INTERVIEW: Dr. Stephen E. Doyle

November 12, 2007 at 10:44 am | Posted in Interview | 1 Comment

Stephen E. DoyleDr. Stephen E. Doyle, is a distinguished and long-time member of the community. Dr. Doyle has an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts in literature with a minor in history (’60). His law degree is from Duke University (’63). He did two years of postgraduate study at McGill University. Dr. Doyle was a law clerk for two summers for the late Andrew G. Haley, author of one of the world’s seminal space law texts, Space Law and Government(Appleman, Century, Croft, 1963). He created the first draft of that book and credit was given to him in the author’s preface. Dr. Doyle says that one of the things he has loved about his career is that he has seen where tomorrow is going to be different than today. In all the jobs he has had, he has never had the routine experience of ”do tomorrow what you did yesterday.”


Interview with Dr. Stephen Doyle, November 6, 2007:

Res Communis: How did you get into space law?

Doyle: In 1962 I was a student at Duke University and employed part time at the World Peace Through Law Center, headed by Professor Arthur Larson. A visiting scholar came to the Center to do a study on the implications of space for national security and for global security interests. He was Robert D. Crane. He came from the Center of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University. He started telling me about the importance of getting bright young people committed to getting involved in space and space law development. He had worked with Andrew Haley as an associate in his law firm. He set up an interview for me and Haley hired me as a summer law clerk. That is how I got into space law.

Res Communis: What was it like working on Haley’s book Space Law and Government?First, please explain what Space Law and Government is and then tell us about working on it.

Doyle: Space Law and Governmentis a compilation of more than 200 articles and papers that Andrew Haley had written from 1956 to 1962. He wanted me to digest all those papers and put them into a single book format. We agreed early on a list of chapter titles and my job was to cut and paste all the work he had done; add supplemental information wherever it was needed to bring the material to currency; and, present him with a draft of a book called Space Law and Government. When I left he had a manuscript of 600 pages. He wrote an introductory chapter, a new chapter one that I had no hand in, and he wrote some concluding material for the final chapter. That is how Space Law and Government was written.

Res Communis: That brings us to the project you are working on with the NCRSASL. The Center has some of Haley’s original papers. Your expertise and first hand knowledge is invaluable in helping us put together an archive that will be available to researchers. You have characterized this archive as the work product of world’s first space law practitioner. Please tell us a little bit about what this archive contains and why it is important.[Editor’s note: a formal anouncement and description of the archive will be released shortly. Stay tuned.)

Doyle: The archive represents the institutional records of the law firm of Haley, Bader, and Potts in Washington, D.C. It had been in continuous operation since the 1930s. Haley retired from a wartime appointment as president of the Aerojet Corporation, and in 1946 returned to Washington to practice law. He brought back a strong interest in space. He also had an abiding interest in international cooperation. He felt that as astronautics developed, international cooperation would be extremely important. Therefore he became involved in international exchanges with foreign lawyers; getting to know people in other countries; and finding ways to talk with them about astronautics and where it was going. In 1950 the French convened the first of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) astronautical congresses in Paris. The second was held in London in 1951. At that meeting Haley was invited to join the IAF organization team. Thereafter, he was active continually in the IAF. It eventually produced two suborganizations, the International Academy of Astronautics (the IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL).

The archive that the Center has includes many communications, planning documents, and proposals that were generated and exchanged during the 1950s regarding the development, expansion, growth, and definition of the IAF, its roles, and the formation of the IAA and the IISL. Haley was chair of an international committee in which he had the responsibility to associate the IAF with the United Nations. By 1957, he established a formal liaison so that the IAF was an associate member of UNESCO. The history of that whole development is in the archives that the Center now holds.

It also includes a lot of the exchanges that took place from 1958 to 1960 that has to do with organizing the lawyers of the world into an associate group that could regularly exchange opinions and write papers and hear from one another on the development of space law. Haley was absolutely convinced that there was a significant role in international cooperative activity for non-governmental structures that could feed into governmental structures, and that would ultimately result in formal treaties and international agreements. He thought the exchange of information and the exchange of opinions by individuals in their own capacity would greatly facilitate and accelerate the development of formal law. He was dedicated to providing mechanisms for exchanges of information but not necessarily to make decisions. Haley talked very often about trying to get some of the organizations funded to do research, but that was never one of his real goals. His real goal was getting people to talk to one another, to learn from one another, and to provide suggestions for ways of solving the problems of managing activity in outer space. If you look at the book Space Law and Government you will find it is very much oriented toward stimulating international cooperation; recognizing its value; and, encouraging it. On almost every page there is a reference to international cooperation. That was his goal. Build consensus; work together peacefully; bring benefits of the astronautic world to the people; good will and harmony; that was what he was all about.

Res Communis: You moved from the public sector to the private sector in the early 1980s. Can you tell us about that?

Doyle: My career started in Washington, D.C. with the Federal Communications Commission, then after two and half years there I was invited to join the State Department staff, which I did. I was then loaned to the White House for six months, then they decided they wanted me permanently, so I was transferred to the White House staff in the Office of Telecommunications Policy for four years. When I went into the White House it was the Nixon Administration. Shortly after I got there, Mr. Nixon had resigned and Gerald Ford took over and Mr. Ford was still president when I was invited to go to NASA and become the deputy director of International Affairs. It was in the period of 1970 to 1974 that I was in the White House. I went to NASA from ’74 to ’78 as the Deputy Directory of the Office of International Affairs. Then I moved to the Congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment. I was there from ’78 to ’81.

In 1981, I was married with five children, and needed a better salary so I chose to leave government after fifteen years of service. I was invited to join the staff of the Aerojet Corporation in California. I was the director of strategic planning for about six years; and then got into contract management and land use issues with the local government involving the corporation’s rocket testing and other issues. I retired from Aerojet after fifteen years of service. I then became involved in starting another company in 1996, where I have been involved since 1996.

Overall, my career is in three chunks: my fifteen years with the Federal Government were very exciting growth years in the development of space law. I had a hand in writing the first regulations at the FCC for domestic satellite communications. In the State Department I worked on direct broadcast satellites and with the United Nations outer space committee for about a decade. At NASA, I continued this work because the State Department kept calling me back to serve on U.S. delegations. Even after I left the government in 1981, I served on US delegations to international meetings if the ITU and the United Nations until 1990. I had a good, long career in the government for almost twenty-five years of serving in international negotiations of treaties, agreements and the principles concerning activities in space, which followed the treaties.

Res Communis: In the early 1990s you worked with the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), correct?

Doyle: I was hired as a consultant by the SETI Institute in California. I worked with Drs. Jill Tarter and John Billingham. Basically, I talked with them about legal implications of a future contact and what would have to be done; what institutions would need to be involved; what kind of institutional preparation would need to be done to make an ultimate contact as smooth, and as undisturbing, as unpanic-inducing, as possible. Their concern was if contact was made, they needed to have the right institutions prepared to understand what the appropriate course of action would be. We spent a lot of time brainstorming how the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the UN First Committee could be approached and to explain to the importance of keeping control on any contact so that the world at large would understand that it was a manageable event and not a catastrophe.

Res Communis: Tell us about the work you did for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

I worked with Jayantha Dhanapala, The Director of UNIDIR, who was seeking a book concerning security implications of the civil uses of outer space. It would be written with assistance of an international advisory group. Fifteen disarmament experts from 12 nations participated. The title is, Civil Space Systems: Implications for International Security (Dartmouth, UK, 1994). It was published by UNIDIR as one of a series of studies about disarmament. It basically concluded that expanding civil uses of space are stabilizing rather than threatening international security.

Res Communis: You just finished a study titled, “The Impact of Spaceflight and Space Exploration on Laws and Governmental Structures of the United States”.

Doyle: I did. I submitted it on October 31, 2007 to Dr. Steven Dick, the NASA Chief Historian. NASA is assessing the impact of spaceflight on the United States; including things like the economy; industry; medicine; information technologies; education; and the laws and governmental structures of the country. NASA asked a number of different people, experts in their particular areas, to write on the impact of spaceflight on their areas. I was asked to address laws and government, as part of a broader study that will bring together assessments of impacts in a number of areas. There might be a conference on impacts of spaceflight on the nation, or there might be a book. I don’t think the decision has been made yet.

Res Communis: What do think are the most important space law issues today?

Doyle: The patentability and control of patents having to do with inventions made in outer space. The U.S. law gives a patent to the entity that first reduces an idea to practice and around 1990, the law in the United States was amended to include inventions made in outer space. The U.S. extended its jurisdiction to outer space and said any U.S. citizen or anyone working on a U.S. spacecraft that produces an invention in outer space may patent it in the law of the United States. It is a unique law that has not been given a whole lot of attention. I think ultimately it will become an area where many foreign countries will also want to devote more attention.

Res Communis: We, Res Communis, have an entry on a bill pending in Congress right now, which, if passed, will change the U.S. from a “first to invent” rule to a “first to file rule” nation. If passed, it would be a fundamental change.

Doyle:
It would put the United States in step with Europe and most of the major developed countries of the world. We have historically had “first to invent,” that is, the first one to reduce an idea to a practice, record it, and produce evidence of the recordation gets the patent. The rest of the world pretty much says it’s the first one that submits the application to the patent office who gets the patent. That’s the “first to file.” The difference is, we will no longer ask “When did you invent this?” in order to determine the precedence of an invention, but “When did you first file it with the patent office?” That is when the date of primacy is going to be determined and that can make a big difference.

Res Communis: Is there anything that we may not have asked?

Doyle: In my opinion, there isn’t much in space law that you don’t have your thumb on and are aware of. I think there are still some questions that are going to continue to cause some aggravation having to do with the use of nuclear power sources in space; although I think we have quite conclusively demonstrated we can safely use nuclear power in space, particularly for space systems that are at substantial distances from the sun. There are those who in the environmental community who want to exclude the use of nuclear power sources off the Earth. It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but I think we are going to continue to have controversy. Every time there is talk about putting a radioactive power generation system on board a satellite system, it is going to raise complications and problems.

The other thing of which I am particularly aware is that there is an enormous competition occurring in the launch vehicles services and other space technology areas, with the addition of launches by Western Europe, Russia, Japan, India, and China. The United States has a body of law that emerged in the 1950s that says that the U.S. has to restrict the export of advanced technologies to keep other nations dependent on U.S. technology. It is called the International Traffic a in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The law keeps U.S. industry from exporting advanced technology. The assumption is, the U.S. is the only nation with smart people in the world; the only ones that can figure out how to do things; and in order to get advanced technology other nations are going to come to us to do it. I think it is a futile exercise, I think it is a dumb idea. I realize there may be some short term values and benefits from denying hostile foreign nations access to our technology, but in the long run you are giving people reason to develop the technology themselves, which they are entirely capable of doing; and, at that point they have nothing but a remaining bad taste in their mouths from how the U.S. refused to help them when it could have.

Res Communis: Well, I that brings us to the end. Stephen, this has been very enjoyable, we learned even more, and really appreciate your giving us the time to do this.

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  1. The Chinese reportedly blew up one of their own satellites to test a weapon. This has left debris circling the earth,which must eventually endanger spacecraft going to and fro to the International Space Station. Has a protest been filed? Will this act of stupidity be followed by US tests as well? Are there any plans in the works to clean space of debris like this? What is the prognosis for cleaning orbits of this sort of garbage? Has the Congress investigated, and who is responsible, ultimately, for paying official attention to this problem? Thank you. Mike Havenar


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