Today’s Tidbits: July 31, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: July 31, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for July 31, 2018:  Space Corps report delayed; Trump picks Droegemeier for OSTP Director; space makes the cut as top R&D priority for FY2020. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Space Corps Report Delayed

Patrick Shanahan, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Credit: DOD

Tomorrow, August 1, is the deadline for the Pentagon to submit an interim report to Congress on a plan to better organize DOD to conduct space activities.  The FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, to contract with a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) not closely affiliated with the Air Force to “develop a plan to establish a separate military department responsible for the national security space activities” of DOD.  The final report is due December 31, 2018.

The Pentagon announced today, however, that the interim “Shanahan report” will not be submitted on time.  A scheduled media briefing for tomorrow was postponed.  According to multiple media reports, a Pentagon spokesman said the report was still being “coordinated” among various stakeholders and would be released “soon.”

The requirement for the report was a compromise between the House and Senate last year.  The House voted to create a Space Corps, but the Senate — and the Pentagon and the White House — disagreed.  Much has changed since then, with President Trump strongly advocating for a Space Force despite the Pentagon’s objections.  Notionally a Space Corps is part of the Air Force (like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy) while a Space Force is “separate but equal” to the Air Force, as the President says.

The Space Corps idea was championed on a bipartisan basis by the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Turner (D-TN).  It is not clear who convinced the President to argue for a Space Force as a separate entity, but Rogers supports it.

The House and Senate did not include a Space Corps or a Space Force (or a Space Guard, another version of the concept) in this year’s FY2019 NDAA at least in part because they are waiting for the Shanahan report.  The FY2019 NDAA is done already.  The conference report passed the House last week and is expected to pass the Senate this week.  Creating such an entity requires legislation and the annual NDAA is the likely vehicle to do that, so the matter must wait until next year in any case.

Trump Picks Droegemeier for OSTP Director

President Trump has, at last, selected a Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The nation’s top science post has been vacant since the end of the Obama Administration in January 2017.

Late this evening, the White House officially announced the President’s intent to nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma.  The nomination requires Senate confirmation.

So far the nomination is getting great reviews.  Science, for example, quotes John Holdren, OSTP Director and science adviser to President Obama, as characterizing Droegemeir as a “very good pick” with “experience speaking science to power.” []

Droegemeier served on the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation, from 2004-2016 and was its Vice-Chair for the last four of those years.  A biography posted there describes his expertise as the “dynamics and predictability of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes” and notes that he “helped pioneer the science of storm-scale numerical weather forecasting.”

Space Makes the Cut for Top R&D Priorities for FY2020

Speaking of OSTP, today it and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued their annual guidance on the nation’s top research and development (R&D) priorities for FY2020.  Agencies are preparing their FY2020 budget requests right now.

The report lists eight R&D priorities, of which “American Space Exploration & Commercialization” is number 5.  The memo is posted on OSTP’s website. []  Here is the space excerpt:

American Space Exploration & Commercialization
Research and innovation in space have a direct impact on Earth, generating advancements in our basic understanding of the universe and our own planet, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. Research investments should be focused on ensuring American leadership in space for long-duration spaceflight, in-space manufacturing, in-situ resource utilization, long-term cryogenic fuel storage and management, and advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities. Agencies should prioritize demonstrations and flight tests to ensure an industrial base for commercial activity in space and on celestial bodies. One area of potential scientific and commercial importance is microgravity-related research that has the potential for near-term breakthroughs in biopharmaceuticals and materials science. Finally, agencies should seek opportunities to work with advanced materials, additive manufacturing, optical communications, and machine learning-capabilities that have broad potential applications in space and on Earth.

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