Biden Space: August 2021 Archives

Revealed: Biden's ethics exceptions, Axios

"The details: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was excused from rules that would have barred him from working with Lockheed Martin, for which he was a paid advisory board member. Nelson assured ethics officials prior to his confirmation that he would only be participating in policy matters potentially affecting Lockheed, not any procurement or contracting decisions involving the company."

Keith's note: National Space Council Executive Director Chirag Parikh just made a short 10 minute presentation at the Space Symposium. He has only been on the job for 3 weeks but he did touch on some important topics - at least topics that I think are important i.e making space relevant beyond the space community's little bubble. Whether NASA pays attention to what Parikh and the National Space Council says is another matter altogether. NASA does not like to have other people tell the agency what to do. NASA just wants them to provide money to do what NASA wants to do - at a pace that NASA wants. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: There are a variety of advisory bodies set up for the purpose of soliciting expert advice for how America should run its space activities. One entity, the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) is supposed to be the prime focus on such advice collection. Given the whole pandemic thing, it should be expected that things have fallen behind. But while NASA does everything else, it seems to be unable to keep the NAC current or have it meet. You'd think that with a new Administration in the White House and all of the mounting challenges to NASA's large programs such as Artemis, that this advice is needed now more than ever. Guess again. The NAC is inert.

For starters, if you look at the group portrait of the NAC on its homepage you will see that "The Honorable Bill Nelson (former U.S. Senator)" and "Mr. Robert Cabana (Director, Kennedy Space Center)" are members and "Mr. James Morhard (NASA Deputy Administrator)" is still on the job at NASA. The last NAC meetings shown are from "March-May 2020" - more than a year ago. The last NAC meeting minutes that were posted are from November 2019.

If you go to the NASA OIIR Advisory Committee Management Division page you will see links to NAC and other committees that are either stale and/or link to sites where the committees have meeting information that is totally out of synch with what the OIIR has on its NAC page. And the "annual call for nominations" that they link to is from 2018.

As I noted a month ago in Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters the official NAC web page is out of date when it comes to meetings. While no one can tell you who is and is not on the NAC or when it will meet next, some of its subcommittees have managed to meet - even if the NAC home page is not aware of these meetings. Indeed, many of these NAC committees actually expired since the ANC staff at NASA apparently forgot to renew them.

As I noted in my earlier post: "The whole NAC thing is run by the Advisory Committee Management Division of the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). The OIIR is not known for being up to date on things. As I noted a month ago NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update. ... *all* of the policy links they have listed go to broken links that evaporated when the Trump Administration left office." Two months later and OIIR still can't do simple website updates so that all of the stakeholders, policy makers, media, and taxpayers can see what is going on.

Meanwhile, as the NAC remains stale and non-functional, the Vice President's office finally got around to naming an Executive Secretary for the National Space Council. But that's it. The enabling policies on the books stipulate who the pro forma members of the Space Council are. There is an interest in retaining the Users Advisory Group (UAG) but no one knows who the National Space Council staff are or who will serve on the UAG. And of course, the OIIR is the last place to look since they cannot even, manage to find a link to the Executive Order that brought the National Space Council back to life under the previous Administration.

As I noted recently in NASA Tries To Fix A Webpage By Breaking It NASA OIIR is really asleep at the wheel right now. The OIIR can't manage to maintain an accurate public-facing web page that explains the NASA Advisory Council; and the OIIR has no idea what the National Space Council is doing.

On a larger note, NASA has no real policy to guide what it is doing other than to not break anything that they were already doing under the Trump Administration. Even though inadequate budgets, SLS and spacesuit delays, and HLS protests now make the 2024 lunar landing target utterly improbable, NASA won't even state the obvious. Its hard to take NASA leadership seriously when they can't even admit what everyone already knows.

Early in his tenure, President Biden used to mention space and NASA accomplishments almost weekly - often as examples of American creativity and drive. Not any more. To be certain the pandemic, Afghanistan, a bad economy, and a failed insurrection have justifiably distracted his Administration. That said, the Biden Administration has a rather rich set of policy positions that resonate in many ways with what NASA does. Only climate change has gotten any attention with regard to NASA. Alas, despite promoting a "Build Back Better" meme, all that the Biden Administration seems to have allowed NASA to do thus far is to "Leave Things Broken".

NASA can be vastly better than this - but only if the White House starts to take NASA seriously - and expect that NASA will get off its butt and respond. Otherwise NASA will just rest on its laurels and say "space is hard" any time something doesn't go the way it is supposed to. That is the easy path - which is what NASA is sadly defaulting to right now.

Earlier Biden Space postings

OSTP: Clear Rules for Research Security and Researcher Responsibility

"The Biden-Harris Administration holds a strong commitment to protecting research security and maintaining the core values behind America's scientific leadership, including openness, transparency, honesty, equity, fair competition, objectivity, and democratic values. During its final week in office, the previous administration issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM-33) to "strengthen protections of United States Government-supported R&D against foreign government interference and exploitation" while "maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries and innovation that benefit our nation and the world." Given the timing of the release of NSPM-33, the previous administration did not have time to develop implementation guidance for federal agencies. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is working on how to implement NSPM-33 effectively, rigorously, and uniformly across the federal government in a way that protects the nation's interests in both security and openness."

Keith's note: This memo from the President's science advisor regarding the current OSTP's actions with regard to NSPM-33 certainly has implications for NASA inasmuch as NASA has numerous international projects including many that involve Russia and has binding legal restrictions in place with regard to China. NASA is part of the Federal government like all the other agencies are.

You'd think that the NASA office that deals with Intergovernmental and International relations would be on top of things like this. Maybe they are. Hard to tell. If you subscribe to the notion that one's official agency website reflects an agency's current understanding of the world (as NASA seems to) then you'd expect that the NASA Office International and Interagency Relations to have references to the current state of policies that are accurate - and that the links to them work. Guess again.

As I noted a month ago in ""NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update":

"If you go to the page where OIIR links to things, the top link i.e. Standing Trump Administration space policy documents - Executive Order for the National Space Council, White House Fact Sheet on the National Space Strategy, SPD-1, SPD-2, SPD-3 - all of the links are dead since that is what happens to one Admininstration's links when a new one takes over. Then there is International Space Station Multilateral Intergovernmental Agreement -- United States, Canada, European Space Agency, Japan, Russia (January 1998) which goes to an FTP site that no longer exists/won't let you in; International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct which goes to a dead link somewhere inside NASA; NASA CSA, ESA, Russia, and Japan agreements from 1998 which all go to dead links; and Space Shuttle mission info which, by definition, has not been updated since 2011. But nothing about Artemis, Orion, SLS, etc all of which have international cooperation embedded in them. And so on. If NASA can't be bothered to update their international relations web page at least once in a decade why should anyone take the time to visit it."

Keith's note: Today Vice President Harris is announcing the selection of Chirag Parikh as Executive Secretary of the National Space Council. Mr. Parikh is from Ohio and a veteran of the U.S government with over 20 years of experience. During the Obama-Biden Administration from 2010-2016, Mr. Parikh served as the White House Director of Space Policy on the National Security Council. In this position, he led the formulation and execution of national space policies and strategies; advised the President and National Security Advisor on civil, commercial, and national security space matters; and led efforts to reform how the Nation deals with threats to space systems.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Biden Space category from August 2021.

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