.  Instead, integrating space into the other warfighting domains — land, sea, air and cyber — is what’s needed.

The bipartisan leadership of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), included the provision to create a U.S. Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 2810),   It would also create a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of STRATCOM.  They are ardent advocates for this reorganization as is HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

The White House, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein oppose it, as did other members of HASC during markup of the bill on June 28.  Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, introduced an amendment to remove the provision, but it was defeated by voice vote.  He attempted to bring the issue to the floor of the House for debate, but the House Rules Committee did not approve his amendment.  The bill passed the House on Friday with the provision intact.

Kehler said the proposed solution does not fit the problem, which is acquisition.  “That’s why people are frustrated,” not because of how DOD is organized.  “Most organizational change doesn’t fix the problem and is a distraction,” costs more than expected and soon changes again.  “The space enterprise is filled with examples of the wreckage of some of the other things we’ve tried.”

The problem that needs to be solved is how to “posture ourselves to be prepared for conflict that extends into space” the same way we think about conflict extending into air or sea. “We know how to do this,” Kehler insisted.  It is a matter of “the grunt work of joint warfighting” and the military services providing combatant commanders with “forces that can operate and accomplish their missions in the face of a contested domain.”  Reorganization is not the answer.  “We have a warfighting organization in place today with all the authority and responsibility necessary.  It’s called STRATCOM.”

Donley agreed. “I don’t favor this proposal.  It is the opposite of the trends we’re trying to achieve” of integrating space into airspace and cyberspace.  The result will be more bureaucracy, “exactly what Congress has been telling the Department not to do.”

Kehler summed it up by repeating that the problem is acquisition. “That’s what we need to fix” and it’s not magic. Many studies have been done.  “We know what’s broken. Fix it.”

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-21, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-21, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 17-21, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session this week.

During the Week

The big event this week is the annual International Space Station Research and Development (ISS R&D) conference organized by the American Astronautical Society.  This year it’s in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  Pre-conference events take place tomorrow (Monday).  Among the events is a session on the role of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the evolution of ISS research and a joint NASA-JAXA workshop on maximizing the outcome of the ISS and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), which is named Kibo. The workshop includes NASA’s Marybeth Edeen and Bill Gerstenmaier (head of NASA”s human spaceflight program), and JAXA Vice President and Director General of Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate Takashi Hamazaki and JAXA’s manager and director of the JEM utilization center, Kunihiro Matsumoto and Kazuyuki Tasaki, respectively.

Tuesday-Thursday are the main sessions of the conference, which will be livestreamed.  Among the keynote speakers are Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Bigelow Aerospace’s Robert Bigelow, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti.  NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is a featured speaker on a panel Tuesday morning.  A space policy panel will take place on Wednesday morning.

On exactly the same days (Monday-Thursday), NOAA will hold a conference at the City College of New York in New York City on “A New Era for NOAA Environmental Satellites” with its own who’s who of experts from the U.S., other countries (including China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil) and international organizations (e.g. EUMETSAT and the World Meteorological Organization).  NBC’s Al Roker is the luncheon keynote speaker on Monday.  Sessions focus on GOES-R, JPSS, Big Data, and spectrum issues.  The conference website does not indicate if any of it will be webcast.  If we find out, we will add the information to our calendar item.

And on three of those four days (Tuesday-Thursday), NASA will hold its annual Exploration Forum at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA.  Sponsored by the Solar System Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) it, too, has a jam-packed agenda with fascinating panels and speakers.

This week definitely has an embarrassment of riches for anyone interested in space science, technology and policy and we haven’t even gotten to Congress yet.

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill (T-HUD) that funds FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation on Monday evening; the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing on planetary flagship missions, including Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper, on Tuesday morning; and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has a nomination hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon that includes the nominations of Ellen Lord to be USD/ATL and Matthew Donovan to be Under Secretary of the Air Force (SASC Chairman Sen. McCain’s decision to remain in Arizona this week recovering from eye surgery could change that schedule, though).

Those events and others we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday (July 17)

Monday-Thursday (July 17-20)

Tuesday (July 18)

Tuesday-Thursday (July 18-20)

Wednesday, July 19

Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20

Thursday, July 20


House Adopts Johnson Amendment to Create Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

House Adopts Johnson Amendment to Create Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) effort to create a memorial to the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington National Cemetery took a step forward yesterday.  The crews of the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia are honored there, but not Apollo 1.  Her amendment to the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directing the Secretary of the Army to establish an Apollo 1 memorial there was adopted by the House.  The bill itself passed later in the day.

Fifty years ago, Virgil “Gus” Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died when fire erupted in their Apollo command module during a pre-launch test.  The test on January 27, 1967 was in advance of a planned February 21 launch of the first Apollo mission.  The cause of the fire is thought to have been a spark from an electrical wire in the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule, although the investigation could not conclusively identify the ignition source.  The capsule was pressurized at 16.7 pounds per square inch (psi), greater than that outside the capsule.  The hatch swung inward and the crew could not open it quickly enough to escape.

Apollo 1 crew members Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.  Photo credit:  NASA

During a tribute to the crew in January on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Chaffee’s daughter, Sheryl, movingly recounted what it was like as an 8-year-old to learn of her father’s death and how it led to her own 33-year career at NASA.  She said, however, that it seems as though few remember it.

Johnson introduced a bill last year to honor the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington Cemetery in the same manner as the Challenger and Columbia crews, but it did not pass.  She reintroduced it this year.  This week, however, she proposed a slightly different version as an amendment to the NDAA (H.R. 2810).  The House approved it as part of en bloc amendment 4.

In a press statement, Johnson expressed her gratitude to the House for supporting the amendment and hope that the Senate will follow suit.  “Each of these individuals made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of a noble and inspiring goal — the peaceful exploration of outer space.  I am grateful to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this amendment, and I hope the Senate will join us in making the Apollo 1 memorial a reality.”

Memorial to the space shuttle Challenger crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit:  Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial to the space shuttle Columbia crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit: Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery is overseen by the Department of the Army.  Johnson’s amendment requires the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the NASA Administrator, to construct the memorial at “an appropriate place” in the cemetery and authorizes $50,000 for that purpose.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has been supporting Johnson’s effort.  In an emailed statement, AIA thanked Johnson, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA).   “AIA has supported Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s … effort along with our partners at the Challenger Center. … AIA applauds these three representatives for their leadership in moving forward the noble idea of authorizing a memorial marker honoring these American heroes.”

As Johnson said, the next step is getting the Senate to agree.  The Senate’s version of the FY2018 NDAA is awaiting floor action.  As reported from the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), it does not address this issue.

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill–Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill–Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill this evening.  The final version makes no changes to the subcommittee-approved recommendations for NASA or NOAA. NASA would get a significant increase above President Trump’s request and above current spending.  NOAA’s near-term satellite programs, JPSS and GOES-R, are fully funded, but future programs did not fare well.

The committee’s lengthy markup dealt with a wide variety of issues, reflecting the bill’s broad jurisdiction — NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and all of the Departments of Justice and Commerce (NOAA is part of Commerce).  Especially tense debates took place on Department of Justice issues such as the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election.  Although the NASA and NOAA portions were not controversial, in the end, the bill was approved on a largely partisan basis 31-21 (the committee has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats).

The only NASA-related amendment was offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). She sought to add money for NASA’s aeronautics program, but withdrew the amendment after making the point that more funding is needed.  House Appropriations CJS subcommittee chairman John Culberson (R-TX) agreed about the need for more money.  As he said during subcommittee markup, he is optimistic that once Congress agrees on a Budget Resolution, his subcommittee will have more money to spend and NASA’s aeronautics program is “at the top of the list.”  He made similar comments in reaction to amendments seeking more money for NSF and for the Legal Services Corporation.

The bill approves $19.872 billion for NASA in FY2018, $217 million more than its current (FY2017) spending and $780 million more than the Trump Administration’s request.  Among the highlights, the bill approves:

  • $5,858.5 million for Science
    • $1,704.0 million for earth science ($50 million less than the request). Includes $175.8 million to keep Landsat-9 on track for 2020 launch.
    • $2,120.9 million for planetary science ($191.4 million more than the request). Includes $475 million for “Europa Clipper and Lander”.
    • $822 million for astrophysics ($5.3 million more than the request).  Requires NASA to ensure WFIRST is Starshade compatible.
    • $533.7 million for James Webb Space Telescope (same as request).
    • $677.9 million for heliophysics (same as request).
  • $660.0 million for Aeronautics
  • $686.5 million for Space Technology
  • $4,550.0 million for Exploration
    • $1,350.0 million for Orion
    • $2,150.0 million for SLS
    • $600.0 million for exploration ground systems
    • $450.0 million for exploration R&D
  • $4,676.6 million for Space Operations (ISS, commercial crew and cargo, space and flight support)
  • $90.0 million for Education ($18 million for EPSCoR, $40 million for Space Grant, $32 million for MUREP)
  • $2,826.2 million for Safety, Security and Mission Support
  • $486.1 million for Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration
  • $37.9 million for Inspector General

For more information and a table comparing FY2017 funding, the Trump request, and the committee’s actions, see’s fact sheet on NASA’s budget request.

The total amount approved for acquisition of NOAA’s satellite systems in $1,469.6 million.  NOAA’s two major weather satellites programs — JPSS and GOES-R — are fully funded.

The JPSS program pays for only the first two of these new polar orbiting weather satellites, however.  The second pair, JPSS-3 and -4, are funded in a separate Polar Follow On (PFO) program.  The Trump Administration proposed a deep cut to PFO saying it will re-plan the program ($180 million instead of the $586 million NOAA said last year it would need for FY2018). The committee went even further, approving only $50 million, but added it would reconsider if NOAA provides a better explanation of how it is restructuring the program.  NOAA’s plans for new space weather satellites also fell far short of what the agency planned last year, although the committee provided more ($8.5 million) than the Trump Administration requested ($500,000).

The House Appropriations Committee is approving appropriations bills even though the House has not adopted a Budget Resolution establishing how much money there is to spend.  Strictly speaking that step is supposed to happen prior to action by the Appropriations Committee. Whether any such Resolution provides more money for the CJS bill, as Culberson hopes, is far from assured.

The path forward for any of these appropriations bills is unclear.  Congress has failed to pass Budget Resolutions in previous years, but nevertheless kept the government operating. So it is possible, but adds another layer of complication.

NOAA’s Polar Follow On Program Zapped by House Appropriators

NOAA’s Polar Follow On Program Zapped by House Appropriators

NOAA’s Polar Follow On (PFO) program to build the next two JPSS polar-orbiting weather satellites barely survives in the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee’s draft budget for the agency.  Only $50 million would be allocated, compared to the $586 million NOAA said last year that it would need in FY2018.  The Trump Administration proposed a re-plan of the program in its budget request, asking for $180 million for FY2018.  The subcommittee is going well beyond that, but said it may reconsider its decision if NOAA provides better information about the re-plan.  The full committee will mark up the bill tomorrow (Thursday).

NOAA is building new generations of its two weather satellite systems, one that orbits around the Earth’s poles (polar orbit) and the other in geostationary orbit above the equator.

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program consists of the first two JPSS polar-orbiting satellites.  It is fully funded in Trump’s budget request and by the subcommittee.  The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series R (GOES-R) program also is fully funded.

The question is what comes next.  The JPSS program itself funds only the first two satellites, JPSS-1 and -2.  The next two, JPSS-3 and JPSS-4, have a different program name and funding line item — Polar Follow On (PFO).   The original decision to split JPSS into different program lines was part of an effort to reduce the cost of what was officially labeled the JPSS program, although a number of changes have been made since.  Most recently, NOAA has been planning to procure instruments and spacecraft for JPSS-2, -3, and -4 simultaneously to achieve cost savings and create resiliency in case a satellite fails early or is lost during launch.

Budget constraints have changed the picture, however.  With the Trump Administration trying to cut costs across the government, it signaled early on that NOAA’s future satellite programs would be reduced.  PFO is one of the targets.  NOAA had projected in its FY2017 request that $586 million would be needed in FY2018, but the Trump Administration’s request was for only $180 million in FY2018 and “TBD” for future years.

NOAA said it would “initiate a re-plan” and “work to improve the constellation strategy considering all the polar satellite assets to ensure polar weather satellite continuity while seeking cost efficiencies, managing and balancing systems technical risks and leveraging partnerships.”

The CJS subcommittee funds the Department of Commerce, of which NOAA is part.  In its draft report, released today, it left no doubt that it found NOAA’s new approach insufficient.   “The request proposes a dramatic and incipient re-plan of this program. Yet the request fails to assess the purported new mission design’s impacts on constellation availability, or provide an updated gap analysis, or new annual or lifecycle cost estimates.”   Therefore it approved only $50 million.

A gap analysis is an assessment of the possibility that a gap in coverage could occur if new satellites are not launched quickly enough to replace older satellites as they fail or if a satellite fails prematurely.  Because of the vital nature of weather satellite data, NOAA and Congress are determined to avoid gaps in either polar or geostationary weather satellite data.  Such assessments are difficult, though.  Many satellites outlive their design lives, but others do not and there is always the risk that a new satellite could be doomed by a launch failure.

The subcommittee added that it will reassess its decision on funding for PFO if NOAA provides better information.

Another NOAA satellite program whose future is in doubt is space weather.  NOAA is responsible for spacecraft that monitor the Sun for particle ejections that can damage  satellites in orbit and infrastructure on Earth like the electric grid.  The most recent space weather satellite to be launched to the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point for that purpose was DSCOVR.  NOAA proposed a plan last year to build two new spacecraft and instruments with the first one ready to be launched before the end of DSCOVR’s design lifetime.  This Space Weather Follow On program was to be funded at $53.7 million in FY2018 according to NOAA’s projections.

The Trump Administration’s budget request did not support that plan, requesting only $500,000.  Congress has a strong interest in space weather.  On May 2, 2017, the Senate passed the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act and a companion bill has been introduced in the House.  For FY2017, Congress appropriated $5 million to NOAA for space weather, double the request.

The House CJS subcommittee also boosted the request this time, approving $8.545 million, which is much better than $500,000, but far less than what the agency was planning last year.

In other NOAA space programs, the subcommittee recommended $6 million for the commercial weather data pilot program, twice what the Trump Administration requested.

It also recommended $1.8 million for the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) and $1.2 million for the Office of Space Commerce.  For FY2017, Congress funded the CRSRA at $998,000 and the Office of Space Commerce at $800,000.  For FY2018, the Trump Administration requested $1.2 million for each.

The full House Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill tomorrow at 10:00 am ET.  The meeting will be webcast.

White House Opposes Space Corps

White House Opposes Space Corps

The Trump Administration informed the House that it does not agree on the need for the Space Corps proposed in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) called the proposal premature because DOD is still in the process of studying potential organizational changes.  The White House used stronger language to object to two other space provisions in the bill.  The House began debate on the bill (H.R. 2810) this afternoon. [UPDATE: The House passed the bill with the Space Corps provision intact on July 14, 2017.]

Section 1601 of the bill proposes creating a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy, and a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command.  Proposed by House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Strategic Forces subcommittee chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and ranking member Jim Cooper (D-TN), it was strongly backed by HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) during full committee markup of the bill.  It was opposed by others, however.  Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the subcommittee, offered an amendment to delete the provision, but it was rejected by voice vote.  Turner proposed his amendment again for consideration by the full House.   Such amendments must be approved by the House Rules Committee. As of press time, it is not on that committee’s list of amendments that have been made in order for floor debate.

The White House SAP was gently worded, saying it appreciates HASC’s concerns and “we understand the increasing threats posed to our continued use of space capabilities.”  DOD is already considering “a wide range of organizational options, including a Space Corps,” and the White House wants to wait until that assessment is completed before making decisions.

The SAP uses stronger language to object to two other provisions.  Section 1615 restricts the use of funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs) to developing new rocket propulsion systems to replace “non-allied space launch engines” (a reference to Russia’s RD-180 engines used for Atlas V) and modifications to launch vehicles to accommodate them.  The money may not be used for entirely new space launch systems (propulsion plus the rest of the rocket and associated infrastructure).  The Trump Administration “strongly objects” to that section because it “limits domestic competition, which will increase taxpayer costs by several billions of dollars through FY2027 and stifle innovation.”   DOD already has a strategy for developing new launch systems that has “saved $300 million” and the provision in the bill would make that strategy “impossible to execute.”

The Trump Administration also strongly objects to Section 1612 that limits DOD’s ability to procure satellite services from certain foreign entities.  The bill prohibits buying satellite services if the satellite or its launch vehicle is designed or manufactured in a “covered foreign country,” which for the purposes of this section includes Russia.  The SAP points out that three-quarters of DOD’s satellite communications services are from “foreign-incorporated companies that make widespread use of international launch vehicles.”

In total, the White House SAP listed 27 provisions in the bill it finds particularly troubling, but the tone of the statement is more friendly that many of those issued by the Obama Administration. This SAP repeatedly says the White House looks forward to working with Congress to resolve the issues, whereas SAPs from the last Administration often said if a bill was not changed, the President’s advisors would recommend that he veto it.   That likely is because Republicans now control the House, Senate, and White House and this is the Trump Administration’s first year in office.

SASC Wants New Chief Information Warfare Officer With Authority Over Space

SASC Wants New Chief Information Warfare Officer With Authority Over Space

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) today released the text of the bill and report for its version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Unlike its House counterpart, SASC completed all its subcommittee and full committee markups in closed session, so this is the first time details have emerged.  Although the bill does not create a Space Corps like the House bill proposes, it has its own plan for dramatic change in how space programs are handled within DOD.

Section 902 would create the position of Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef).   The CIWO would serve as the Principal Cyber Advisor to the SecDef and the Principal DOD Space Advisor (PDSA).

Both positions already exist. The Principal Cyber Advisor (PCA) was created by Congress in the FY2014 NDAA.  The position is filled by a deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy, though it is vacant at the moment.

The PDSA position was created by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work in October 2015 and is filled by the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF).  The office almost immediately came under criticism from Congress.  In the FY2016 NDAA, SASC required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the effectiveness of the office.  GAO concluded in a July 27, 2016 report that it was too early to tell, but skepticism remained.  SecAF Deborah Lee James was the first PDSA and there was speculation she might be the last as well.  However, current SecAF Heather Wilson now has the job.

Today’s bill (S. 1519) and report (S. Rept. 115-125) make clear that SASC still is not convinced that PCA and PDSA are solving the problems.  SASC’s concern is that in three areas — information, space, and cyber — no individual has the authority to set priorities. As the report explains:

“The committee has concerns that the existing organizational construct and resourcing authorities within [DOD] for space, cyber, and information are not commensurate with the organizational structure and resourcing required to meet the demands of 21st century warfare. … Until there is an official in the [DOD] who can prioritize these missions, the committee is concerned that the priorities for space, cyber, and information will never receive the resourcing and senior level attention necessary to compete against the parochial interests of each individual Service.”

The CIWO would have a very broad portfolio.

“The CIWO would have the authority to establish policy for and direct the secretaries of the military departments and the heads of all other elements of the Department on matters concerning: (1) Space and space launch systems; (2) Communications networks and information technology (other than business systems); (3) National Security Systems; (4) Information assurance and cybersecurity; (5) Electronic warfare and cyber warfare; (6) Nuclear command and control and senior leadership communications systems; (7) Command and Control systems and networks; (8) The electromagnetic spectrum; (9) Positioning, navigation, and timing; and (10) Any other matters assigned to the Chief Information Officer of the [DOD] not related to business systems or management, …”

Separately, the bill would require the Commander of Air Force Space Command to serve a term of at least 6 years in order to provide continuity of leadership similar to that for the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program and strategic systems program.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) also is proposing a major reorganization, although it is focused on space, not a combination of space, cyber and information.

Its approach is entirely different, proposing creation of a Space Corps within the Air Force, and a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command.  The House provision is very controversial.  It is strongly supported by the chairman and ranking member of HASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), as well as full committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX).  During markup of the bill at full committee on June 28, however, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of that subcommittee, offered an amendment to delete the provision on the basis that it is premature and more deliberation is needed.  The amendment failed on a voice vote.  Turner has proposed it again for debate by the full House.  The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow to decide which amendments will be permitted.

What is clear is that both committees want dramatic changes in how space programs and policy are handled at DOD, but they have very different solutions.  Finding a compromise between the two chambers will be challenging enough, but the bill also will have to be signed by the President, so DOD will have its own say in the matter.

FAA Space Office To Get Budget Boost from House Appropriators – UPDATE

FAA Space Office To Get Budget Boost from House Appropriators – UPDATE

House appropriators are recommending a budget boost for FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  The office received $19.8 million for FY2017, but the Trump budget proposal for FY2018 is $2 million less.  By contrast, the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the office is proposing $21.587 million. [UPDATE:  the subcommittee approved that amount on July 11 as did the full House Appropriations Committee on July 17.]

The Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) subcommittee will mark up the bill tomorrow evening.  In total, the bill allocates $56.5 billion for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  That total is $1.1 billion less than FY2017 and $8.6 billion above the Trump Administration’s request.

FAA/AST regulates, facilitates and promotes the commercial space launch industry.  Among its responsibilities is issuing permits and licenses related to commercial space launches and reentries.  With the burgeoning growth in both areas, advocates point to the need to provide the office with enough funding to hire sufficient staff to process applications in a timely manner.  Debate continues over whether to expand FAA/AST’s role into non-military space situational awareness or regulating non-traditional space activities, but on a more fundamental level the question is how to ensure the office can effectively execute its current assignments.

The office received $17.8 million for FY2016.  The FY2017 request from the Obama Administration was $19.8 million and Congress eventually appropriated that amount in May 2017.  Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) were particularly influential in convincing House appropriators to provide that level of funding last year.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration was formulating its FY2018 budget request while Congress was still debating the final FY2017 numbers and FAA/AST was funded by a Continuing Resolution at its FY2016 level.  Thus, the Trump Administration may have viewed its FY2018 request of $17.8 million as level funding when in fact it would be a $2 million cut.

In any case, the T-HUD subcommittee’s recommendation of $21.587 million is a boost over FY2017.  In March, Bridenstine testified before the subcommittee in favor of a $23 million budget, a $3.2 million increase above FY2017.  The $21.587 million proposed by the T-HUD subcommittee is a bit more than half of that.

FAA also funds commercial space transportation-related activities in two other accounts, but the draft bill released by the committee today does not provide sufficient detail to know how those requests fared.   The FY2018 requests are $1.796 million in Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) for AST’s Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation and other R&D related to safely integrating commercial space transportation into the National Airspace System; and $4.5 million in Facilities and Equipment (F&E) for the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) to acquire a Space Data Integrator tool that will enable ATO to safely reduce the amount of airspace that must be closed, respond to unusual scenarios, and release airspace as a mission progresses.

Tomorrow’s subcommittee markup is at 7:00 pm ET.  It will be webcast.