The Report from Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 24, the Space Foundation, with the National Defense Industrial Association, hosted the last Congressional Space Power Caucus breakfast of 2008. The featured speaker was NASA administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin. He spoke about where he sees the Chinese space efforts headed, as well as the current and near-term state of the U.S. space program, especially in terms of growing international space activities. Guests at the breakfast included members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress, senior national security space military and civilian leaders, key congressional staff, and senior industry representatives.
On Sept. 25, the Space Foundation hosted a Space Foundation Correspondent's Group (SFCG) in Washington, D.C. featuring Mr. Gary Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force, Space Programs, United States Air Force Headquarters. The session focused on a wide range of issues including the Allard Commission report and China's manned space launch, as well as the status and challenges for a variety of programs such as operationally responsive space, the X-37 and X-51 re-useable launcher programs, the evolved expendable launch vehicle program, and the transitional satellite program.
This month, the Foundation released a white paper on the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) recommending modernization of ITAR rules and process. Findings of the report include the impact of ITAR compliance on companies of different sizes, the implications for the U.S. space economy, and the effect on space technology innovation here and abroad. The paper has nine specific recommendations broken down into three subject matter areas.
Congress returned to Washington in September with multiple policy priorities awaiting action prior to the election recess. While the House passed its Defense Authorization bill in late May, the Senate did not pass its version of the annual bill until mid-September. In late September, the House and Senate negotiated the differences in their respective bills and sent the final legislation to the President for a signature.
Lawmakers also passed, and the President signed into law, a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through March of next year. The Department of Defense is one of only several agencies receiving appropriations for the full fiscal year (FY) 2009 and at levels in line with the President's budget request. The continuing resolution freezes funding for all other federal agencies at current levels and defers further work on FY2009 appropriations to the 111th Congress, which convenes in January.
Congress finally approved NASA's long standing request for a waiver of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Non-Proliferation Act in order to purchase Russian launch services for access to the International Space Station beyond 2011. The bill authorizing NASA's activities for FY2009 also cleared Congress in the last days of September.