What’s Happening in Space Policy January 6-20, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 6-20, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, January 6-20, 2019, and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session most of this time.

During the Weeks

The partial government shutdown entered its third week yesterday with no sign of compromise by either President Trump and congressional Republicans on one side and congressional Democrats on the other.  This shutdown is about 2020 presidential election politics with each side using the immigration debate to solidly their core constituencies.  It will end when one or both sides sense they are losing ground politically.  It is anyone’s guess as to when that will happen.

Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed two bills to reopen the parts of the government that are shut down.  H.R. 21 merges six of the seven FY2019 appropriations bills that have not yet been enacted, including the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA, and funds them for the rest of FY2019.   They have no connection to funding for border security or a border wall or whatever term is used.  They are just caught in the crossfire.  H. J. Res. 1 is exclusively for the Department of Homeland Security, where border security is funded. It is a temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 8 while negotiations continue.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, called it “political theater” and said he will not bring any bill that Trump will not sign to a vote in his Republican-controlled Senate.  Congress can pass legislation knowing it will be vetoed by a President, and can override a veto with a 2/3 vote of each chamber, but that is rarely achievable.

Despite McConnell’s position, the House this week will continue to debate and probably pass some FY2019 appropriations bills.  It will take four of six that were merged into H.R. 21 and consider them again, but separately.  Those four already passed both the House and Senate and were in conference before the mid-term elections last year.

Unfortunately, CJS is not one of them.  Like the Homeland Security bill, the FY2019 CJS, as well as State-Foreign Ops, were never brought to the House or Senate floor for votes in the 115th Congress although they were approved by the appropriations committees.

The shutdown of NASA and NOAA, and NSF as well, means civil servants cannot participate in the two major science conferences taking place beginning today (Sunday):  the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in Phoenix and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Winter Meeting in Seattle.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine cancelled his scheduled talk at AMS on Tuesday.  At AAS, NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz cancelled his participation in a joint meeting of the astrophysics Program Analysis Groups (PAGs) that was scheduled for today and two NASA “Town Hall” meetings were cancelled.  Rank and file civil servants who prepared scientific papers for presentation at either conference are not allowed to attend.

AIAA’s annual SciTech Forum in San Diego also will take place this week, beginning tomorrow.  Fortunately there appear to be fewer NASA speakers whose participation could be scuttled by the shutdown than at AMS or AAS.

AIAA will livestream the Plenary and Forum 360 sessions.  Two that may be of particular interest to the space policy community are on Tuesday (note that times on the agenda are in Pacific Standard Time; add 3 for Eastern).  One is moderated by former Aviation Week reporter Frank Morring on “Exploration for Everyone” and features speakers from Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit, GEOshare, Rocket Lab USA and Aurora Flight Sciences.  Right after that former DOD space policy guru Doug Loverro will moderate a panel on “Responsive Space” with speakers from AFRL, DOD’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO), DARPA, and VOX Space LLC.  (Someone from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command is listed as to-be-confirmed.)

DOD is not affected by the shutdown. Defense was one of the five FY2019 appropriations measures enacted before FY2019 began.  It has been going through its own disruption, however, with the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., was scheduled to speak to the Atlantic Council on Thursday, but the event has been postponed.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA)  is still trying to launch NRO’s spy satellite, NROL-71.   [UPDATE: ULA told SpacePolicyOnline.com late Sunday that it hopes to have “a new date by this week.”]

Next week, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will hold its annual meeting.  Three sessions on commercial space transportation are scheduled for January 16.  Hopefully the shutdown will be over by then, but if not, speakers from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will not be able to participate.  Most of the speakers are from industry, thankfully.

No space-related congressional hearings have been scheduled yet.  The House committees are still in the formative stages with Democrats having just taken control of the House.  Chairs and Ranking Members have been elected by their respective conferences, but membership and subcommittee assignments are TBD except for the chairs of the appropriations subcommittees.  For the space-related committees, here’s the roster:

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee:  Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK)
House Armed Services Committee: Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA); Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
House Appropriations Committee:  Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY); Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX)
House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee:  Chairman, Jóse Serrano (D-NY)
House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee:
Chairman, Peter Visclosky (D-IN)
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee:  Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO)

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday (January 6) morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our calendar.

Sunday, January 6

  • ExoPAG (in conjunction with AAS Winter Meeting), Seattle, WA (Adobe Connect) [continued from Saturday]
  • COPAG (in conjunction with AAS Winter Meeting), Seattle, WA (WebEx)

Sunday-Thursday, January 6-10

Monday-Friday, January 7-11

Tuesday, January 8

  • AIAA SciTech Plenary session on “Exploration for Everyone” moderated by Frank Morring, 8:00-9:00 am Pacific Time (11:00 am – 12:00 pm Eastern)
  • AIAA SciTech Forum 360 session on “Responsive Space” moderated by Doug Loverro, 9:30-11:30 am Pacific Time (12:30-2:30 pm Eastern)

Wednesday, January 16

Note: this article has been updated with new information about the NROL-71 launch and to add the key subcommittee chairmen for House Appropriations.

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