Military / National Security News
UPDATE, March 3, 2014, 9:30 pm ET: NASA has decided to hold its FY2015 budget briefing as a telecom rather than an event at Goddard Space Flight Center tomorrow (Tuesday) because of the weather. It will be streamed on NASA's news audio website. Still at 2:00 pm ET.
UPDATE, MARCH 3, 2014: Federal government offices in the Washington, DC area are, indeed, closed today, Monday, March 3. However, the Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week will go on according to a tweet from the SSB (@SSB_ASEB). A limited number of WebEx connections are available to LISTEN to the plenary session this afternoon. See the meeting agenda (link below) for instructions.
ORIGINAL STORY, MARCH 2, 2014: The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead, but be forewarned that Washington D.C. is forecast to get a MAJOR winter storm beginning tonight (Sunday) and lasting throughout the day Monday. If the forecast holds, the government is very likely to be closed tomorrow with disruptions to government and non-government activities alike. Be sure to check with the host organization before heading out to any Washington-area meetings on Monday and perhaps even Tuesday. The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session, but no space-related hearings are scheduled Monday.
During the Week
This is it! Budget week. It's a month late, but President Obama is scheduled to submit his FY2015 budget request to Congress on Tuesday. Many agencies, including NASA, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) typically hold press briefings the day the budget is released to explain the key issues they foresee. NASA's is scheduled at 2:00 pm ET Tuesday. Curiously, it will be held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center instead of NASA Headquarters. It will be broadcast on NASA TV. Some NASA center directors are holding their own briefings later in the afternoon.
The submittal of the budget kicks off budget season in Washington and all the congressional hearings that go with it. Hearings on the Pentagon's budget begin this week including a posture hearing on U.S. Strategic Command.
Apart from the budget, this week has other notable events, including the National Research Council's Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week. Over three days (Monday-Wednesday), the SSB's four standing committees -- Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Committee on Solar and Space Physics, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space, and Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science -- will meet separately as well as in a particularly interesting plenary session tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. For the first time, a public lecture on Tuesday night is also planned. The meetings are at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue (NOT the Keck Center on 5th Street). The plenary session on Monday includes a panel discussion with representatives from NASA and its counterparts in Japan, Europe and China. Hopefully that event will be able to take place despite the ice and snow -- be sure to check the SSB's website for up to date information. A limited number of listen-only WebEx connections will be available for this session and for Sara Seager's public lecture on Tuesday night. Instructions for how to listen in are on the agenda, which is posted on the SSB's website.
Also of great interest, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) will hold its annual Goddard Memorial Symposium Tuesday-Thursday at the Greenbelt Marriott in Greenbelt, MD near Goddard Space Flight Center (Tuesday is an evening reception; sessions are Wed-Thurs). This perfectly-timed meeting includes talks by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and the four NASA Mission Directorate Associate Administrators -- Bill Gerstenmaier (Human Exploration and Operations), John Grunsfeld (Science), Jaiwon Shin (Aeronautics) and Mike Gazarik (Space Technology) -- who should be able to shed more light on NASA's FY2015 budget request as well as the status of ongoing activities. Lots of other interesting speakers are scheduled for the two days as well.
And last, but certainly not least, the annual "space prom" will be held Friday night -- the National Space Club's Goddard Dinner at the Washington Hilton (as usual).
Here's the complete list of events that we know about as of Sunday morning. As we said, for events scheduled in Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday, check with the organization to see if they are still on track. This storm is supposed to be whopper -- lots of ice overnight and then 8-12 inches of snow on top of it falling throughout the day.
Sunday-Saturday, March 2-8
Monday-Wednesday, March 3-5
Tuesday, March 4
Tuesday-Thursday, March 4-6
Wednesday, March 5
Thursday, March 6
Friday, March 7
The Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC-D) will hear from both entrepreneurial and traditional space launch companies next week at a hearing on national security space launch programs.
Elon Musk will represent his entrepreneurial company, SpaceX, which has been striving for years to break into the market for DOD space launches, a market now dominated by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which launches the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. ULA will be represented by its President and CEO Michael Gass.
Cristina Chaplain from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Scott Pace from George Washington University will also testify.
Congress has essentially forced the Air Force to open up its launch market to "new entrants" like SpaceX, although any company must meet certification criteria before it is allowed to compete. SpaceX is currently going through the certification process, which requires them to achieve three successful launches of any particular launch vehicle configuration.
The first of those three for SpaceX took place last September. The failure of that rocket's second stage to reignite has been a source of contention as to whether it met the criteria or not. The Air Force announced just today that it will count as a successful mission for the purposes of its certification criteria. SpaceX has had two more successful launches since then -- of the SES-8 satellite on December 3, 2013 and of Thaicom-6 on January 6, 2014. The Air Force is still assessing their applicability towards meeting the certification criteria.
The hearing is on Wednesday, March 5, at 10:00 am EST in 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing will be webcast at the committee's website.
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate both are in session.
During the Week
It's another comparatively slow week as everyone eagerly awaits the release of the FY2015 budget request a week from now (March 4). In the meantime, perhaps the most interesting event this week is the House Science, Space and Technology Committee's hearing on "Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?" on Thursday. As far as we know, there is no launch opportunity to Mars in 2021 -- they occur only every 26 months and there's one in 2020 and another in 2022, so we will see what someone has in mind for 2021. There is an interesting group of very knowledgable witnesses.
That and other events we know of at the moment are listed below.
Monday, February 24
Tuesday, February 25
Wednesday, February 26
Thursday, February 27
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in recess this week: Monday is a federal holiday -- Presidents' Day -- commemorating the birthdays of Presidents Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22).
During the Week
It's a quiet week from a space policy perspective, but the departure of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday morning Eastern Standard Time (EST) and the launch of an Air Force GPS satellite from Cape Canaveral on Thursday should be of interest more generally. Cygnus will be unberthed on Tuesday, ending the Orb-1 mission, Orbital's first operational Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. The spacecraft is being loaded with trash and will burn up on reentry Wednesday. The launch of the 5th GPS Block IIF satellite (GPSIIF5) aboard an Atlas V is scheduled for Thursday at 8:40 pm EST with a 19 minute launch window. Weather is 80% go at the moment.
While not directly space-related, CSIS is having a meeting on Tuesday morning about National Security and Economic Issues in Spectrum Allocation that also could prove interesting. Government (DOD, FCC, NTIA) and industry (AT&T, T-Mobile) will discuss the thorny issues of how to allocate spectrum to satisfy the insatiable demand for this limited natural resource.
Here's a list of the events we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday, February 18
Wednesday, February 19
Thursday, February 20
The executive summary of a report chaired by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh on security issues at NASA acknowledges the "tension" between NASA's charter to encourage international cooperation and its requirement to safeguard sensitive and proprietary information. The report was requested by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who urged NASA to release the complete report.
Wolf chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and has expressed deep concern over the past several years about NASA allowing access to its facilities to foreign nationals, especially those from China. Last year he urged NASA to commission an independent study from an organization like the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) chaired by someone like Thornburgh to look at NASA's Foreign National Access Management (FNAM) policies. NASA complied, using NAPA and Thornburgh to review its FNAM program. The report was recently provided to Wolf, but with restricted access.
In a statement yesterday, Wolf called on NASA to release the entire report with any necessary redactions to protect national security. His office released his response to the study via email with several attachments including the executive summary of the Thornburgh report and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden's February 7, 2014 letter to Thornburgh responding to the study. NAPA does not appear to have posted the executive summary on its website yet.
The executive summary notes that "Foreign national participation in NASA programs and projects is an inherent and essential element in NASA operations. ... There is a fundamental tension between NASA's charter to work cooperatively and share information with other nations while simultaneously safeguarding its sensitive and proprietary information and assets from those same nations." The executive summary goes on to lament budget and personnel cuts that have "made management of NASA's security programs difficult" while adding that "strong leadership, which [the panel] believes NASA has, can accomplish much of what is recommended within existing resource limitations."
The executive summary says that the report makes 27 recommendations grouped into six topics:
The recommendations themselves are not included in the executive summary.
Bolden's response says that he directed "appropriate NASA offices to examine each recommendation and, where appropriate, to incorporate the panel's recommendation into our processes or identify any barriers to implementation..." He then lays out where he agrees or not with the panel. He agrees with the need for a more integrated FNAM program, the need to improve information technology security, and the need for a more systemic and standardized approach to NASA's export control processes. He also agreed to elevate awareness of NASA's counterintelligence program, but disagreed with the panel's implementation recommendation regarding the reporting structure for Special Agents vis a vis Center Directors. "NASA believes the underlying factors for the panel's recommendation can be achieved with an increased focus on the relationship between counterintelligence personnel and their respective Center leadership teams, without eliminating the benefits of the current management approach."
Bolden also responded to the panel's finding that NASA "may have a tendency not to be a 'learning culture' by arguing that "NASA's culture combines the richness of diversity and appropriately healthy competition among our Centers, while fostering an overall NASA team environment."
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) says that he was "taken aback" at security challenges identified at NASA by an independent report commissioned by NASA at Wolf's request. The report was led by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh under the auspices of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).
Eleven months ago, Wolf blasted NASA for what he termed a "management culture that turns a blind eye, or in some cases may outright encourage, violations of security regulations." He laid out seven steps he wanted NASA to follow to rectify the situation and recommended that NASA ask an independent entity like NAPA to conduct a study chaired by someone like Thornburgh. Wolf chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. The agency followed that direction.
Wolf's statement yesterday was in response to the resulting report, which has not been made public. He said: "Frankly, I was taken aback at the breadth and depth of security challenges identified across NASA and I am deeply disappointed the agency has restricted access to the report. The report should be made public as soon as possible, with any necessary redactions in the interest of national security, because it confirms not only the serious security challenges that need to be addressed, but a persistent organizational culture that fails to hold center leadership, employees and contractors accountable for security violations. This must change."
Wolf has expressed deep concern over the past several years about NASA's Langley Research Center and Ames Research Center, in particular, with regard to allowing foreign nationals -- especially Chinese -- to have access to their facilities.
In conjunction with French President Francois Hollande's visit to Washington, the White House issued two facts sheets heralding U.S.-French cooperation on a range of security and science and technology issues, including space.
The fact sheet on U.S-France Security Cooperation summarized cooperation in operations and planning, exercise and training programs, exchange personnel, space, cybersecurity, acquisition, nuclear security, and countering nuclear terrorism. It points to an agreement between the French Ministry of Defense and U.S. Strategic Command on space situational awareness signed on January 21 as an example of how the two countries are working together to enhance spaceflight safety and reduce the risk of collisions. It also notes that the two countries are working on "bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space."
In the civil space arena, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the French space agency CNES, signed an agreement on Monday (February 10) regarding cooperation on NASA's 2016 Mars mission, InSight. CNES is providing (along with several other European countries) the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument for that mission. A separate White House fact sheet on U.S-French Cooperation on Science and Technology notes that agreement as well as another agreement still being negotiated on solar activity and space weather. Cooperative earth science missions also warranted a mention.
Le Gall was on the guest list for the White House state dinner on Tuesday night, though Bolden was not. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, was invited, however, which may have provided an opportunity for interesting discussions about "traditional space" versus "NewSpace", since Le Gall previously was President of Arianespace, Europe's launch services provider.
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate both are in session.
During the Week
The week starts off quickly, with a field hearing at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center on Monday morning at 9:00 am ET on "Assessing NASA's Underutilized Real Property Assets at the Kennedy Space Center." This is a somewhat unusual hearing in that it is not being held by any of the committees that typically oversee NASA. Instead, this is being held under the auspices of the Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Subcommittee chairman John Mica (R-FL) represents a district near KSC. His subcommittee "oversees the efficiency and management of government operations and activities," according to its website. The list of witnesses span federal, state and local government as well as the Audubon Society.
Other congressional hearings this week center on issues that could affect national security space programs. Of greatest interest may be Wednesday's HASC hearing on defense acquisition reform. Not that there haven't been an awful lot of hearings on this topic over the years, but Wednesday's includes the esteemed Norm Augustine, who can always be counted on to provide extremely wise words of advice. In the space community he is probably best known these days as the chair of the 2009 "Augustine Committee" that offered options for the future of the human spaceflight program, but he has chaired many such review/advisory committees over the decades and is a former Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, not to mention a former under secretary of the Army and author of the incisive Augustine's Laws.
Those and other events that we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.
Monday, February 10
Tuesday, February 11
Wednesday, February 12
Thursday, February 13
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) pressed Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper about other countries' counterspace capabilities at a House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday. Though it seems an unusual venue for such a discussion, he also called for relaxing "out-dated regulations" that may hamper the U.S. commercial space industry.
The hearing on worldwide threats was the House committee's counterpart to the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing on the same topic last week, with the same set of witnesses: DNI Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen.
Ruppersberger is the top Democrat, or ranking member, on the committee and therefore one of the "Gang of Eight" (the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader) whom the President must keep informed of the country's most secret intelligence activities.
Clapper's testimony yesterday was similar to what he told the Senate Committee, which is based on the U.S. Intelligence Community's assessment of current worldwide threats. An unclassified version of that report has one paragraph describing Chinese and Russian counterspace threats.
Yesterday, Ruppersberger broached space issues as part of his opening statement and followed up during the question and answer period. Space was just a small part of the discussion, but is nonetheless significant in the context of this broad hearing. He called out China's counterspace activities as one of three areas of particular concern to him (cyber and the East China Sea were the other two), and also cited keeping the U.S. commercial space industry competitive as another important issue.
"This year, we must also continue to focus our attention on space. We must continue to promote our commercial space industry and relax those out-dated regulations that are hampering our competitive advantage. I cannot emphasize enough that U.S. companies must also be allowed to compete in the free market. This competition will promote innovation in our space industry."
Commercial space did not arise again, but Ruppersberger did have a dialog with Clapper about counterspace activities, a subject the two apparently already had discussed in a classified session the previous day.
Ruppersberger began by stressing the importance of space: "We have to keep our eye on the ball as it relates to space. With all the other issues, Snowden and Syria and Iran, space is still one of the most important things that we do to protect the United States of America." He expressed concern about China's 2007 antisatellite (ASAT) test and the resulting debris that threatens U.S. space operations, but primarily he worried that "countries are working on the ability to destroy our satellites, on which so much of our daily lives and our military intelligence capabilities depend." He asked Clapper to describe the counterspace threat and whether China understands the "ramifications" of disabling a U.S. satellite.
Clapper replied that the importance of space assets is "why I intentionally brought this up at our closed session yesterday evening" where he had explained "there are countries who are pursuing very aggressive, very impressive counterspace capabilities which I cannot go into here because of classification restrictions." In the report he presented to Congress, China and Russia were the only countries specifically identified as pursuing counterspace systems and at yesterday's hearing he again singled them out. He asserted that both of those countries "well understand the implications of -- as an act of war -- to do something destructive against any of our satellites."
The question of whether China understands the repercussions of attacking U.S. space systems arose at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on January 28. Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center, a witness at the hearing, said he was not sure China does understand the consequences because the United States and China are not engaged in the types of dialogues and negotiations that characterized the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War. Krepon argued that he sees dysfunction between the Chinese political and military leadership and having bilateral discussions between the two countries would get everyone sitting at the same table talking about "red lines." Another witness, Robert Butterworth of Aries Analytics, disagreed, saying that he believes China fully understands that attacking U.S. satellites "means war," the same assessment Clapper provided yesterday.
The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session.
During the Week
Among the highlights this week is the FAA's annual Commercial Space Transportation conference on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, DC. Speakers this year include Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations; Congressman Steve Palazzo (R-MS), chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; staff from House and Senate committees with oversight of commercial space transportation issues; and an impressive set of representatives of other government agencies, traditional and entrepreneurial space companies, and academia.
The day before that conference, George Nield, FAA's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, will testify to Palazzo's subcommittee on "Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act." That's the law, which, among other things, created the authority for the FAA to indemnify commercial space launch companies against certain amounts of third party claims for damages from launch accidents. Congress extended the FAA's indemnification authority for three more years (to December 31, 2016) as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, but Democrats on the House committee had wanted just a one-year extension to provide time for more hearings on the topic. It wouldn't be surprising for questions to arise on indemnification despite the extension.
It's always difficult to guess what Members will be interested in at any hearing, but another issue that might come up is the extent to which the FAA should regulate commercial human spaceflight. It currently is limited by law as to how strictly it can regulate that industry until 2015. The idea of a light handed regulatory regime is to ensure that heavy regulation doesn't deter the emergence of a new industry. At last year's Commercial Space Transportation conference, Wayne Hale argued in favor of voluntary industry standards rather than government regulation. Hale is not on the list of witnesses at the hearing, but he is scheduled to speak at the conference the next day. In addition to Nield, the other hearing witnesses are Alicia Cackley from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Henry Hertzfeld from George Washington University.
Lots of other interesting events this week, too, as shown in the list below -- everything we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Sunday-Thursday, February 2-6
Monday, February 3
Monday-Tuesday, February 3-4
Tuesday, February 4
Tuesday-Thursday, February 4-6
Wednesday-Thursday, February 5-6
Wednesday-Friday, February 5-7
Thursday, February 6
Friday, February 7