PRESIDENT ORDERS SWEEPING U.S. POLICY REVIEWJuly 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Space Law Current Events | 2 Comments
by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty
Source: Space News
Space News Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama has given his administration until Oct. 1 to scrutinize existing national space policy as part of a sweeping review that could culminate in a new strategy governing American civil and military space activities.
Sources familiar with the Obama review say it will address a range of topics that fall into several categories, including space protection, international cooperation, acquisition reform and national space strategy.
Led by Peter Marquez, director of space policy for the White House National Security Council, the review will involve a slew of U.S. offices and agencies, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Treasury and Transportation departments, and U.S. intelligence agencies.
In May, Obama issued Presidential Study Directive-3 (PSD-3), calling for a broad review of the U.S. national space policy of former President George W. Bush. Sources familiar with the review note that PSD-3 is the second presidential directive issued during Obama’s first few months in office to address space. PSD-2 will address classified space activities, these sources said.
Multiple sources familiar with the Obama policy review say it could lay the foundation for further debates within the executive branch this fall, potentially leading to a revised U.S. national space policy by mid-2010.
Preliminary reviews of the Bush space policy are currently under way, with teams led by White House, intelligence, Defense and State department officials charged with identifying specific areas for further study. Although NASA is not leading any of the teams, sources familiar with the space policy review said agency officials are engaged in the effort. In addition, the review is expected to incorporate results from a blue-ribbon panel charged with assessing the future of NASA’s manned spaceflight programs. The panel, led by retired Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Norman Augustine, will present its findings to the Obama administration in late August.
Bush’s October 2006 space policy emphasized security issues, sought to foster commercial enterprise and rejected new arms control agreements that would limit U.S. activities in space. It capped a series of space policy edicts released earlier in his administration that addressed remote sensing, space transportation, navigation and the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, which called for replacing the space shuttle with a system capable of taking humans to the Moon.
Bush was criticized in the media for taking a unilateral tone in his October 2006 policy document. In contrast, the Obama administration is expected to emphasize international cooperation, adopting a more inclusive approach with allies in addressing space access and other strategic concerns.
“There’s enough of a sense in the Obama people that the tone of the Bush policy is not what they want to communicate,” said John Logsdon, a space policy expert at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum here. “It’s very clear that Obama in general, and with respect to space, intends to take a much more multilateral approach.”
Sources familiar with the review say U.S. outreach and cooperation with international partners on space activities is an area ripe for study, as is reform of the U.S. export control regime with regard to commercial communications satellites. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would give the administration authority to remove commercial satellites and components from rigorous State Department export licensing requirements.
Other topics on the table include commercial remote sensing, technology industrial base and acquisition reform, the need to maintain two expendable launch vehicles and a review of the Bush administration’s stance on weapons in space.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama called for a ban on space weapons, a controversial statement that found its way onto the White House Web site shortly after his Jan. 20 inauguration. The statement has since been removed.
International discussions of space weapons have typically foundered on disagreements over what constitutes a space weapon and verification concerns about any proposed ban. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University here, said a more achievable goal might be a ban on the creation of long-lived orbital debris that could threaten satellites and other spacecraft, including the international space station.
“An international agreement on preventing orbital debris could contribute to the sustainability of the overall space environment,” Pace said.
Earth’s orbit is populated by approximately 17,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters and some 200,000 objects between 1 and 10 centimeters in diameter, according to the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. In early 2007 China shot down an aging Chinese weather satellite with a ballistic missile. The breakup of the Fengyun-1C satellite resulted in a debris cloud comprising a large number of fragments that pose a collision risk to operating satellites and spacecraft.
Since U.S. policy on space debris was first articulated by U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1988, the United States has sought to minimize the creation of new orbital debris. According to the 2006 Bush national space policy, “Orbital debris poses a risk to continued reliable use of space-based services and operations and to the safety of persons and property in space and on Earth. The United States shall seek to minimize the creation of orbital debris by government and non-government operations in space in order to preserve the space environment for future generations.”