Report from Washington, D.C.

September 2015 Activity on the Hill

Written by: developer

by Jillianne Pierce, Space Foundation Government Affairs Associate 

Congress returned from recess after the Labor Day holiday, and resumed working with the threat of a government shutdown looming. On Friday, Sept. 25, Speaker of the House John Boehner unexpectedly announced his resignation from the Speakership and from his seat in Congress at the end of October, setting in place a scuffle for House leadership. The Senate passed a last-minute Continuing Resolution (CR) on the morning of September 30 to continue funding the government at current levels until Dec. 11. At the time of this writing, the House was considering the CR and the President was expected to sign it before the midnight deadline.

September turned out to be a busy month for our international partners, too – the Washington, D.C., team attended events at the Embassy of Australia and Italy, and the residences of the Ambassadors of France and Brazil, and the Deputy Ambassador of the United Kingdom. Each of the events highlighted exciting developments in international space projects.

On Sept. 29, the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology (HSST) held a hearing, entitled: “Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade.” It was quite fortuitous that the hearing took place less than 24 hours after the NASA announcement that liquid water might exist on Mars in the warmer season. Said Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) in his opening statement, “there are few greater adventures than the search for life beyond Earth.” While all of the witnesses agreed that the existence of life – and indeed, the very definition of life beyond our home planet – is unknown, each appeared optimistic that more answers would unfold in the next decade.

Also on the morning of Sept. 29, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing, entitled: “Outside Perspectives on the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” which was followed the next morning by a hearing in the same committee, titled: “Implementing the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy.” Both hearings were held to help Congress understand challenges that the Department of Defense is facing in the cyber domain and learn about ways to help the Pentagon better combat cyber threats.

The evening of Sept. 29, the Space Foundation D.C. team attended an advance screening of the new movie, The Martian. The screening was attended by a number of key decision-makers in D.C. Prior to the film, HSST Committee Chairman Smith and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) offered remarks, as did NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. The Martian opens in U.S. theaters this Friday.

The D.C. office also welcomed George Mason University junior, Rachel Hendrix, to the team as an intern for the fall 2015 semester.


This article is part of Space Watch: October 2015 (Volume: 14, Issue: 10).