Report from Washington, D.C.

Washington Abuzz with Space Activity

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Washington Abuzz with Space Activity On July 28, the Space Foundation, in partnership with the National Defense Industrial Association, held the second Space Power Lecture Series breakfast of the year, with Dr. Peter Wegner, director of the Operationally Responsive Space Office, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., as the featured speaker. Dr. Wegner spoke to an audience of Congressional members and their legislative staff about recent and upcoming activity related to operationally responsive space, which deals with rapidly developing, demonstrating, and fielding space capabilities for warfighters in response to Joint Force Commanders' requirements. See related article in this issue of Space Watch.

On July 16, the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on enhancing the relevance of space to address national needs and better communicate the importance of space to the public. Space Foundation Director Patti Grace Smith represented the Foundation as a hearing witness. See related article in this issue of Space Watch.

July has been eventful in the Washington space community, with highlights including the confirmation of new NASA administrator Charlie Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver on July 15 (see related story in this issue of Space Watch) and the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 on July 20 (see related article in this issue of Space Watch). In conjunction with the 40th anniversary, the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal Act has been proposed to authorize the President to award gold medals on behalf of the U.S. Congress to the Apollo 11 crew and to John Glenn Jr. The measure was cleared for the president on July 21.

Congress has made considerable progress this month, including passing the Senate Defense Authorization Bill on July 23, after seven days of debate on the measure. The House version passed on June 25.

The House completed markup of its $636.3 billion Defense Appropriations Bill on July 22. The bill includes space program funding: $1.3 billion ($55.7 million above the president's request) for three Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles; $122 million ($55 million less than the president's request) for development of the Space Based Space Surveillance System; $389.4 million ($97.4 million less than the president's request) for development of the Global Positioning System III, operational control segment (OCX); $39 million ($104 million less than the president's request) for the Third Generation Infrared Satellite; $1.8 billion (same amount as the president's request) for a fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite; and $626.7 million ($425 million more than the president's request) for the Wideband Global System. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the full Senate soon.

In a July 22 markup of the Intelligence Authorization Bill, the Senate Intelligence Committee opted in favor of "smaller, cheaper spy satellites" instead of larger, more capable satellites favored by the Obama Administration, citing a more capable and more affordable imagery satellite architecture as grounds for the decision.

Also included in the Senate version is the establishment of a National Space Intelligence Office within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, with the national intelligence officer for Science and Technology acting as director. The proposed National Space Intelligence Office will:

  • Coordinate and provide policy direction for managing space-related intelligence assets
  • Prioritize collection activities consistent with the National Intelligence Collection Priorities framework
  • Provide policy direction for programs designed to ensure a sufficient cadre of government and nongovernment personnel in fields relating to space intelligence
  • Evaluate independent analytic assessments of threats to classified U.S. space intelligence systems throughout all phases of the development, acquisition, and operation

A report to the Intelligence Committees of both the House and the Senate on the organizational structure of the National Space Intelligence Office, key participants, and a strategic plan for the first five-year period is due no later than 180 days after the passing of the bill.

The House Intelligence Committee report on the Authorization Bill, requires that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) conduct a study of the efficacy of export control laws and regulations, which may have come from commercial satellite companies, that have long argued that "U.S. restrictions on the sale of commercial imagery are beginning to inhibit their growth and their competitiveness in foreign markets, especially as foreign imagery satellites improve and foreign reliance on U.S. systems diminishes." The bill should reach the House floor in the fall.

The Senate Appropriations Committee submitted its $18.686 billion version of the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill on June 26 to the full Senate. The bill includes the full requested amount for NASA and an increase for NOAA, but the bill is yet to be considered on the Senate floor. The House passed its $18.203 billion measure June 18.

On July 23, the House passed the Fiscal 2010 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3288), which includes up to $14.737 million for commercial space transportation activities, a major boost for the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST).

Finally, the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee is well underway. During a July 16 teleconference with the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), Committee Chair Norm Augustine relayed the message that the White House had given permission for the panel to provide options that exceed current budgetary guidance if they "make sense," and adhering to the current shuttle termination plan is also flexible. This month the panel has conducted site visits in Hawthorne, Canoga Park, and Sacramento, Calif., and will hold three public meetings in Houston, Huntsville, Ala., and Cocoa Beach, Fla. Four subcommittee were also announced - International Space Station/Shuttle, Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit, Integration, and Low Earth Orbit Access -  with a lead for each group. The panel will present its findings to the President in late August.

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 8).