Today’s Tidbits: February 15, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: February 15, 2018

Here are our tidbits for February 15, 2018:  Mike Griffin confirmed as USD/R&E and other nominations progress; Chris Shank joins Van Scoyoc Associates; intelligence community warns on antisatellite (ASAT) weapons.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Mike Griffin Confirmed as USD/R&E, Other Nominations Progress

Mike Griffin (left) testifies to the White House National Space Council, October 5, 2017. Screengrab.

Late this afternoon the Senate confirmed Mike Griffin as Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD/R&E), a new position created by Congress in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as part of its effort to improve the defense acquisition process.  Griffin is a former NASA administrator (2005-2009) with extensive space and defense experience in government, industry and academia.  Most recently he was Chairman and CEO of Schafer Corporation before its acquisition by Belcan. While many in the space policy community know him from his involvement in civil and commercial space issues, he also was Deputy for Technology in the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative Office and President and COO of In-Q-Tel, a CIA-created strategic investor in innovative technologies.

Griffin was confirmed along with a number of other nominees for positions across the government by voice votes as the Senate prepared to adjourn for a week-long recess (except for pro forma sessions).  Among them is Neil Jacobs, confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observations and Prediction, a top position at NOAA.

The list did not include Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator, Barry Myers to be NOAA Administrator, or any of the four nominees for the Export-Import Bank’s Board of Directors.  There is no word on when any of those might be considered.

Separately, the nomination of Jeffrey DeWit to be NASA’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has been placed on the “privileged” calendar, a list of non-controversial nominees allowed to proceed through an expedited process.  According to the Senate Executive Calendar, information has been requested of DeWit, but not yet received.

Chris Shank Joins Van Scoyoc Associates

Chris Shank. Credit: Shank’s LinkedIn page.

Chris Shank, a well known member of the Washington space policy community, is now Vice President of Van Scoyoc Associates (VSA), a prominent lobbying firm that specializes in space and defense (among many other topics).  Shank has a rich background in the military, on Capitol Hill, in the Executive Branch, and industry.

He served as head of the Trump transition team, or “landing party,” for NASA and NSF, but went over to DOD after the transition as a senior advisor to the Secretary of the Air Force. In that capacity, he helped stand up the new USD/R&E office that Griffin will head.  The two have worked together in the past.  Shank was NASA’s chief of strategic communications and director of strategic investments when Griffin was administrator.

Among Shank’s other positions, he served two stints on the staff of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, worked at Honeywell and at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and was an Air Force officer for 11 years working at the Pentagon, the National Reconnaissance Office, and Air Force Space Command.

According to a February 13 VSA press release, he already is working on behalf of Nanoracks, Jacobs Technology, and Texas A&M University.

Intelligence Community Warns on Antisatellite (ASAT) Weapons

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week on the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  His 28-page statement for the record [] covers a lot of ground, including “space and counterspace” threats from Russia and China.

We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems. Military reforms in both countries in the past few years indicate an increased focus on establishing operational forces designed to integrate attacks against space systems and services with military operations in other domains.

Forecasting that Russian and Chinese “destructive ASAT weapons probably will reach initial operational capability in the next few years,” the statement also expresses concern about “experimental” satellites each country has launched “that conduct sophisticated on-orbit activities, at least some of which are intended to advance counterspace capabilities.”

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