GOP Platform Calls for Sustaining U.S. Preeminence in Space, But Little Else About the Space Program

GOP Platform Calls for Sustaining U.S. Preeminence in Space, But Little Else About the Space Program

The Republican Party has formally adopted its platform for the 2012 election.   One small section addresses the space program, calling for sustaining American preeminence in space.

The two paragraphs of the 50 page treatise devoted to the space program are part of the section on “Reforming Government to Serve the People” and carries the heading “America’s Future in Space:  Continuing This Quest.”   The text reads as follows in its entirety.

“The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology.  Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess.  From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.

“Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate—and surpass—NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.”

The Space Frontier Foundation, a proponent of private sector space activities and NewSpace was quick to criticize the statement for its government-centric tone.  “NASA seems to be one Big Government program many Republicans love,” it said, adding that while other parts of the platform criticize the government as “bloated, antiquated and unresponsive to taxpayers,” NASA is spared that characterization. 

The GOP platform does champion entrepreneurship elsewhere in its pages, just not in the section that addresses the space program.

The platform also ignores the national security space sector.  Federal spending on space activities for the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community surpasses that for NASA.   The national security section of the GOP platform, entitled American Exceptionalism, goes into some specifics, such as the need for “upgrading … aircraft and armored vehicles” and “state-of-the-art surveillance, enhanced special operations capabilities and unmanned aerial systems,” but makes no explicit mention of national security space assets.  It does say the GOP will “enhance the capabilities of our intelligence community,” which in its broadest interpretation could include space systems, but the context in which it is written does not suggest that is what the authors had in mind.

In all fairness, party platforms usually are fairly general documents since they must appeal to a broad range of interests within the party.   Presidential candidate Barack Obama made a number of promises about the space program during his 2008 campaign, but they were not part of the 2008 Democratic party platform.  That document said only that Democrats would “invest in a strong and inspirational vision for space exploration.”  By comparison, the 2012 Republican platform devotes an entire two paragraphs to the topic.

We will learn next week what the Democrats say in their 2012 platform about the future of the space program, and as the weeks pass, if the Republican or Democratic presidential nominees have anything more specific to say themselves. 

Stay tuned!



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