Clinton Wants Balanced NASA Program With Climate Change Research and Exploration Partnerships

Clinton Wants Balanced NASA Program With Climate Change Research and Exploration Partnerships

Jim Kohlenberger, who served in both the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations, published an op-ed in Space News today laying out Hillary Clinton’s civil space agenda.  Clinton wants a balanced NASA program with a focus on climate change research as well as a “robust” exploration program, all in partnership with the international and commercial communities.

Kohlenberger was chief of staff for the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from 2009-2011.  During Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Al Gore.   Currently he is President of JK Strategies, a public policy consulting practice, and Executive Director of the Center for Copyright Information. 

This is the third op-ed in the trade publication providing information on the candidates’
views on space.  The first two, published last week (on civil space issues) and yesterday (on national security space) were from two representatives of the Trump
campaign, Bob Walker and Peter Navarro.  Trump himself also spoke about NASA briefly today.

Kohlenberger’s op-ed, like those from the Trump campaign, is very broad and offers few specifics, but provides an overview of Clinton’s views on civil space issues.  She will “advance American ideals” through a balanced program of science, technology and exploration and promote strong coordination across the federal government as well as “cooperation with industry and collaboration with the international community.”  That includes efforts to “deepen support for strong public-private partnerships.”

While he does not say that Clinton would reestablish a White House National Space Council, as Walker and Navarro said Trump would do, he states that she “will elevate executive branch coordination of federal space agency initiatives.”  He does not specify the mechanism for accomplishing that goal.

The need for NASA and NOAA to engage in climate change research is specifically called out.  Kohlenberger criticizes Trump’s opinion that climate change is “a hoax,” stating that it is not just “shortsighted,” but endangers space exploration since launch sites in Florida and Virginia are vulnerable to rising sea levels.  Clinton “knows that climate change is an urgent threat” and NASA and NOAA programs to study it are “invaluable.”

As for exploration, Clinton is committed to a program that includes the International Space Station (ISS), commercial space leadership, bold missions into deep space, and the commercial crew program. 

“Secretary Clinton knows that, just like taking on challenges here on Earth, the strongest way to explore and utilize space is by doing so together” with international and commercial partners. 

At a top level, except for climate change research, the Trump and Clinton positions seem fairly similar.  Both endorse public private partnerships, the need for better coordination within the federal government, and a strong human exploration program beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).  However, they both also lack specifics about whether they support the ongoing beyond LEO programs: the Space Launch System, Orion, and the Asteroid Redirect Mission.

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