Videos: Wilbur Ross, Lamar Smith on the New Era of Space

Video Caption: Introduction by Hudson President and CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein followed by a Keynote address by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Maintaining U.S. leadership in the face of global competition warrants a reevaluation of the U.S. political and legal landscape governing space. On July 24, Hudson Institute was joined by the Secretary Wilbur Ross and House Science, Space, & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to discuss the Department of Commerce’s evolving role in the space sector.

The web of national, regional and international institutions—organized to guide and serve an industry undergoing dramatic transformation—needs to be updated. Rising to meet this challenge, Congress and the Executive Branch have been working together to reshape the legal environment for the commercial use of outer space. Keynote addresses by Secretary Ross and Congressman Smith will be followed by a panel with senior government officials responsible for executing the reform agenda laid out by the Trump Administration.

Hudson Adjunct Fellow Brandt Pasco talks to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Panel discussion: Regulatory Efficacy and Efficiency in Space Commerce

  • Robert G. Oler

    meaning less as long as 3 billion a year go down the SLS/Orion rat hole

  • windbourne

    smith was part of the group that worked their tails off to destroy new space.
    Now, he claims new era of space, while pushing expensive old systems.
    IOW, smith continues to push more of the same.
    Heck, the equipment on the SLS is from the 70s.
    The cost+ model that harmed America is still being used on SLS/Orion.
    New Era?
    Just more of the same.

  • Robert G. Oler

    well said

  • mike shupp

    People have been griping about cost-plus contracts in the aerospace and defense industries since the end of World War II. And nothing changes, probably because of the basic economics. Jet planes (and space launch vehicles and satellites) aren’t produced like candy bars,in million unit lots to be sold in tens of thousands of stores and vending machines. It takes billions of dollars of specialized equipment to make such devices, and only small numbers of planes and son on are produced, so traditional notions of amortizing your costs are unworkable.

    Also there are usually restrictions on whom aerospace products can be sold, which make the economics even worse. Yes, it might be wonderfully profitable to sell B-2 bombers and surplus ICBMs to Al Qaeda, but the nasty old US government always gets in the way of such schemes, FBI men just don’t read enough Adam Smith, I guess.

    Also, twice in my lifetime the aerospace business has gone through fairly quick reductions in size — right after WW2 and in the 1990s. I suspect if the industry had been “fully capitalized” as opponents of cost-plus would prefer, each of these would would have cost about half a trillion bucks of discarded capital equipment. IE, opponents of cost-plus tend to ignore the real risks and uncertainties of aerospace in the real world.

    This is not to say contemporary aerospace and defense businesses are all well run or that cost-plus contracting is ideal in any way. That’s what Northrop is demonstrating this week in Washington, right? That’s why NASA is experimenting with non-cost-plus contracts with Space X and Orbital, and why people talk so much about X-Prizes and the like. We’ll probably see more contracting experiments in the future.

    But just beefing about “the cost plus model that harmed America” doesn’t help and doesn’t show you understand the issues. People write books about aerospace industry economics; if they concern you so much read some.

  • Now that we have experience with COTS, we need to have a set of “Lunar COTS” programs. We should maximize PPPs to the extent possible and minimize cost-plus. Our government also needs to not just assume that the right architecture for getting to the Moon is SLS, Orion, Gateway, small landers, mid-size landers, & someone’s large landers. We need to be open to the idea that something along the line of FH & XEUS could get us there more cost-effectively, sooner, and more sustainably.

  • What to make of the Commerce Secretary’s multiple errors?
    – Land on the Moon to refuel,
    – Apparently forgetting the name of the Outer Space Treaty,
    – Calling the ISS the SSL,
    – Pluto is 1,000 times bigger than the Earth,
    – etc

  • mike shupp

    He’s a typical Trump appointee?

    Less sarcastically, Wilbur Ross is not going to decide whether he’s opening up a sideline agency with 3 employees or 300, whether the government should spend billions each year on encouraging businesses to get into space commerce or not, whether the paperwork involved in space commerce should be sparse or thick, whether the Department of Homeland Security must give its consent to space commerce plans or the State Department or just the old FBI, etc.

    He has clerks to do this — senior Civil Service staff you or I might call them. or possibly “bureaucrats.” Donald Trump has clerks — Presidential Aides or “John Kelly and Jared and Ivanka and those people in the office building across the street.”. DHS and State and the FBI and Congress have clerks. There are several dozen think tanks just filled with people who would love to design new government departments, conservatives as well as liberals. There are universities. There are other nations filled with diplomatic people who would be happy to explain how they would set up such an agency.

    You get the idea. Commerce’s brand new super-efficient business-oriented center for commercial spaceflight isn’t going to pop into being quickly, If ever. On the other hand, figure people are already — have been for months and months now — running around behind the scenes, shouting at each other, waving their arms, reviewing position papers, pondering emails and tweets. Call it “the Swamp”

    Wilbur and Donald don’t really have to understand the issues. What matter is they are the guys at the top of the heap who eventually get to say YES or NO, and will gain the praise of history. This is Meritocracy.