Monday, September 22nd, 2014

The Obameter

Re-establish the National Aeronautics and Space Council


Will re-establish an organizational authority in the federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government's space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department, and other federal agencies. This Council reporting to the president "will oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community, and work toward a 21st century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth."


Updates

Idea to revive National Aeronautics and Space Council appears dead

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised that once elected, he would revive a disbanded, interdepartmental body that once guided space policy. The council spanned the worlds of civilian, military and, eventually, commercial space policy and helped coordinate among the realms. 

However, on June 28, 2010, when the administration released a document titled, "National Space Policy of the United States of America," there was no sign that the interdepartmental body would be relaunched.

First, some background. The National Aeronautics and Space Council, later called the National Space Council, was established by statute in 1958. The original statute set its membership as: the president, the secretary of state, the defense secretary, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, plus another representative of a relevant federal department, as well as three members of the public with expertise in science, education or other related fields.

The council went through a number of incarnations, with a variety of Cabinet and White House officials as members. On several occasions it was reorganized, abolished and revived, but the most recent version was disbanded in 1993.

In making his promise, Obama said that such a body would have a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government's space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department and other federal agencies. The council would "oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community and work toward a 21st century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth."

The idea of a panel was not mentioned in the fall of 2009 when the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee -- a panel more commonly known as the Augustine Committee, after its chairman, Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin -- released its final report. Nor was it mentioned in the June 28, 2010, report.

Space experts we spoke to said that the absence of mention in either of the two landmark reports is a strong suggestion that nothing is happening with this idea. We can always modify our rating if the idea is revived. But for now, we're calling this a Promise Broken.

Sources:

White House, National Space Policy of the United States of America, June 28, 2010

U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation" (final report of the Augustine Commission), October 2009

E-mail interview with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, July 30, 2010

E-mail interview with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, July 30, 2010

Disbanded space council's relaunch not close to final countdown yet

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised that once elected, he would revive a disbanded, interdepartmental body that once guided space policy.

The council spanned the worlds of civilian, military and, eventually, commercial space policy and helped coordinate among the realms.

The National Aeronautics and Space Council, later called the National Space Council, was established by statute in 1958. The original statute set its membership as: the president, the secretary of state, the defense secretary, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, plus another representative of a relevant federal department, as well as three members of the public with expertise in science, education or other related fields.

The council went through a number of incarnations, with a variety of Cabinet and White House officials as members. On several occasions it was reorganized, abolished and revived, but the most recent version was disbanded in 1993.

In making his promise, Obama said that such a body would have a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government's space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department and other federal agencies. The council would "oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community, and work toward a 21st century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth."

There's no firm evidence that the administration has stepped back from this goal, but it also hasn't advanced the ball much, space experts say.

This fall, the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee -- a panel more commonly known as the Augustine Committee, after its chairman, Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin -- released its final report. Officially, the Augustine panel's findings are only options for the Obama administration to consider. But its deliberations are being taken very seriously in NASA, in the White House, by lawmakers, and in the larger space community.

However, the Augustine Committee did not address the prospect of reviving the council, so any follow-through will depend on the Obama administration's own actions -- and space experts we interviewed, both inside and outside NASA, say they've heard nothing concrete about its prospects for enactment.

We'll adjust this rating if circumstances change, but for now, we'll rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

Text of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958

Text of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1989

George H.W. Bush, Executive Order 12675 (Establishing the National Space Council),
April 20, 1989

U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, "Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation" ( final report of the Augustine Commission), October 2009

E-mail interview with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Dec. 3, 2009.

E-mail interview with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, Dec. 3, 2009.