NASA Letters to Culberson Provide Some Information on September Bilateral China Meeting

NASA Letters to Culberson Provide Some Information on September Bilateral China Meeting

In response to a FOIA request, NASA today provided two letters that it sent to Rep. John Culberson prior to a September 28, 2015 bilateral meeting with China to discuss civil space cooperation. Culberson said in October that the information he received did not have sufficient depth and scope to comply with a law limiting NASA’s bilateral interactions with China.

Former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who once chaired the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA, included language in NASA’s appropriations bills sharply limiting NASA’s involvement with China.  They also limit White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) interaction with China on space cooperation.  OSTP is also funded in the CJS bill. 

Wolf was succeeded by Culberson as chair of the subcommittee.  He holds similar views regarding space cooperation with China and has included the same language in recent appropriations legislation.

Section 532 of the FY2015 appropriations law (P.L. 113-235) states that NASA may not spend any funds to “develop, design, plan,
promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or
contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate
bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless
such activities are specifically authorized by law enacted after the
date of enactment of this Act.”  Those limitations do not apply if “no
later than 30 days prior to the activity in question,” NASA certifies
that the activity poses no risk of the transfer of “technology, data, or
other information with national security or economic security
implications” and does not “involve knowing interactions with officials
who have been determined by the United States to have direct involvement
with violations of human rights.”   Any such certification “shall
include a description of the purpose of the activity, its agenda, its
major participants, and its location and timing.”

The State Department announced in June that it was initiating a “U.S.-China Civil Space Cooperation Dialogue” and the first meeting would be in September 2015.  The meeting took place on September 28 in Beijing.

Culberson told in October that NASA did not provide his committee with sufficient “details on the depth and scope” of the meeting and he would “vigorously enforce” the law.

NASA initially declined to provide copies of any communications it had with Culberson about the meeting. filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the agency for “all correspondence between NASA and the House Appropriations Committee
in August or September 2015 in which NASA makes the certifications
required by law regarding bilateral interactions with China with respect
to space cooperation in conjunction with the meeting held in China on
that topic in late September 2015.”

Today NASA provided with two such letters.  The first was sent
by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden on July 31 notifying Culberson that NASA would participate in the State Department-led meeting and making the required certifications.  The second was signed by NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski on September 16 restating the certifications and providing an agenda for the meeting in Beijing on September 28, as well as an earlier meeting at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 23.  The Radzanowski letter references a July 22 letter from Bolden to Culberson, but NASA did not provide that in response to’s FOIA request.  It predated the July 31 letter that NASA did provide.  (Our original request for all correspondence between NASA and the committee in August or September 2015 related to the meeting with China was rejected because it was not specific enough, so we resubmitted it asking for letters where the required certifications were made.)

The Bolden letter was well within the 30-day time limit specified in the law and provided the requisite certifications, but little detail.  The Radzanowski letter provided an agenda, list of Chinese participants, location and timing, but was not sent within that time limit.

Rep. Culberson had not responded by press time to a request for any additional comment he might want to make about the information he believes was missing from NASA’s communications prior to the meeting.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.