Draft House FY2022 NDAA Calls for International Norms of Behavior in Space

Draft House FY2022 NDAA Calls for International Norms of Behavior in Space

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act tomorrow in what is expected to be a marathon session that may extend beyond midnight. Among the bill’s provisions is direction to the National Space Council to coordinate U.S. government efforts to prioritize objectives for developing norms of behavior for space and to the Secretary of State to use them in international negotiations.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

HASC Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) released his draft version of the bill — the chairman’s mark — yesterday. The 507-page bill authorizes $744 billion for national defense, of which $716 billion is for DOD.

Smith told the Brookings Institution this morning that “the overall theme of where we are at on national security policy is transformation” away from combat situations in military zones like Iraq and Afghanistan to deterring adversaries like Russia and China. Part of that is the technological challenge of survivability so that command and control systems cannot be shut down by someone “in their basesment with a computer.” That includes the “importance of our satellite systems and how robust that is.”

He said about 700 amendments to the draft bill have been proposed. The HASC NDAA markups typically last for 14 hours or more and tomorrow’s may break the record. With Afghanistan dominating the headlines, it is expected to be a testy affair.

The amount of money ($17.5 billion) for space activities is tiny compared to the overall DOD budget, but how much of the debate will focus on space is hard to guess.

The draft bill has a number of interesting space provisions including support for efforts to develop internationally-recognized norms of behavior for space activities, like how close one country’s satellite can get to another’s without triggering alarms. Developing such norms has been discussed for years, but has taken on new urgency as more and more countries and companies launch satellites, the number of satellites and amount of space debris mushroom, and space threats grow.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a United Kingdom resolution in December 2020 on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behavior. The communiques from the G7 summit and NATO summit earlier this year endorsed efforts to develop such norms. In July, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed a memo laying out five “Tenets of Responsible Behavior in Space” DOD will follow for its own operations.

The draft bill puts congressional weight behind those efforts, requiring officials at DOD, the State Department, NASA, and the National Reconnaissance Office to develop a list of prioritized objectives for establishing norms of behavior “to bolster and further develop the international rules-based order, particularly as it applies to the space domain.”  The White House National Space Council, which is chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, is required to consolidate the lists and the Secretary of State to use them as a guide to establish a framework for bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

The committee’s summary of the bill highlights these other space-related provisions as well:

  • Allows for the Secretary of the Air Force to establish a Service Acquisition Executive for
    Space as soon as possible, but no later than October 1, 2022, and provides the authority
    to assign the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration
    duties and authorities of the senior procurement executive for space systems and
  • Directs the Chief of Space Operations, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary of
    Defense for Space Policy, to conduct a classification review of all programs under the
    purview of the Space Force to determine if any programs should be lesser- or declassified.
  • Supports phase two of the National Security Space Launch program, and requires the
    Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, to
    provide a report on efforts to continue innovation and competition in launch, with
    particular focus on requirements for space access, mobility, and logistics.
  • Continues to highlight the need for tactically responsive space launch and requires the
    Secretary of Defense to provide a plan, including funding, on how this program will be
    executed in future years defense programs.
  • Requires reports and briefings on plans for the proposed Space Warfare Analysis Center
    and requirements for experimental space launch activities.
  • Authorizes additional funding for:
    • Space Command to procure commercial space situational awareness data andservices
    • Space power and collection technology
    • Hybrid Space Architecture development
    • Tactically responsive space launch
    • Weather system follow-on
  • National Security Space Launch engineering and manufacturing development efforts

The markup begins at 10:00 am ET.  When it will end is anyone’s guess, but have the coffee handy.

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