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Romney Space Policy Still Short on Specifics

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Sep-2012
Updated: 23-Sep-2012 12:19 AM

Mitt Romney's newly released space policy paper adds little to the generic statements he has made so far in his presidential campaign.

The white paper is predictably full of anti-Obama rhetoric and promises to maintain U.S. preeminence in space, but says little about how Romney would fulfill that promise other than making clear that, whatever is needed, NASA will not get any more money.   Asserting that space is "critical" to technological innovation, the global economy, national security and "international standing," the white paper sheds no light on how the space program would be different under his leadership.

As he has said in the past, Romney again pledges that -- after he is in office -- he will pull together the best minds from NASA, the Air Force, industry, and academia to "set goals, identify missions, and define a pathway forward that is guided, coherent, and worthy of a great nation."   In other words, he does not like what the Obama Administration is doing, but does not have any ideas of his own right now and will ask others for their advice if and when he is elected President.

What he does say now is that "A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities." 

As for national security space, he "will direct the development of capabilities that defend and increase the resilience of space assets" and "deter adversaries seeking to damage or destroy the space capabilities of the U.S. and its allies."  What that means exactly is not clear, especially in terms of the resources that would be allocated to national security space or its priorities.

Romney's position on commercial space has been a subject of speculation.   Traditional Republican support for the private sector versus the government has not held true with respect to the commercial crew program where congressional Republicans and Democrats alike remain skeptical.   

The policy paper released today says that under Romney's leadership NASA will be a "constructive partner" with the private sector.  NASA will "set the goals and lead the way" in human space flight, and "look whenever possible to the private sector to provide repeatable space-based services like human and cargo transport to and from low Earth orbit."  In the meantime, the "private sector will handle commercially viable activities...."

That sounds very much like what the Obama Administration already is doing. 

Overall, it is difficult to determine from this new policy statement how the U.S. space program would be different under a Romney Administration.  Not that it needs to be different.   In fact, many argue that what the space program most needs is stability.


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