What's Happening in Space Policy January 22-27, 2017 – UPDATE

What's Happening in Space Policy January 22-27, 2017 – UPDATE

Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of January 22-27, 2017 and any insight we offer about them.  The House will be in session for the first part of the week (Monday-Wednesday); the Senate is scheduled to be in session all week.  [Updated to add newly scheduled Senate Commerce Committee votes on Chao and Ross nominations.]

During the Week

“The week” kicks off today with the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), which runs through Thursday in Seattle.  AMS is one of the places where earth scientists gather to reveal new discoveries, discuss new projects, and debate related issues.  Satellites are one method of obtaining earth science data, of course, so NASA and NOAA are major participants. 

The AMS meeting includes the 14th Conference on Space Weather, a topic that will also be debated in Congress this week. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will mark up the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S. 141) on Tuesday.   It was originally introduced in the 114th Congress, but did not pass and was reintroduced last week.  In addition, the National Weather Service, on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), is releasing two space weather draft documents for public comment in the Federal Register that is dated January 23 (tomorrow), but was emailed on Friday.  One is draft Phase I Space Weather Benchmarks and the other is a white paper on improving space weather research to operations (R2O) and operations to research (O2R).  Comments are due in March.

Congress has not completed action on the FY2017 budget and there is no pending FY2018 request, but that doesn’t mean the debate can’t begin.  Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) released his own plan for defense spending for FY2018-2022 last week and will hold a hearing on it Tuesday.   CSIS is holding its own defense budget discussion tomorrow.  Both events will be webcast.

DOD is one of only two government agencies with new Senate-confirmed leaders today.  Gen. James Mattis (USMC, Ret.) was confirmed and sworn in as Secretary of Defense on Friday.  (The other is Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly, USMC, Ret.)   More confirmation votes are expected this week.   Senate Republicans had hoped to approve at least one other nominee on Friday (for CIA Director), but Democrats objected there had been insufficient time to review his and other nominees’ vetting forms and debate their qualifications for the jobs. 

As originally announced, the Senate Commerce Committee markup scheduled for Tuesday did not include votes on the nominees under its jurisdiction — Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation and Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce.  On Sunday afternoon, however, the committee added those nominations to the list of items that will be considered.  The markup is at 10:00 am in 253 Russell.  In addition to the space weather bill and these nominations, the committee will also mark up the INSPIRE Women Act, H.R. 321, that passed the House on January 10.

No announcements have been made yet about who will be the new NASA Administrator.  Robert Lightfoot is Acting Administrator.   As expected, Erik Noble has been named White House advisor for NASA and Greg Autry is the White House liaison.  Noble is an atmospheric scientist who once worked for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but more recently was a political data analyst for the Trump campaign.   Autry most recently was an assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Califlornia.  No word on a new NOAA Administrator either.  Benjamin Friedman is Acting Administrator.

Friday is the 50th anniversary of the January 27, 1967 Apollo 1 (or Apollo 204) tragedy that killed astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee.  Legislation introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) would have established a memorial for them at Arlington National Cemetery similar to those for the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews.  It did not clear the 114th Congress, however, and it does not appear to have been reintroduced so far this year.   NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will hold an event on Thursday to honor them and other fallen astronauts as part of NASA’s annual “remembrance” activities. The actual Day of Remembrance will be on January 31; details TBA.

January 27, 1967 is also the day that the United Nations Outer Space Treaty was opened for signature.  The American Society of International Law, the Secure World Foundation and Georgetown Space Law Society will hold a seminar commemorating that 50th anniversary on Friday at Georgetown Law School.

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

Sunday-Thursday, January 22-26

Monday, January 23

Tuesday, January 24

Tuesday-Wednesday, January 24-25

Wednesday, January 25

Thursday, January 26

Thursday-Friday, January 26-27

Friday, January 27


Note:  This article was updated on Sunday afternoon after the Senate Commerce Committee added the Chao and Ross nominations to the list of items to be considered at Tuesday’s markup.

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