What’s Happening in Space Policy September 4-8, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 4-8, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of September 4-8, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week starts off tomorrow (Monday) with a federal holiday, Labor Day.  Government offices and many businesses will be closed.  In the United States, Labor Day unofficially is the end of summer (though it actually doesn’t end until September 22).   It’s a last chance to rest up before what promises to be a very busy September.

Congress returns to work this week after its August recess.  It already had a full plate of business to accomplish this month, but the disaster in Texas and Louisiana caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey adds another layer of complexity.  Fiscal year 2017 ends on September 30, making appropriating FY2018 funding for government operations a top priority.  Congress must also raise the debt limit. Now it also will have to find funds for disaster relief.

Congress is supposed to pass 12 individual appropriations bills each year before a new fiscal year begins on October 1, but it has been a long time since they did that. Typically it passes a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the first several days, weeks or months at the prior year’s spending levels. Eventually it passes one or more “omnibus” or “consolidated” bills that combine all or subsets of the 12 bills.

That is happening already in the House.  It passed H.R, 3219 on July 27, the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act,” combining four of the 12: defense, legislative branch, military construction-veterans affairs, and energy-water.  This week it will consider a second set, H.R. 3354, incorporating all of the other eight. It is called the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018.”  It includes the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which funds NASA and NOAA, and the Transportation-HUD bill, which funds the FAA’s space office.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has it on the schedule for House debate on Wednesday and the rest the week “subject to a rule being granted.”  That means the House Rules Committee must write and pass a rule that determines what amendments may be brought up and how much time is spent on debate, for example.  The Rules Committee meets Tuesday afternoon.  Congressional activities are, of course, subject to change, but that’s the plan at the moment.

The bills still must pass the Senate, and then the House and Senate must negotiate a final agreement that will pass muster with the White House.  That is not expected to happen by the end of the month, so plans are coming along to pass a CR to keep the government operating through November or December.  Whether the CR,  disaster relief, and the debt ceiling will be dealt with individually or collectively remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday on “Private Sector Lunar Exploration” with witnesses from NASA, Moon Express, Astrobotic Technology, Blue Origin and the Colorado School of Mines.  Not only is the topic interesting, but it may be the first opportunity to see Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) in action since President Trump nominated him to be the new NASA Administrator.  Bridenstine has expressed strong enthusiasm for lunar exploration, especially by the commercial sector, in the past.

Off the Hill, NASA and the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Voyager missions at the NASM on Tuesday.   It has quite a who’s who of participants from the current head of science at NASA, Thomas Zurbuchen, to veterans of the project including Ed Stone (Voyager’s “father”) and Ann Druyan, who, along with her late husband, Carl Sagan, helped devise the Golden Record carried on each of the two spacecraft. The event will be livestreamed.

On Wednesday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold the day-long symposium on How to Organize Military Space that we have highlighted in the past two editions of What’s Happening.  Note that the time has moved up a bit.  It now starts at 8:30 am ET and concludes at 2:30 pm ET.  A truly top-notch set of speakers.  It will be webcast.

The week wraps up with a Space Transportation Association (STA) luncheon featuring Chris Scolese, Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  The event is by invitation only.  Contact STA for more information.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are listed below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Sunday-Thursday, September 3-7

Tuesday, September 5

Wednesday, September 6

Wednesday-Thursday, September 6-7

Thursday, September 7

Friday, September 8


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