Public Policy and Government Affairs

Summary of March Oversight Hearings

Written by: developer

A number of oversight hearings affecting space and cyberspace were held during March in Washington, D.C. The following is an overview of those hearings:

Senate Armed Services Committee 

“U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2014 and the Future Years Defense Program” March 12

Testimony at the hearing indicated that the U.S. is continuing to transition from today’s conflicts to a more hybrid threat environment, which will demand more flexible and innovative approaches. One of the hybrid threats that has caused growing concern in Congress and the White House is the cyber threat. Gen. Keith Alexander, USA, commander, U.S. Cyber Command, outlined the progress made by U.S. Cyber Command to combat the threat and noted three teams being constructed to perform the missions given to U.S. Cyber Command. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, USAF, commander, U.S. Strategic Command, stated that one of his most immediate concerns with regard to sequestration on U.S. Strategic Command would be its impact on its civilians, which makes up a large portion of the Command’s workforce.

House Homeland Security 

“DHS Cybersecurity: Roles and Responsibilities to Protect the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure” March 13

According to testimony at the hearing, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had made “great progress” in the area of cybersecurity, but still had further improvements to make, including in the areas of legal barriers, regulatory uncertainty and resources. Further, the Committee’s leadership indicated its interest in codifying designated roles for all the key agencies involved in protecting the U.S. against cyber threats.

Hearing witnesses included:

  • The Honorable Jane Holl Lute, deputy secretary, DHS
  • Anish B. Bhimani, chairman, Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC)
  • Gary W. Hayes, chief information officer, Centerpoint Energy
  • Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel, American Civil Liberties Union

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Oversight Hearing on NASA March 13

NASA Inspector General Paul Martin testified that, while NASA continues to do “great things” such as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), it still faces significant challenges. He highlighted three important areas of management and performance challenges facing NASA:

  • Project management
  • IT security
  • Aging infrastructure. (Note: in the Space Foundation’s PIONEERING: Sustaining U.S. Leadership in Space report, we make several recommendations to help NASA continue to improve its project management and upgrade its aging infrastructure). 

House Science, Space & Technology Committee

“Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors, Part 1” March 19

Testimony indicated that, while the U.S. has made improvements in its ability to track and characterize asteroids, meteors, comets and meteorites, it still has a long way to go in the field, especially in tracking the smaller sized objects. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden noted that under the projected budget for NASA, it would take NASA until 2030 to detect 90 percent of the smaller, 140 meter class near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Hearing witnesses included:

  • The Honorable John P. Holdren, director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
  • Gen. William L. Shelton, USAF, commander, U.S. Air Force Space Command
  • The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr., administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the House Space Subcommittee, noted that this hearing was Part 1 of the Committee’s examination of activities related to NEOs, and that she and Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, would hold a second hearing related to this matter.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space 

“Assessing the Risks, Impacts, and Solutions for Space Threats” March 20

Witnesses said that threats from space go beyond near-Earth objects (NEOs) to include orbital debris, geomagnetic storms, radiofrequency interference and a lack of awareness by the public about how important space assets are to the function of modern society.

Hearing witnesses included:

  • Dr. James Green, director, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA
  • Dr. Ed Lu, chairman and chief executive officer, B612 Foundation
  • Richard DalBello, vice president, Legal and Government Affairs, Intelsat General
  • Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, professor, National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College

House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies

“Cyber Threats from China, Russia and Iran: Protecting American Critical Infrastructure” March 20

Testimony made at the hearing indicated that the U.S. Government has become increasingly willing to openly discuss the cyber threats and attacks posed by other nation states. In addition, in the recent Annual Threat Assessment compiled by the U.S. Intelligence Community, it named cyber as the top threat to U.S. national security, jumping ahead of terrorism.

Hearing witnesses included:

  • Frank J. Cilluffo, director, Homeland Security Policy Institute, co-director, Cyber Center for National and Economic Security, The George Washington University
  • Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer and security services architect, Mandiant
  • Ilan Berman, vice president, American Foreign Policy Council
  • Martin Libicki, senior management scientists, RAND Corporation

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Oversight Hearing on NASA March 20

NASA Amisnistrator Charles Bolden discussed NASA’s ongoing programs and progress. Normally this hearing would provide Congress an opportunity to publicly review the President’s budget request for NASA programs in the upcoming fiscal year, but this year the budget submission is late. The President’s NASA budget request, and budget request for all Federal agencies, is scheduled to be submitted to Congress on April 10.


This article is part of Space Watch: April 2013 (Volume: 12, Issue: 4).