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Biden Space

Team Biden Decides To Keep The National Space Council

By Keith Cowing
March 29, 2021
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Team Biden Decides To Keep The National Space Council

Keith’s note: The usual suspects are telling me that the Biden Administration has decided to keep the National Space Council (NSpC). As to what its real role will be is still TBD. These same usual suspects also wanted to keep the Trump space advisory status quo in place – specifically the NSpC. They even sent the Biden White House a letter saying so (see “Big Aerospace Wants Biden To Keep Trump Space Policy Apparatus In Place“). .
The Biden Administration has brought back PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) and is filling the emptiness that the Trump Administration caused when they cleared out the offices at OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). As such the nation’s top science and technology policy discussions – including space – will be held at an executive level. as things more or less functioned during the Obama Administration. The NSpC will be answering to the Vice President unless they decide to change that. But regardless of what NSpC did or will do it will almost certainly be a tier below the PCAST and what OSTP uses to make decisions.
The membership of the NSpC was re-established by executive order in 2017. Its membership (since amended to include the Department of Energy) consists of the heads of a variety of cabinet level agencies plus other high level agencies. The heads of these agencies only attended to public meetings where pomp and circumstance often seemed to be the prime purpose of the meeting. Truth be known 99% of what the NSpC did was due to Scott Pace and his tiny staff. All of the smoke and mirrors could have been dispensed with and nearly everything that the NSpC did would still have been done – again, due to Scott Pace. Fact.
There is also the issue of what to do with the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group. As I noted in 2018:

“… the Users Advisory Group is almost entirely composed of either political favorites or representatives of large aerospace companies looking for more contracts from NASA and DOD. There are no real “users” of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America’s space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber.”

As I note below The National Space Council UAG Wants You To Think They Did Something Important these meetings were so pre-scripted and ultimately pointless that the UAG’s own members stopped attending after the first several meetings. The UAG as simple an excuse to show powerpoint charts about what Big Aerospace wanted from Trump and what Big Aerospace said to Trump so as to butter up their requests. This was totally transactional as was the accepted mode of doing things at the time. By the time anything was briefed at the UAG it had already been decided within the NSpC. The UAG was simply window dressing and an excuse to thank some of Trump’s political pals and make some space people feel important.
One would assume that the membership is going to be tweaked given current UAG members which include Dean Cheng, Heritage Foundation (who has gone after the President’s son); Former Rep. John Culberson (a lobbyist at Cark Hill); Fred Klipsch (a big Mike Pence donor); and Trump campaign surrogates Florida Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.
One would also hope that the Biden Administration has someone who can read and understands what the “Users” in “Users Advisory Group” should actually mean. It should not mean giant aerospace corporations that NASA pays cost-plus fees to for its space hardware and launches. It should not mean political pals who never attended meetings even when they are on Zoom. It should not mean the space industry advocacy groups who simply want more money to be given to the big aerospace companies and to the states whose elected officials are on the panel.
No, what “Users” should mean are the researchers, technologists, educators, organizations, communities, funding sources, and general public who pay for the whole space party and are the ultimate users of space. The UAG needs to be peopled with those individuals and organizations who come up with ways to use space and then actually use it. As such this also means that the UAG needs to include in its membership people from diverse user backgrounds – and not people in their 50s and above. Where are the members of the so-called Artemis Generation amongst the UAG’s ranks? I see their parents and grand-parents but not them.
One would hope that Team Biden is going to make use of an existing mechanism but adjust it such that form follows function, and that the name reflects that function and that this is a re-imagining and a reboot using the National Space Council branding only.
Oh yes. Put Scott Pace on the new National Space Council. His value goes beyond one Administration.
Big Aerospace Wants Biden To Keep Trump Space Policy Apparatus In Place, earlier post

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.