What’s Happening in Space Policy May 19-25, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 19-25, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 19-25, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The House and Senate will be racing to get a lot of work done this week as they head into the Memorial Day recess.  The House meets Monday-Thursday and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Senate left Thursday as well.

The Memorial Day recess is an informal benchmark for getting certain bills through at least part of the legislative process.  The House Appropriations Committee’s goal is to get all 12 of its bills through committee by then to restore “regular order” to the appropriations process and it is hard at work on that goal.  Two bills of importance to the space community — Defense and Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) — have been marked up at subcommittee level already and will face the full committee this week (Defense on Tuesday, CJS on Wednesday).  The committee has not yet acted on the Transportation-HUD bill yet, however, which funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Committee action on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is also a pre-Memorial Day goal.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will get its version done this week.  Its markups are all closed with the single exception of the Personnel Subcommittee.  The subcommittee markups are tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday; full committee is Wednesday until they’re done.  The committee is hoping to finish on Wednesday and advised members it may be a late night.  If not, they still have Thursday and Friday in reserve.  The House Armed Services Committee markups are later than the Senate this year and will not take place until early June.

With the House Appropriations Defense bill moving faster than HASC action on the NDAA bill, there is a bit of confusion regarding the status of the Space Force debate.  To clarify, only the authorization committees (HASC and SASC) can decide whether or not to create a Space Force.  Authorization committees … authorize.  They permit new programs to start, new military services to be created, set policy, etc.  They do not have any money to spend, though.  They only RECOMMEND funding levels.  The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are the only ones with money.  *IF* the authorization committees decide to create a Space Force, the appropriations committees will decide how much money it will get.  Strictly speaking, they can appropriate any amount of money (including zero) up to the amount recommended by the authorization committees.  The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (HAC-D) bill approved last week provides $15 million to “study and refine plans” for a Space Force and is not to be “construed to authorize the establishment of a Space Force” (because appropriators are not supposed to authorize).  HAC-D could have approved the requested $72.4 million contingent upon the passage of authorization legislation, but did not. Their action is viewed as lukewarm support for the idea, at best. We’ll see if any amendments are offered during full committee markup this week. The entire debate has a long way to go.  What SASC does this week will be a really important marker since it has been the harder nut to crack on this idea all along.

The House Appropriations full committee markup of the CJS bill on Wednesday should also be quite interesting.  NASA’s newly-named Artemis (Moon 2024) program and NASA’s $1.6 billion supplemental request for it were all but ignored at subcommittee level by Democrats and Republicans alike.  Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) included the lack of funds as one of several items of “concern,” but did not go to bat for it, saving his enthusiasm for the money allocated to nuclear thermal propulsion.  Full committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) also did not come to its defense, instead lamenting the lack of funding for Europa Lander.  We’ll see if they or anyone else offer an amendment to add money for Artemis, and, if so, where it will come from. For all the worry about taking money from Pell Grants to pay for the Moon, that’s actually not a trade appropriators get to make in this process since Pell Grants are part of the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee’s jurisdiction, not CJS.  If they want to shift money in the CJS bill to pay for Artemis, it will have to come from activities within that bill — at the Departments of Commerce and Justice, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.  Or they could decide to deal with the supplemental request separately from the regular appropriations process, as they do with supplementals for disaster relief, e.g.  There are various ways to get money appropriated — the “regular order” process is just one. (NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard is a former Senate Appropriations Chief of Staff who has direct experience with the options.)

Separately, AIAA is holding a series of briefings on the Hill to highlight the upcoming International Astronautical Congress (IAC2019) that will take place in Washington, D.C. in October.  A “Moon to Mars: The Importance of the Next Giant Leap” briefing will take place tomorrow at lunchtime in the Rayburn Building.  It features Fred Kennedy, newly appointed Director of DOD’s new Space Development Agency; Kathy Laurini, a long-time NASA official (especially international aspects of human spaceflight) who is now President of the Osare Space Consulting Group, and Sarah Noble from NASA’s planetary science division.  Sandy Magnus, a former astronaut, former AIAA Executive Director, and co-chair of the IAC2019 organizing committee is the moderator.

Off the Hill, the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee meets Tuesday-Wednesday at NASA HQ in D.C.  The agenda is not posted yet, but these meetings are always informative. There surely will be discussion of science on the Moon in the context of the Artemis program, but the committee usually gets updates on the broad range of Science Mission Directorate activities.  The meeting is available remotely via WebEx/telecon.

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, May 20

Monday-Wednesday, May 20-22

Tuesday, May 21

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 21-22

Tuesday-Thursday, May 21-23

Wednesday, May 22

Thursday, May 23

Thursday-Friday, May 23-24

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