Foust Forward | The missing element of the first National Space Council meeting of the Biden administration

If the Biden administration’s area coverage has a theme after practically one 12 months, it’s one in every of continuity.

The White Home has prevented main modifications in civil or nationwide safety area, protecting in place NASA’s Artemis program to return people to the moon (albeit with delays that have been inevitable given obtainable funding and technical points) in addition to the Area Pressure and different army initiatives, just like the Area Improvement Company and its pursuit of low Earth orbit constellations.

That continuity was evident in a doc the White Home launched Dec. 2, the “United States Area Priorities Framework.” Lots of the priorities described within the seven-page doc concerning civil, industrial, and nationwide safety area are continuations of insurance policies from the Trump administration and its predecessors. That features main components of coverage and extra minor points, like organising a regulatory scheme for non-traditional industrial area markets and growing the emphasis on planetary protection.

The place the Biden administration has made modifications, they’ve been primarily within the type of additions. When Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed she would chair the Nationwide Area Council, she emphasised curiosity in new priorities, comparable to local weather change — a excessive precedence for the administration general — in addition to STEM schooling. That was clear within the priorities doc, which emphasised the usage of space-based knowledge to help motion on local weather change and investing in STEM schooling.

The additions embody the roster of the council itself. On the administration’s first Nationwide Area Council assembly Dec. 2, Harris formally welcomed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Schooling, the Inside and Labor to the council, together with the Nationwide Local weather Adviser. Two of the three panel discussions on the assembly concerned these new members and priorities, with the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Inside, and the local weather adviser, discussing area and the local weather disaster, whereas the Secretaries of Schooling and Labor participated in a dialogue on STEM schooling.

The assembly itself seemed very similar to these within the Trump administration, with opening remarks from the vice chairman and panel discussions (the third, on area sustainability, obtained many of the consideration given the latest Russian ASAT check.) By the top of the assembly, all of the members of the council had spoken, and lots of obtained homework assignments from Harris to pursue work on area sustainability, local weather, and schooling points.

There was, although, a lacking factor to this assembly: the area trade. Within the earlier administration, council conferences included panel discussions with outdoors witnesses, together with firm executives. At this assembly, although, the panels consisted solely of council members themselves. Business was even excluded from the viewers on the assembly, held within the atrium of the U.S. Institute of Peace close to the State Division, with the room crammed as a substitute with authorities officers.

Executives consoled themselves at a reception that night at a downtown Washington resort organized by a number of trade teams. They mentioned privately they’d no complaints concerning the priorities of the area council however regretted being disregarded of the assembly if, for no different motive, to point out their help for these efforts. (The comparatively small dimension of the room might need been one motive for them to be excluded, however there are many bigger venues in Washington.)

Business can be keeping track of modifications to the council’s Customers’ Advisory Group. On the council assembly, the group’s chairman, James Ellis, recapped its previous work however didn’t focus on future work. The White Home solicited nominations for brand new members of the group this fall however has but to announce new members.

Refreshing the Customers’ Advisory Group is a good suggestion, notably if it brings in additional precise customers of area capabilities reasonably than simply the businesses that present these capabilities. Holding trade concerned can be key to making sure they’ve a voice in how these coverage priorities are applied and successful their help when these insurance policies require new laws and funding.


Jeff Foust writes about area coverage, industrial area, and associated matters for table4. His Foust Ahead column seems in each difficulty of the journal. This column ran within the December 2021 difficulty.

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