Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

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President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

Credit: Matt Wade

White House Press Release

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

— President Donald J. Trump

BUILDING SPACE FORCE: President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are laying the groundwork to build Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military.
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Trump Nominates Oklahoma Meteorologist to be Science Adviser

Credit: Matt Wade

President Donald J. Trump has nominated Kelvin Droegemeier, who is vice president for research and regent’s professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, to be the new director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In that position, he will serve as the president’s chief science adviser if confirmed by the Senate.

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NASA Inspector General Skeptical of Agency Plan for Commercializing Space Station

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment. (Credit: NASA)

The NASA Inspector General is skeptical about the space agency’s plan to transition to commercial operations in Earth orbit after the end of direct federal support for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024, according to a new report.

“Transitioning the ISS to private operation under the timetable currently envisioned presents significant challenges in stimulating private sector interest to take on an extremely costly and complex enterprise,” the audit found. “Based on our audit work, we question the viability of NASA’s current plans, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit on the timetable proposed…

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Trump’s Call for Space Force Will Have to Wait


It looks as if President Donald Trump’s call for the establishment of a “separate but equal” space force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military will have to wait at least another year.

There is no mention of a space force in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019 that was worked out by members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) earlier this week.

Last year, the two committees commissioned a report on how a separate space force could be established. With an interim report not due until Aug. 1, the committee members avoided the subject in the FY 2019 NDAA.

A separate space force would largely be carved out of the U.S. Air Force, which handles most space-related military functions. However, units from other branches of the service would likely be folded into the new force.

The NDAA conference report did include a section calling for the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a space warfighting policy. The HASC released the following summary of that section.

Space Warfighting

Russia and China are developing capabilities to deny the United States the advantages we derive from operating in Space. Equally concerning is the inability of the organizations responsible for the nation’s national security-related Space activities to prepare for Space to become a warfighting domain and to adequately develop and/or acquire essential national security Space systems.

Efforts to reform the Department’s approach to Space issues can be summarized in four equally important elements: acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting. The NDAA comprehensively addresses each one of these to ensure that our Servicemembers are ready to defend our vital national interests in Space. The conference report also ensures that the Department’s Space investments are being executed in a way to ensure increased agility, lethality, and accountability. The NDAA:

  • Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative process for Space-related acquisitions.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to improve the quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
  • Establishes a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for Space as a warfighting domain.
  • Supports the President’s request for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, Protected Satellite Communications, and the Air Force’s Space launch efforts.

Trump Nominates Senate Staffer for NASA Deputy Administrator

President Donald J. Trump today nominated a long-time Senate staffer who has neither a technical nor scientific background to be the space agency’s deputy administrator.

James Morhard, who is currently the U.S. Senate’s Deputy Sergeant at Arms, was nominated for the position. The decision represents a defeat for NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who had publicly advocated on behalf of Dr. Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut, engineer and analytical chemist who is director of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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Battle Brews Over Filling NASA Deputy Administrator Spot

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Quartz reports there’s a battle brewing over who will be NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s deputy. The position of deputy administrator must be nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is a former lawmaker, and he says he wants a former astronaut, Dr. Janet Kavandi, as his deputy. But Donald Trump, who makes the final decision, is leaning toward a man with no experience in space technology.

Five sources with knowledge of the deliberations tell Quartz that the White House is seriously considering James Morhard, a veteran senate aide…

Kavandi, 58, joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1994. She had previously been an engineer at Boeing, and earned a P.h.D in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle. She spent 33 days in space as an astronaut on three different space shuttle missions, then became the lead astronaut supervising work on the International Space Station and the deputy head of the astronaut office. In 2016, she became the director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, which includes a huge vacuum chamber where SpaceX’s crew vehicle, the Dragon space capsule, is currently undergoing tests.

In his current job, Morhard, 61, is responsible for technology and administration in the offices of 100 senators and 88 committees and subcommittees. Starting off as an accountant at the Pentagon, he began his career as a legislative staffer in 1983, earning an MBA and a law degree along the way.

He rose to become the powerful chief of staff of the Appropriations Committee under the late senator Ted Stevens, and forged close ties with Republican senators. Morhard was a passenger, along with former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, in a 2010 plane crash that killed Stevens and four others.

House Science Committee Approves American Space SAFE Management Act

Lamar Smith

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would transfer responsibility for space traffic management and situational awareness from the Defense Department to the Commerce Department over the objections of Democrats who said the measure rubber stamped a half-baked Trump Administration plan.

“This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines.”

The American Space Situational Awareness and Framework for Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act) is in line with Space Policy Directive 3, which President Donald Trump signed earlier this month. The program’s main goal is to prevent satellites from colliding with orbital debris and each other.

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Space Policy Directive 3 Brings Space Traffic Coordination to Commerce Department

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON, DC (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Donald J. Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3), America’s first National Space Traffic Management Policy.  The policy acknowledges the rapidly increasing volume and diversity of commercial space activity and announces that the Department of Commerce should be the new civil agency interface for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

“I commend President Trump and the National Space Council for reaching yet another important milestone as we work to ensure U.S. commercial leadership in space,” said Secretary Ross. “I look forward to working closely with DoD and other departments and agencies as we meet the challenge of increased commercial and civil space traffic.”

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Trump to Chair National Space Council Meeting on Monday

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

President Donald Trump will chair the third public meeting of the National Space Council on Monday. The previous two sessions were chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the council

I haven ‘t been able to find a time or agenda for the meeting, but when it does go live the event will be shown on NASA TV (https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html) and the White House Live website (www.whitehouse.gov/live/).

Although there is no published agenda, one likely topic of discussion is Space Policy Directive 3, which is focused on how the government will handle space traffic management.

The Space Council’s Users Advisory Group is scheduled to meet on Monday at NASA headquarters from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. The meeting will be webcast via Webex and be available via phone dial up.

Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal reports that former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former NASA Ames Director Pete Worden have been dumped from the advisory group due to issues involving their business and financial ties.

Science Committee Oversight Democrats Request Hearing on White House’s “Ignore” Science Memorandum


WASHINGTON, DC (Democratic Oversight Members PR) – Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight sent a letter last week to Oversight Chairman Ralph Abraham requesting that he hold a hearing on a White House memo that suggested ignoring climate science was one option the Trump Administration should consider.

“Ignoring science and pushing political agendas that may be welcomed by industry, but harmful to the health, safety and security of all Americans should never be acceptable to the Science Committee or its members regardless of their political party,” wrote Subcommittee on Oversight Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA) and Subcommittee Minority Members Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). “Please help us hold these officials responsible to the public,” they wrote.

The suggestion to “ignore” science as one policy option regarding climate change was suggested in a memo prepared for senior White House and federal agency officials last fall by Michael Catanzaro, former Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Energy and Environmental Policy, according to a recent story in the Washington Post. Mr. Catanzaro, who joined the Trump Administration in 2017 from the CGCN Group, where he was a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry returned to CGCN in April 2018. However, the Members pointed out in the letter to Chairman Abraham, “the implications of his ‘ignore science’ memo still warrant a thorough review and appropriate oversight from the Science Committee – it speaks volumes as to how this Administration handles scientific evidence.”

NASA Administrator Statement on Space Policy Directive-2

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday’s signing of Space Policy Directive-2 by President Donald Trump:

“NASA is pleased with the White House’s continued commitment to advancing America’s leadership in space. Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2) is another step towards bolstering our nation’s dedication to uncovering new knowledge, protecting our national security, developing breakthrough technologies, and creating new jobs.

“Our thriving space economy will continue to grow and support our missions to the Moon and Mars thanks to the Administration’s long-term investment in commercial partners who now successfully carry research and cargo to the International Space Station, and will soon transport U.S. astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011.
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Secretary Ross Praises President Trump’s Signing of Space Policy Directive – 2

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive – 2 (SPD-2), which directs the Department of Commerce and other agencies to implement reforms of the U.S. commercial space regulatory framework that will unshackle private space industry.  The President’s approval brings into force several recommendations made by the National Space Council in February that will ensure America remains the flag of choice for space commerce.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, and the National Space Council is making great strides toward ensuring that the U.S. is the leader in space for generations to come,” said Secretary Ross. “I commend Vice President Pence and the rest of the Council for their hard work.”

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Powers Appointed NASA Press Secretary

Megan Powers, NASA Press Secretary

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Megan Powers has been selected by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to be the agency’s press secretary, working in the Office of Communications.

As press secretary, Powers will act as a chief agency spokesperson, support Administrator Bridenstine’s media requests, provide strategic communications planning and execution, and serve as a senior advisor for the administrator.

“We’re fortunate to have Megan join the NASA team,” said Bridenstine. “Her experience is perfect to help us explain all the exciting missions and projects we’re starting now for long-term exploration and development of the Moon, including returning astronauts to the surface.”

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Trump Administration Terminates NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

The Trump Administration has killed NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a program that monitored carbon output worldwide, Science reports.

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA’s earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.

Many of the 65 projects supported by the CMS since 2010 focused on understanding the carbon locked up in forests. For example, the U.S. Forest Service has long operated the premier land-based global assessment of forest carbon, but the labor-intensive inventories of soil and timber did not extend to the remote interior of Alaska. With CMS financing, NASA scientists worked with the Forest Service to develop an aircraft-based laser imager to tally up forest carbon stocks. “They’ve now completed an inventory of forest carbon in Alaska at a fraction of the cost,” says George Hurtt, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park, who leads the CMS science team.

The program’s cost is $10 million per year.