What’s Happening in Space Policy April 8-14, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 8-14, 2018

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of April 8-14, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate and House return to work this week — the Senate on Monday, the House on Tuesday — after their two-week spring break.

During the Week

This week includes the 57th anniversary of the first human spaceflight — Yuri Gagarin’s one-orbit ride aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, and the 37th anniversary of the first U.S. space shuttle flight — STS-1 on April 12, 1981, with John Young and Bob Crippen at the controls.  Celebrations known as Yuri’s Night will take place around the globe on Thursday to commemorate those past accomplishments and cheer on the future.

Here in Washington, Congress gets back to work.  Quite a few hearings are scheduled on the FY2019 budget requests for civil and national security space programs, but, as it turns out, Congress may not be done with FY2018.  The Hill and Government Executive are reporting that President Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) are trying to convince congressional Republicans to rescind some of the money that was just appropriated for FY2018.  It is possible to do under a rarely used provision of the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.  Some Republicans who got an earful from constituents about the $1.3 trillion that was appropriated want to “claw back” money provided for programs they don’t support, but other Republicans who labored for months to strike a deal with Democrats, and Democrats themselves, think a deal is a deal and there’s no turning back.  It would be a complicated political and procedural task to take the money back, but one never knows what Congress will do.  “It ain’t over till it’s over,” but when is it over?  We’ll keep you posted if the idea gathers any steam.

As for FY2019, two DOD hearings this week could touch on space issues, though they are not the major focus. On Wednesday, the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will hear about the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA’s) budget request with MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves testifying.  There is a resurgence of congressional interest in planned and potential space-based elements of missile defense, so there’s a good chance space will come up.

Leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee will change this week, by the way, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) expected to take the gavel as chairman, succeeding Thad Cochran who resigned due to illness.  Cochran also chaired the Defense Subcommittee, so there will be subcommittee changes, too.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will hold a hearing on Thursday about DOD’s total FY2019 budget request with Secretary of Defense Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford at the witness table.  With HASC’s strong interest in the Space Force/Space Corps idea, it would be surprising if it did not at least get a mention.

The House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee will hear from the Acting Administrator of NOAA (RDML Timothy Gallaudet, Ret.) on Wednesday, and the Acting Administrator of NASA (Robert Lightfoot) on Thursday.

Both agencies are waiting for their Trump-nominated appointees to be confirmed by the Senate: AccuWeather’s Barry Lee Myers for NOAA, and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) for NASA.  Both are controversial and twice cleared the Senate Commerce Committee on party-line votes.  NOAA at least has two Trump appointees — Gallaudet, who is Deputy Administrator, and Neil Jacobs — to run the agency while Myers’s nomination is on hold.  NASA’s leadership, by contrast, will be greatly diminished when Lightfoot retires at the end of the month.  The Deputy Administrator position is vacant and no one has been nominated to fill it.  The third-ranking position at the agency, Associate Administrator, is currently filled on an acting basis by Steve Jurczyk.  He said on March 28 that the Administration’s plan is to get Bridenstine confirmed before Lightfoot leaves and there is no Plan B.  That means Bridenstine’s nomination could come up at any time if Senate leadership thinks it has the votes to confirm him.  Stay tuned.  The only Senate-confirmed Trump appointee at NASA is Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWit, who just reported for duty last week.

NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee meets Wednesday-Thursday.  Should be interesting to hear the most recent news about JWST, WFIRST, and the FY2019 astrophysics budget request and the committee’s reaction.  Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz is on the agenda at 9:45 am ET on Wednesday. On Thursday, Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen speaks at 9:00 am ET, WFIRST Project Scientist Jeff Kruk at 11:15 am ET, and JWST Program Director Eric Smith at 1:15 pm ET.  Lots of other interesting talks, too. The meeting  will be available remotely through WebEx/telecon.

There are far too many interesting events this week to highlight them all, but one other that may be of particular interest is the ISU-DC Space Cafe on Tuesday evening where Chris Hearsey will be the speaker.  He was the Director of Bigelow Aerospace’s Washington office and now is running for Congress to represent Maryland’s 6th district.  ISU-DC Space Cafes used to be held at the aptly named The Science Club, but it went out of business. Now they are held at Cotton & Reed, a rum distillery founded by Reed Walker and Jordan Cotton, who were NASA/aerospace industry strategists at the Avascent Group before pursuing this very different vocation.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, April 9

Monday-Tuesday, April 9-10

Monday-Wednesday, April 9-11

Monday-Thursday, April 9-12

Monday-Friday, April 9-13

Monday, April 9 – Friday, April 20

Tuesday, April 10

Wednesday, April 11

Wednesday-Thursday, April 11-12

Thursday, April 12




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