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Election 2016

Installing Trump's Space Policy At NASA

By Keith Cowing
November 9, 2016
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Installing Trump's Space Policy At NASA

Keith’s note: The Trump campaign was mostly caught by surprise by their win. While there was a formal Trump Transition Team operating, it had not gotten to the point of working details of who would visit each agency and what they would do once they arrived. If you check this chart you will see that NASA is currently not a priority for the Trump “Agency Action Team” structure. NASA is not even mentioned.
Right now the bulk of the Trump Transition Team for NASA is headed by former Rep. Bob Walker and Mark Albrecht. Walker spent 20 years representing Pennsylvania in the House and served as chair of the House Science Committee. He also chaired the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and was a member of the President’s Commission on Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy. Albrecht was Executive Secretary of the National Space Council between 1989-1992 and principal space advisor to President George H. W. Bush. Albrecht is currently chairman of the board of U.S. Space LLC. It is going to take Walker and Albrecht a while to get up to speed.

I am told by knowledgeable sources to “buckle up” and that the National Space Council is coming back. At one point or another over the years both Walker and Albrecht have also been floated as possible NASA Administrators. Both of them have said they are not interested but that just means that they are interested. As to when a Trump nominee to head NASA will actually surface, that is still unknown. NASA Administrator Bolden and Deputy Administrator Newman will be leaving at the end of President Obama’s term. It is likely that NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will serve as acting NASA Administrator until such time as Trump nominee is confirmed. Trump political staff will likely show up at NASA HQ before that nominee is confirmed.
As for what might have happend: the Clinton Transition Team was much more organized and would have initially been led by Laurie Leshin and Michael Lopez-Alegria. Others would have joined in as activities expanded. They would have been on the job within a day or two had Hillary Clinton won. The Clinton Transition Team had a 6 week window during which it would complete its tasks. Their hope had been to be able to have a nominee for Administrator released before the holidays. The Clinton and Obama teams saw a Clinton presidency as a continuation, in many ways, of Obama Administration’s efforts. As such it was expected that this transition at NASA would be somewhat less contentious than the Bush/Obama transition was. As is standard procedure, the Clinton transition team would have done a top to bottom review of the agency. They would have been looking for the things that work and let them continue. They would also look for things that needed some midcourse corrections and made suggestions in this regard. And for the things (in some cases people) who were not working out or no longer needed, changes would have been there as well. It would not be unprecedented to see members of the transition team filling positions at NASA HQ while other members go back to their day jobs.
It is likely that the Trump Transition Team will take a somewhat similar approach with the exception that they will not have much interest in perpetuating much of the Obama space legacy – unless, of course, you consider this op ed “Obama’s Brave Reboot for NASA” written by Walker and his long time collaborator Newt Gingrich from 2010. In it Gingrich and Walker said “With the new NASA budget, the leadership of the agency is attempting to refocus the manned space program along the lines that successive panels of experts have recommended. The space shuttle program, which was scheduled to end, largely for safety reasons, will be terminated as scheduled. The Constellation program also will be terminated, mostly because its ongoing costs cannot by absorbed within projected NASA budget limits. The International Space Station will have its life extended to at least 2020, thereby preserving a $100 billion laboratory asset that otherwise was due to be dumped in the Pacific Ocean by middecade. The budget also sets forth an aggressive program for having cargo and astronaut crews delivered to the space station by commercial providers.”
If you look at the two op eds penned on the Trump campaign’s behalf by Walker this year, you will note that there is no specific mention of SLS/Orion, NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission, and NASA’s #JourneyToMars thing. Nor is there any interest in climate studies. Does this mean that these programs are not going to be supported/cancelled – or just that the Trump team hasn’t decided what to do about them? Stay tuned.
Trump’s Stance On NASA Climate Research, earlier post
Trump Space Advisor Wants To Invite China To Join ISS, earlier post
Trump Promises to “Free NASA”, earlier post
Second Trump Space Op Ed Omits Support of SLS, Orion, ARM, #JourneyToMars, earlier post
Trump Space Advisors Omit Support of SLS, Orion, ARM, #JourneytoMars, earlier post
Trump and Clinton Campaigns Talk Space, earlier post

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