Today’s Tidbits: September 5, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: September 5, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for September 5, 2018:  Sen. Inhofe takes over SASC; NRO takes over commercial satellite imagery acquisition; Colleen Hartman takes over SSB and ASEB.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Sen. Inhofe Takes Over SASC

Sen. Jim Inhofe.  Credit: Inhofe’s Senate website.

As expected, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) was formally chosen today by the Senate Republican Conference to succeed the late Sen. John McCain as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).  He was the second highest-ranking Republican in seniority on the committee and was acting chairman this year as McCain remained in Arizona battling brain cancer.

Inhofe, 83, was elected to the House in 1986 and was initially elected as Senator in 1994 to finish the term of Sen. David Boren, who resigned.  He was elected to his first full term in the Senate in 1996 and reelected in 2002, 2008, and 2014. He was a businessman and then the mayor of Tulsa before coming to Washington.

Inhofe is a well known climate change skeptic who famously brought a snowball onto the floor of the Senate on February 26, 2015 to illustrate how cold it was outside despite claims by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies that 2014 was the warmest year on modern record. (You can read his statement, if not see the snowball, in the Congressional Record for that day. [].) He chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at the time.

He has been a member of SASC since 1995 and said in a statement today that his top priority as chairman will be addressing the new and unprecedented threats facing America.

“America is facing new and unprecedented threats that are different from anything we’ve seen before. As chairman, it will be my priority to address these threats while maintaining a staunch commitment to service members and their families, as well as continue the bipartisan tradition of rigorous accountability and oversight of the Defense Department. I look forward to working with Ranking Member Reed and the entire committee as we continue to ensure our military is ready and able to defend America against growing threats from around the world.”  – Sen. Jim Inhofe

Also today, Jon Kyl was sworn in as the new Senator from Arizona to replace McCain.  Kyl, 76, has already served in the Senate, retiring in 2013, but agreed to step in for McCain.  He has committed to staying only through the end of this year, however.  McCain’s term runs until 2022. Under Arizona law, a special election cannot be held until 2020 so the Governor appoints someone temporarily.  If Kyl does leave at the end of 2018, he will have to appoint someone else.  Kyl has been a lobbyist since leaving the Senate and has been shepherding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through his confirmation hearings, so will be a reliable vote in favor now that he is a Senator once again. [UPDATE:  Kyl has been assigned to SASC, filling the committee seat vacated by McCain’s death.]

NRO Takes Over Commercial Satellite Imagery Acquisition

In other defense news, responsibility for acquiring commercial satellite imagery for the military and the Intelligence Community (IC) has officially transitioned from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).  Both are members of the IC.  NGA is responsible for geospatial intelligence. NRO design, builds, and operates the nation’s spy satellites, including those that produce “exquisite” and ultra-classified imagery.  The resolution of commercial imagery is not as good, but much of it is unclassified and thus can be shared more easily.

Beginning in 2003, NGA (then the National Imagery and Mapping Agency) purchased commercial satellite imagery through a series of contracts with companies that eventually merged into one, DigitalGlobe, which is now a business unit of Maxar Technologies.

The original EnhancedView contract was signed in 2010. On August 29, DigitalGlobe was awarded the EnhancedView Follow-on (EVFO) contract. It is the first time the contract was awarded through NRO instead of NGA. The two agencies officially announced the transition and the contract award yesterday. It is a one year contract with a one-year option valued at $300 million per year.[]

NRO issued three tweets about it today.

Colleen Hartman Takes Over SSB and ASEB

Colleen Hartman. Credit: NASA (2012)

Colleen Hartman is the new Director of the Space Studies Board (SSB) and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  She succeeds Michael Moloney, who left in January. [In the interest of full disclosure, Michael was my successor when I left in 2009.  I was the first person to be Director of both SSB and ASEB, the two “space Boards” at the Academies.  SSB/ASEB Director is a great job working with terrific colleagues and the volunteer experts on the Boards and their committees. Congratulations, Colleen! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. ]

Hartman has spent most of her career at NASA, both at Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center, and NOAA.  At NASA Headquarters’ Science Mission Directorate, she served as Acting Associate Administrator, Deputy Director of Technology, and Director of Solar System Exploration. At Goddard,  she most recently was Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate.  She was Deputy Assistant Administrator at NOAA.  She also was a professor of space policy and international affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

She has a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Pomona College in Claremont, CA; a master’s in public administration from USC; and a Ph.D. in physics from Catholic University.  Among her many awards is the 2016 Leadership Award from Women in Aerospace (WIA).

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