What’s Happening in Space Policy August 13-August 31, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 13-August 31, 2018

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next THREE weeks, August 13-August 31, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them. The House is in recess (except for pro forma sessions) through September 4.  The Senate returns to work this Wednesday, August 15, after a truncated August break.

During the Weeks

President Trump will sign into law the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act tomorrow (Monday) afternoon during a ceremony at Fort Drum, NY.  Coming as it does just a few days after Vice President Pence’s speech about the need for a Space Force, it would not be surprising if the President mentions it.  He is the one pushing for it and brings it up in many of his speeches even on unrelated topics.  The bill does not call for creating a Space Force, but does include several steps that could be characterized as leading in that direction.  They include creation of a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command.  The President wants a U.S. Space Command that is its own unified combatant command (DOD had one 1985-2002), but that will require additional steps.  The event might be shown on TV networks and/or WhiteHouseLive. [UPDATE, AUGUST 13: It will be livestreamed on WhiteHouseLive.]

The NDAA, of course, is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels, but does not actually provide any money.  That is what appropriations bills do, and the Senate is expected to take up the FY2019 defense appropriations bill this week.  The House passed its version as a stand-alone bill in June.  The Senate is going to bundle its version with the Labor-HHS appropriations bill.

The two chambers have been making better progress than usual in passing appropriations bills, though they still have a long way to go to get them all done before the beginning of FY2019 on October 1.  So far, singly or in bundles, the House has passed six:  Energy & Water, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Interior/Environment, Financial Services, and Defense.  The Senate has passed seven: Energy & Water, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Interior/Environment, Financial Services, Agriculture, and Transportation/HUD.

There are 12 regular appropriations bills. The others, including the one that funds NASA and NOAA (Commerce/Justice/Science), have all cleared the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and are awaiting their turns for floor consideration.  Remember that once the bills pass both chambers, a conference committee needs to work out the differences. Conferees on the first bundle (Energy & Water, Leg Branch, and Milcon/VA) have been named, but no deal has been struck yet.  The House is scheduled to be in session for only 11 days in September, so there’s a lot of work to be done and it seems unlikely that all 12 will be done by midnight September 30. President Trump threatened to shut down the government on October 1 (for any agency whose bill is not finalized by then) if he does not get what he wants for the border wall.  He reportedly has backed away from that position slightly, but anything can happen.

Apart from the NDAA signing ceremony and Senate consideration of the defense appropriations bill, not much is happening policy-wise this coming week.  Other interesting events are on tap, though — a Russian spacewalk at the International Space Station on Wednesday and NASA-Goddard’s annual planetary cubesat symposium Thursday-Friday.

Things pick up a bit next week.  NASA-Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese will talk to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable on August 21.  As we noted last week, August 23 will be a busy day with a panel discussion on the very timely topic of Space Force in Historical Context in late afternoon (D.C.), followed by a completely separate evening reception for people interested in space policy careers (D.C.), followed (in Eastern Daylight Time) by a debate about “Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway:  Breakthrough or Boondoggle” at the Mars Society convention (Pasadena, CA) that hopefully will be webcast. The website still does not show who the debaters are, however.  Could be quite provocative.

The last week of the month will be chock full of NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committee meetings at NASA’s Ames Research Center.  Of special note, the Human Exploration and Operations Committee and the Science Committee will hold a joint meeting on August 28.  All of the meetings are available remotely through WebEx or Adobe Connect.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, August 12, are shown below.  Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, August 13

Wednesday, August 15

  • Russian Spacewalk, Earth orbit, NASA TV coverage begins 11:15 am ET
  • Senate Returns, Washington, DC, 12:00 pm ET (may begin consideration of the FY2019 Defense Appropriations bill in the evening

Thursday-Friday, August 16-17

Monday, August 20 – Friday, August 31

Tuesday, August 21

Thursday, August 23

Thursday, August 23 – Sunday, August 26

Monday, August 27

Tuesday, August 28

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