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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs
An effectively sized and structured infrastructure—realizing synergy from the public and private sectors and from international partnerships; and
A priority investment in technology and innovation—strengthening and sustaining the U.S. capacity to meet national needs through transformational advances.
In the case of each of these elements, there are impediments and challenges that need to be overcome to ensure a strong foundation for the nation’s civil space program, and the committee discusses some of these unresolved issues in the following sections.
ALIGNING THE NATION’S SPACE ACTIVITIES
The committee’s conclusion is that the U.S. civil space program has made and will continue to make major contributions to the nation’s welfare. Yet no processes are currently in place whereby all of the space activities of the federal government, whether civil or national security, can be properly aligned so that each element is assigned the resources required to achieve its mission and so that there is proper coordination across all of the government agencies involved. Since the beginning of the U.S. space program, there have been interdependencies and intersections between the national security and civil space communities. They share the same pool of trained talent, industrial base, technology advances, launch infrastructure, and ground and test equipment. Both must maintain awareness of the space environment (e.g., to anticipate and counter threats and risks due to radiation and debris); both can benefit from being able to share satellite-derived information (e.g., on weather, climate, and disaster situations) and the results of research conducted in universities and industrial laboratories; and both have needs for international coordination of space policy. Proper coherence among all of the elements of U.S. space activities—civil and national security—is thus important.
Given the broad mandates of civil and military space efforts and their influence on many aspects of U.S. society, economy, and national image, it is unrealistic and unworkable to expect that there should be a single space strategy. But a process, led by senior executive branch officials, that has as its purpose the proper alignment of the nation’s space activities would help to ensure that each participating agency has the resources necessary to achieve its established goals; that avoidable duplication is reduced; and that the nation has the effective civil and military space programs that it requires.
Such a process for aligning the nation’s space activities would involve establishing a long-term government commitment and realistic resources, and would define clear roles and responsibilities for government participants, and meaningful relationships with stakeholders outside the government; it would establish lines of authority and accountability, delineating priorities for national resources and leveraging important capabilities to achieve broad national goals. A successful