What’s Happening in Space Policy March 18-23, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 18-23, 2018

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of March 18-23, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s Déjà vu all over again.  Another budget crunch week as the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) funding most of the government expires on Friday.  Once more, there is the chance of a partial government shutdown if agreement cannot be reached, although the feeling is that there is no appetite for a shutdown or another CR.  Until a final FY2018 appropriations bill is signed into law, however, the chance of a last minute problem cannot be ruled out.

Last Wednesday, the House was expected to release its version of the compromise “omnibus” spending bill that will fund most government agencies for FY2018.  Nothing was released, though, meaning that negotiations are still underway.  Congress and the White House reached agreement in February on raising the budget caps for FY2018 and FY2019 substantially, which should make getting  a final deal easier.  However, some very conservative Republicans, while happy that the caps were lifted for defense, object that they also were raised for non-defense (like NASA and NOAA) and want to constrain that type of spending.  After the Wednesday deadline passed, there was an expectation the House would release the bill this weekend, but there’s nothing as of press time early Sunday afternoon.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) spoke to the American Astronautical Society on Thursday noting that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved more money for several NASA science programs and NOAA’s polar orbiting weather satellite program than the House.  He urged attendees to contact anyone they knew on the House Appropriations Committee to get the Senate numbers into the final bill.   As he warned, “it ain’t over til it’s over.”

As Congress struggles to finalize the FY2018 budget, the FY2019 budget request is also under consideration and several space-related hearings are scheduled this week.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee will hold a hearing on the overall request for the Department of Commerce on Tuesday and specifically for NOAA on Wednesday. It’s difficult to know in advance how much time those hearings will spend on space issues, but it is interesting that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross apparently has become a bit of a space fan now that the Trump Administration wants to make Commerce a “one stop shop” for regulating commercial space activities.  He is planning to move two offices, for space policy and commercial remote sensing satellite regulation, from NOAA into his own office and appoint someone to run them.  He also was at Kennedy Space Center three times recently — to attend both the Falcon Heavy launch and the GOES-S launch, and participate in the National Space Council meeting.  NOAA, like NASA, is waiting for the Senate to act on the nomination of a new administrator, so its Acting Administrator, RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret), will testify for the agency on Wednesday.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will discuss the FY2019 DOD budget request and progress on acquisition reform at a hearing on Tuesday with the three service secretaries.  SASC has a hearing on U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) on Tuesday with USSTRATCOM Commander Gen. John Hyten, and a hearing on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Policies and Programs on Wednesday with a who’s who of DOD’s BMD leaders.  All the hearings will be webcast.

The Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) — or “Star Wars” — BMD program seems to be coming back into vogue.  The Heritage Foundation will hold a seminar on Thursday to remind everyone what it was all about with, among others, the very distinguished Ambassador Henry (Hank)  Cooper, who was Reagan’s chief negotiator for defense and space talks in Geneva and later headed the SDI office under President George H.W. Bush.  He now chairs High Frontier.  The event will be webcast.

Over at NASA Headquarters, the Science Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meets Tuesday-Wednesday to discuss the FY2019 budget request and related matters. NASA hasn’t posted the agenda yet, but these meetings are usually an excellent way to get up to date on the request and likely areas of controversy. The meeting is available remotely by WebEx/telecon.   NAC’s STEM task force will hold a meeting via telecon Tuesday afternoon, too.

Outside of Washington, the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) will take place all week in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. (The official dates are March 19-23, but pre-conference events began yesterday and none are listed for March 23 on the event’s website.)   It is always chock full of fascinating sessions.  Follow along on Twitter at #LPSC2018.  Some of the sessions will be webcast, including the NASA HQ Town Hall tomorrow (Monday) from 5:30-6:30 pm local time (which is Central Time, one hour behind Eastern, so that’s 6:30-7:30 pm ET).

And WAY outside of Washington — in Kazakhstan — a new crew will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday afternoon.  Two NASA astronauts (Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, will dock with ISS two days later.  NASA also is getting ready to send the next cargo ship to ISS (scheduled for April 2) and tomorrow will hold a media telecon to discuss what science experiments and equipment will be on board.

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, March 19

Monday- Friday, March 19-23

Tuesday, March 20

Tuesday-Wednesday, March 20-21

Wednesday, March 21

Thursday, March 22

Friday, March 23


Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the omnibus appropriations bill did not include DOD, but it does.  It covers government agencies funded by all 12 regular appropriations bills (i.e., those in the “discretionary” portion of the federal budget).

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.