Pace Outlines Trump Administration’s Approach to Space Development and Law

Pace Outlines Trump Administration’s Approach to Space Development and Law

Scott Pace, Executive Secretary of the White House National Space Council, today outlined the Trump Administration’s approach to space development and law, which includes “bringing American values to space.”   Other features are creating programs and frameworks that lead other countries to align with the United States and striving to be an attractive place for private sector investment and innovation.

Scott Pace. Credit: Pace’s LinkedIn page.

Pace, a veteran space policy professional who most recently was director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, spoke at the 12th Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law in Washington, DC.  The event is organized by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and honors the late Eilene Galloway, a legend in space policy and space law circles.

The United States should seek to ensure that its space activities reflect “our values and not just our technologies,” Pace urged.  “We should seek to ensure that our space activities reflect those values: democracy, liberty, free enterprise, and respect for domestic and international law in a peaceful international order.”

To influence the development and utilization of space, the United States needs to “create attractive projects and frameworks in which other nations choose to align themselves and their space activities with us, as opposed to others.”

Pace praised the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which just turned 50 years old, saying there is “no doubt” that U.S. national interests are served by conducting space activities within that international legal framework.  Conversely, he lambasted the 1979 Moon Agreement as “contrary to American interests.”  It declares the Moon to be the common heritage of mankind with all nations sharing equitably in benefits derived from its resources.  The United States is not a party to the treaty. It entered into force in 1984 when the requisite five countries signed and ratified it, but none of the signatories (a total of 17 currently) are major spacefaring nations.

He listed seven “core elements” of the Trump Administration’s policy approach (text of his remarks).

  • Support activities that advance U.S. national interests internationally.  Quoting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster: “America first does not mean America alone.”
  • Strive to be the most attractive jurisdiction in the world for private sector investment and innovation in space with a light touch of regulation.
  • Use legal and diplomatic means to create a stable, peaceful environment for governmental and commercial space activities.
  • Provide confidence to the private sector that it can profit from capital investments made to develop and utilize in-situ resources, commercial infrastructure and facilities in space.
  • Respond to questions about how the United States registers space objects and the responsibilities of space object ownership and operation.
  • Develop non-binding international norms complementary to the existing legal regime through best practices and confidence building measures — but no new treaties or international arms control agreements.
  • Reject the notion that space is a “global commons” or “common heritage of mankind” or “res communis” or a public good.

Pace was challenged on the last point by University of Mississippi space law professor emerita Joanne Gabrynowicz.  She agreed that the concept that space is the common heritage of all mankind has not been accepted internationally.  Pursuant to the Outer Space Treaty, however, it is the “province of all mankind” and that language is based on the principle of res communis, she asserted.  Pace held his ground, saying he takes advice from the State Department’s Office of Legal Adviser which has concluded that it is not.  Asked later what framework he does use, Pace replied that international law can be created by the pen or by practice and ultimately is whatever sovereign nations decide to do with each other.  He added that involving the international private sector is also important because it brings in best practices that can be turned into guidelines.

A symposium participant from China asked about whether the U.S.-China space relationship might become warmer.  Pace replied that there are possibilities in scientific areas and in the commercial sector, but space cooperation at a symbolic level would depend on the broader U.S.-China geopolitical relationship and could only proceed after it improves.

Pace also was asked about the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group (UAG).   The UAG was officially established by NASA yesterday with publication in the Federal Register.  NASA will administer the group.  Pace said he envisiones it operating similar to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), but with a broader scope covering all three space sectors (civil, military and commercial).  Pace is quite familiar with NAC.  He was NASA’s Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation when Mike Griffin was Administrator during the George W. Bush Administraiton.

The nomination period for anyone who wants to be a member of the UAG will open on Monday.  He anticipates a group of between 20-25 people plus subcommittees with particular areas of expertise. The President and the Vice President are “personally interested” in the membership, he added.

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.