SpaceNews picked up on last Thursday’s congressional hearing where Members of the House Science Committee asked the new administrator of NOAA to make more use of commercial satellite data and take action on space traffic management. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), ranking member, asked about the Office of Space Commerce, which is housed within NOAA, and its work on space traffic management. He expressed concern the office was using funding appropriated for fiscal year 2021 to develop a space situational awareness open architecture data repository for other studies instead. According to the reporting, NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad said he has “embraced” the issue of space traffic management since taking over NOAA. “We are taking very specific actions,” he argued, including work on the data repository. An interagency demonstration of that data repository is planned for the “next several weeks,” after which NOAA will demonstrate it to Congress. Of note, Rep. Baird announced on Saturday he has a breakthrough COVID-19 case. “I’ve been fully vaccinated since late December of 2020, and I have already begun a therapeutic regimen under the advice and direction of my physicians. I’ve felt better, but I’ve also felt worse,” he said.
On the NDAA, now that the House has passed the bill that authorizes $25B more than the Pentagon requested for the next fiscal year, appropriators must decide whether to match funding to the amounts authorized. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chairwoman, HAC-D, voted against the 10 percent cut but in favor of stripping out the $24.7 B added by lawmakers during the markup of the bill. “But even with the bills taking shape, it’s too soon to know what will make it into the final version. The conference committee that reconciles the two bills — and conducts its work behind closed doors — has been known to strip out provisions without offering much explanation,” according to Congressional Quarterly.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Majority Leader, filed cloture late Thursday night to break a Republican filibuster of a House-passed CR to keep federal agencies open until Friday. The Senate vote on the motion to proceed to this bill — which also includes language to suspend the debt limit until Dec. 2022 — will take place today at 1730. It is likely to fail given the inclusion of the debt limit. Some analysts suggest the U.S. could hit the debt limit by mid-October. Of note, House Democrats are caucusing at 1730 this evening. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated Sunday that the government wouldn’t go into a partial shutdown, suggesting that Democratic leaders are prepared to bring up just a CR, which has bipartisan support, to avoid that outcome. Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense budget expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Hill staffer, told National Defense Magazine she believes the CR could go longer. “Odds grow by the week that the CR will be longer than half a year. No real talks have started between the two parties on any sort of overall federal spending deal for defense and non-defense discretionary” programs,” she said. “But the biggest reason the CR could last a long time is that a spending freeze through a continuing resolution is more palatable to many conservatives than a budget deal since it avoids additional non-defense double digit increases and prevents many divestments and retirements of equipment, which is politically popular.” John Lucio, a staffer for the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, said “the signals are there” indicating the government could be in for a long CR. “Shaking the magic eight-ball, I … would say that maybe early spring, mid-spring, maybe a year-long [CR] isn’t really out of the question. Anything can happen, but … it may be an extended period of time. Logic would say that that’s probably where we’re headed.” If that were to happen, the Army and Navy satellite communication operation transfers to the Space Force that Gen. John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, announced last week, would likely be delayed as a result.
The withdrawal in Afghanistan last month continues to reverberate in Congress. This week, the SASC will hold two public hearings on the matter and one of those public meetings will include SecDef and Gen. Mark Milley, the CJCS, who will be “in the hot seat,” as Congressional Quarterly puts it.. There are no additional confirmation hearings on the SASC calendar. A few nominations since mid-summer are awaiting hearings. The Senate is in the next two weeks before adjourning for a week-long state work period during the Columbus Day holiday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced on Friday morning he is running for re-election. He will be 89 on Election Day 2022. “Grassley is a fixture of the Senate and there’s no reason to think Iowans won’t send him back even though most can’t recall a time before he was in office. He was elected to his second Senate term in 1986, the year before the youngest current senator, Democrat Jon Ossoff of Georgia, was born,” according to CNN. “Grassley is the 10th longest-serving senator ever. Another term would put him in the top five, all but one of whom died in office. Grassley would be 95 in 2029 when the term ends.” As we know, every seat counts in a 50-50 Senate.
From the Senate floor today, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader, said, “We will support a clean continuing resolution that will avoid a government shutdown.” Those words prior to the 1730 cloture vote that is certain to fail given the opposition to the inclusion of the debt limit in the bill. “We will not provide votes to raise the debt ceiling. No chance Republicans will help,” McConnell said. The House Rules Committee is already sitting time aside on Tuesday to debate a likely second CR bill. Government funding runs dry on 1 Oct at 12:01 a.m.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to POTUS (attached) requesting more information on the POTUS nuclear policy and the elimination of a position held by Leonor Tomero. “According to press reports, Department officials may have driven Ms. Tomero from her position for challenging traditional views on the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. Congress needs to understand whether ideology played any role in Ms. Tomero’s dismissal.”
On telework, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, told AFA last week, “The message to the Airmen of AFMC [is] … we will not go back to what we were doing before. I am setting that goal for Airmen, to see if we can get 50 percent in telework all the time, or in and out … we have demonstrated that we can execute the mission. We have demonstrated that we can award contracts, manage programs, get things done … There’s … no justification for, ‘Boss, we need to get everyone back in here.’ We are embracing it. We believe the younger generation, not more seasoned individuals like me … like being in the digital world, feel comfortable operating in that kind of arena. They embrace it. If we don’t go do this, we will end up losing Airmen in the long term. It is a retention issue for the long term.” According to Air Force Magazine, “Bunch said he sees an opportunity to close buildings, reduce energy consumption, and avoid building upgrades—all of which will save money—through telework.” Bunch acknowledges challenges to the new model. “It is more challenging … to bring in new employees and get them inculcated into the culture that we want of being an Airman,” he said.
Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations, appeared before Defense One today on the State of the Space Force. Here are a few highlights:
Gen. James Dickinson, commander, U.S. Space Command, “wants more focus on what makes fighting units tick: readiness. That means preparing guardians and others to carry out missions in what he warns is a more dangerous environment than it was a few years ago,” according to Politico Pro. “Readiness has got to be the watchword, or the mantra. Readiness of the equipment, readiness of the capabilities, if you will, that they provide to me, whether it’s the space-enabling capabilities like missile warning, satellite communications, [position, navigation, and timing] … providing service members that are ready, guardians that are at the highest level of readiness, who are able to do their jobs 24 hours a day,” Dickinson said. He added, “When you’re moving satellites, or you are doing the health and welfare of satellites, or you’re employing the capabilities from those satellites, [they need] the understanding … that you may not be able to do what you normally do. And how do you use your initiative and your leadership and your skills in order to mitigate whatever effect our competitors might be employing? No more is it just about… ‘I employ this capability and know that I’ll be okay.’ It’s doing that plus understanding what our competitors have that could counter that … really start providing some strategic level effects that really is expected of a combat command, is expected of the other combatant commands. But they’re not as new as we are really.” On acquisition, Dickinson said, “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing with the whole discussion of the space enterprise. The need for speed. You’ve heard some senior leaders … talk about that routinely in terms of we’ve got to get the [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] process more streamlined. We need to do these types of things to get capabilities into the hands of the warfighter quicker. So there’s positive momentum in discussions … It might be a little too early to tell what the result of that is. I’m somewhat of an impatient customer. Have I gotten that widget yet in a very quick way? I can’t say that right now.”
On 24 Sep, POTUS hosted Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan at the White House for the first-ever in-person Leaders’ Summit of the Quad. According to a release, “The leaders have put forth ambitious initiatives that deepen our ties and advance practical cooperation on 21st-century challenges” including space. Quad countries are among the world’s scientific leaders, including in space. Today, the Quad will begin space cooperation for the first time with a new working group. In particular, our partnership will exchange satellite data, focused on monitoring and adapting to climate change, disaster preparedness, and responding to challenges in shared domains. The Quad will:
In a separate joint statement, the leaders said, “In space we will identify new collaboration opportunities and share satellite data for peaceful purposes such as monitoring climate change, disaster response and preparedness, sustainable uses of oceans and marine resources, and on responding to challenges in shared domains. We will also consult on rules, norms, guidelines and principles for ensuring the sustainable use of outer space.” In their own joint statement, POTUS and Prime Minister Modi said they “looked forward to the finalization of a Space Situational Awareness Memorandum of Understanding that will help in sharing of data and services towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities by the end of the year.”
John Whitley, former acting secretary of the Army, and Gregory Pejic, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, penned an Op-Ed in War on the Rocks writing about the SASC version of the NDAA calling for Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) system reform. The pair believe “this latest attention from the Senate has the potential to be different” but “we believe that there are two key questions that the Senate’s commission needs to start with: What are the red herrings and dead ends that tripped up previous PPBE reform efforts and should be avoided this time, and what problems is the commission trying to solve?” Whitley and Pejic suggest the following; “First, don’t try to eliminate the reality of resource scarcity with process changes. Second, don’t try to fix bad leadership with process changes. Third, don’t ignore incentives. Incentives matter — they are what govern and shape the behavior of decision-makers at every level of an organization. Fourth, don’t ignore Congress and the realities of government management. Government organizations typically do not have clear, objective measures of performance like the private sector (e.g., profit). Finally, don’t legislate a policy process.”
Thanks to Jaelyn Dupree of Partners in Air & Space for the attached notes of Dr. Derek Tournear’s presentation before Defense One today. According to Dupree, Tournear gave updates on programs launched this summer, commented on the Tranche schedule, and discussed future solicitations that will come as they continue to field the Tranche series.
On 4-6 Oct, Space Force Association will host “Space Warfighter Industry Nights (Space WINs).” According to a release, “Join SFA for a one-of-a-kind engagement opportunity between warfighters, industry partners, and policymakers with specifically targeted programming to inspire constructive conversation and collaboration, and advance the U.S. Space Force as the dominant spacepower leader.” For more information and to register, please visit https://ussfa.org/event-4397539.
On 19-21 Oct, The 11th IAASS Conference “Managing Risk in Space” will take place as a hybrid event. According to a release, “The Conference will in addition to normal sessions dedicate a set of panel sessions to the discussion of four topics which need to get better attention in space programs: Space Debris Reentry Safety, Space Traffic Management, Safety Regulations of Commercial Human Spaceflight, and Human Performance and Safety on Long Duration missions.” For more information and to register, please visit http://iaassconference2021.space-safety.org/.
On 21 October at 1800, the Foundation for the Future will hold their first annual Fall Gala where they will have Brig Gen Steven (Bucky) Butow; Director of the Space Portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit and Brig Gen (R) Trent Edwards Director of MGMWERX as guest speakers. They will also honor Representative Betty McCollum the Chairwoman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and Representative Maria Salazar; Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure for their forward looking leadership in the space economy. Find more information at http://www.f4f.space/gala.
On 3-4 Dec, The Reagan National Defense Forum will be held. This event brings together leaders from across the political spectrum and key stakeholders in the defense community, including Members of Congress, current and former Administration officials, senior military leadership, industry executives, technology innovators, and thought leaders. According to the Forum, “Their mission is to review and assess policies that strengthen America’s national defense in the context of the global threat environment.” For more information and to register, please visit https://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan-institute/programs/reagan-national-defense-forum/.