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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs 4 Recommendations The U.S. civil space program has become integral to achieving goals significant to the nation. Civil space activities offer the promise of helping to address challenging national imperatives, such as ensuring national security, protecting the environment, providing clean and affordable energy, meeting 21st-century needs for education, sustaining global economic competitiveness, and promoting beneficial international relations. Because civil space activities benefit citizens’ lives and the national interest in so many tangible and intangible ways, the U.S. civil space program should be structured and provided with resources commensurate with its multiple responsibilities. The committee concluded that given their demonstrated utility and future promise, elements of the civil program should be aligned to fully serve the larger national interest, and decisions about civil space priorities, strategies, and programs, and the resources to achieve them, should always be made with a conscious view toward their linkages to broad national interests. ADDRESSING NATIONAL IMPERATIVES Recommendation 1. Emphasis should be placed on aligning space program capabilities with current high-priority national imperatives, including those where space is not traditionally considered. The U.S. civil space program has long demonstrated a capacity to effectively serve U.S. national interests. Recommendation 1 provides a broad policy basis on which the committee’s subsequent specific recommendations rest. The recommendations that follow address a set of actions, all of which are necessary to strengthen the U.S. civil
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs space program and reinforce or enhance the contributions of civil space activities to broader national objectives. CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING Recommendation 2. NASA and NOAA should lead the formation of an international satellite-observing architecture capable of monitoring global climate change and its consequences and support the research needed to interpret and understand the data in time for meaningful policy decisions. The committee recognizes the important role in climate change studies that was assigned to the NPOESS and that is now in question, and the committee also concurs with the recommendations in the NRC report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond calling for a compelling program of Earth-monitoring space systems. Therefore, the committee recommends that NASA and NOAA, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and international partners, should reverse the deterioration of the U.S. space infrastructure for observing and understanding the climate of Earth and the human influence on it. NASA and NOAA, in consultation with the scientific community, should develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. This plan should recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities, as well as the lessons from past government efforts. NASA and NOAA should work with the international community to develop an integrated database for sensor information collected by all Earth-monitoring satellites so that researchers and decision makers have uninhibited access to this important information. This is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate technical leadership in an area of international interest. NASA and NOAA should aggressively pursue technology development that supports high-priority Earth observation missions and foster innovative approaches to meeting future space system needs. NASA and NOAA should plan for transitions to continue demonstrably useful research observations on a sustained, or operational, basis. SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY Scientific inquiry and advancement of knowledge are fundamental to a nation’s health: the results inform and excite the public, stimulate technology development, create an interest in learning, and generally improve the capacity of the nation to compete and to lead. A nation that asks questions about the universe and wants to learn is a richer nation.
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs Recommendation 3. NASA, in cooperation with other agencies and international partners, should continue to lead a program of scientific exploration and discovery that Seizes opportunities to advance understanding of Earth, the objects of the solar system, including the Sun, and the vast universe beyond; Includes searches for evidence of life beyond Earth; Contributes to understanding how the universe works, who we are, where we came from, and what is the destiny of our star—the Sun—our solar system, and the universe, and of the physical laws that govern them; and Is guided by peer review, advisory committees, and the strategies and priorities articulated by the science communities in their strategic planning reports, such as the NRC’s decadal surveys.1 ADVANCED SPACE TECHNOLOGY Civil and national security space activities share the same foundations of workforce, infrastructure, and technology. It is vital that the United States become prepared strategically to maintain a robust foundation in these areas to support future national needs. Recommendation 4. NASA should revitalize its advanced technology development program by establishing a DARPA-like organization within NASA as a priority mission area to support preeminent civil, national security (if dual-use), and commercial space programs. The resulting program should Be organizationally independent of major development programs; Serve all civil space customers, including the commercial sector; Conduct an extensive assessment of the current state and potential of civil space technology; and Conduct cutting-edge fundamental research in support of the nation’s space technology base. This effort should engage the best science and engineering talent in the 1 The NRC decadal surveys have been widely used by the scientific community and by program decision makers because they (a) present explicit, consensus priorities for the most important, potentially revolutionary science that should be undertaken within the span of a decade; (b) develop priorities for future investments in research facilities, space missions, and/or supporting programs; (c) rank competing opportunities and ideas and clearly indicate which ones are of higher or lower priority in terms of the timing, risk, and cost of their implementation; and (d) make the difficult adverse decisions about other meritorious ideas that cannot be accommodated within realistically available resources.
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs country wherever it resides in universities, industry, NASA centers, or other government laboratories, independent of pressures to sustain competency at the NASA centers. A DARPA-like organization should be established within NASA, reporting to NASA’s Administrator and independent of ongoing NASA development programs. This organization should be focused on supporting the broad civil space portfolio through the competitive funding of world-class technology and innovation projects at universities, federally funded research and development centers, government research laboratories, and NASA centers. The responsibilities of the organization should be similar to those of NASA’s aeronautics research in the sense that the research activities should be supportive of the needs of the private sector as well as the government. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION Recommendation 5. The government, under White House leadership, should pursue international cooperation in space proactively as a means to advance U.S. strategic leadership and meet national and mutual international goals by Expanding international partnerships in studies of global change; Leading an effort in which the United States and other major space-faring nations cooperate to develop rules for a robust space operating regime that ensures that space becomes a more productive global commons for science, commerce, and other activities; Rationalizing export controls so as to ensure that ongoing prevention of inappropriate transfer of sensitive technologies to adversaries while eliminating barriers to international cooperation and commerce that do not contribute effectively to national security;2 Expanding international partnerships in the use of the International Space Station (ISS); Continuing international cooperation in scientific research and human space exploration; Engaging the nations of the developing world in educating and training their citizens to take advantage of space technology for sustainable development; and Supporting the interchange of international scholars and students. 2 The committee does not recommend abandoning export controls but concurs with the recommendations of the NRC report Beyond “Fortress America”: National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2009), which call for a restructuring of “the export control process within the federal government so that the balancing of interests can be achieved more efficiently and harm can be prevented to the nation’s security and technology base, in addition to promoting U.S. economic competitiveness” (p. 6).
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT Because of its capacity to advance the tangible and intangible goals associated internationally with human spaceflight, the U.S. civil space program can serve geopolitical objectives in addition to advancing specific space exploration goals. Recommendation 6. NASA should be on the leading edge of actively pursuing human spaceflight, to extend the human experience into new frontiers, challenge technology, bring global prestige, and excite the public’s imagination. These goals should be accomplished by Setting challenging objectives that advance the frontier, scientific and technological understanding, and the state of the art; Establishing clear goals for each step in a sequence of human spaceflight missions beyond low Earth orbit that will develop techniques and hardware that can be used in a next step further outward; Focusing use of the ISS on advancing capabilities for human space exploration (e.g., by demonstrating large-scale reuse of water, developing largely autonomous crew operations, and rigorously investigating key space medical issues); and Using human spaceflight to enhance U.S. soft power leadership by inviting emerging economic powers to join with us in human spaceflight adventures. Human spaceflight activities should be prioritized by their potential for and likelihood of producing a transformative cultural, scientific, commercial, or technical outcome. Such results could include achievement of a fundamentally new understanding or perspective, a more comprehensive approach, an essential new enabling capability, or the opportunity to visit and observe some unique new location. However, policy makers should recognize that these activities can require many years and a long-term commitment to come to fruition. ORGANIZING TO MEET NATIONAL NEEDS As the committee has noted earlier, national space policy too often has been implemented in a stovepipe fashion that obscures the connection between space activities and other pressing needs of the nation. Consequently, senior policy makers with broad portfolios have not been able to take the time to consider the space program in the broader national context. Rather, policies have been translated into programs by setting budget levels and then expecting agencies to manage to those budgets. The committee believes that the process of aligning roles and responsibilities for space activities, making resource commitments, and coordinating across departments and agencies needs to be carried out at a sufficiently high
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs level that decisions are made from the perspective of the larger national issues regarding which space activities play roles. How this process is accomplished might change from administration to administration, but the need for an approach that will elevate attention to the proper level remains essential. Recommendation 7. The President of the United States should task senior executive-branch officials to align agency and department strategies; identify gaps or shortfalls in policy coverage, policy implementation, and resource allocation; and identify new opportunities for space-based endeavors that will help to address the goals of both the U.S. civil and national security space programs. The effort should include the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and should consider the following elements: Coordinating budgetary guidance across federal departments and agencies involved in space activities; Coordinating responsibility and accountability for resource allocations for common services and/or infrastructure; Coordinating responsibility and accountability for stimulating, nurturing, and sustaining a robust space industrial base, including the commercial space industry; Coordinating responsibility and accountability for initiatives to recruit and develop a competent aerospace workforce of sufficient size and talent, anticipating future needs; Identifying, developing, and coordinating initiatives to address long-range technological needs for future programs; Identifying, developing, and coordinating initiatives to establish and strengthen international space relationships; Harmonizing the roles and responsibilities of federal agencies to eliminate gaps and unnecessary duplication in the nation’s space portfolio; and Regularly reviewing coordinated national space strategies and their success in implementing overall national space policy. As indicated in Chapter 3, the committee agrees with the conclusions of prior studies that the civil space program is not funded at the level needed to successfully accomplish its varying missions. Coordinated budgetary guidance will enable the Administration to view the nation’s portfolio of space programs as a whole and make better-informed decisions about the programs’ goals and requirements. Aligning the strategies of the various civil and national security space agencies will address many current issues arising from or exacerbated by the current uncoordinated, overlapping, and unilateral strategies. A process of alignment
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs offers the important advantage of leveraging the resources, talents, and capacity for innovation from various agencies to address such shared challenges as the diminished space industrial base, the dwindling technical workforce, and reduced funding levels. A recent congressionally mandated report, Leadership, Management and Organization of National Security Space,3 raised those points and recommended an integrated national space strategy. The committee agrees on the need for a process to define a national space strategy, and believes that the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council must play a leading role in the process. All of the agencies involved in the national security and civil space communities share the same pool of trained talent, industrial base, technology advances, launch infrastructure, and ground and test equipment. They all benefit from research conducted in universities and industrial laboratories, and they all have needs for international coordination of space policy. Coordinating the responsibility and accountability for these national resources will help to ensure their efficient use and maintenance, as well as provide a platform for planning future upgrades in capability. There is an urgent need to replenish the aerospace science and engineering talent in the government and industry workforce and to restore the base of expertise in certain critical skill areas. Only with a strong, diverse workforce will the civil space program be able to meet the opportunities and challenges now facing the nation. U.S. space activities—both civil and national security—are not isolated elements of the national enterprise. They interact with the broader aspects of our nation’s commerce, transportation, education, and international relations. Civil space activities always have been, and will continue to be, excellent vehicles for educating future scientists and engineers, promoting positive international relations, and supporting the nation’s foreign policy objectives. In short, they exist to serve national priorities and consequently should be understood and aligned in that light, and their progress toward effectively implementing national space policy and serving the national interest assessed accordingly. RECOMMENDATIONS IN CONTEXT As noted at the outset of this chapter, Recommendation 1 calls for a broad policy foundation that will maximize the potential for civil space activities to contribute to addressing major national needs and objectives. Recommendations 2 through 6 outline specific, immediate actions to enhance those contributions via climate change and environmental monitoring programs, scientific research, 3 National Security Space Assessment Panel, Leadership, Management, and Organization for National Security Space, Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Va., September 2008.
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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs advanced space technology development for government and industry, international cooperation, and human spaceflight programs. Recognizing that the U.S. civil space program cuts across many federal agencies and shares important aspects with the national security space program, Recommendation 7 urges that the federal government begin to align those space activities so that they will serve the national interest effectively.