Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

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Pentagon Seeks $14.1 Billion for Military Space Programs

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Department of Defense (DOD) has requested to spend $14.1 billion on space programs in FY 2020, an amount that includes the establishment of a Space Force within the U.S. Air Force and a new Space Development Agency.

“The FY 2020 budget accelerates our efforts to move to a defendable space posture, which is critical as our adversaries continue to develop capabilities to counter our advantages in space,” the DOD said in budget documents. “This budget invests in the survivable and resilient Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system and continues modernization of our GPS satellites communications systems and space warfighting enterprise.”

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USAF Secretary Heather Wilson Resigns

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has resigned her position to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso, officials confirmed today.

Her resignation is effective on May 31. She assumed office on May 16, 2017, meaning her tenure will last just over two years.

“I am proud of the progress that we have made in restoring out nation’s defense,” Wilson said in a statement. “We have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space.”

The Air Force secretary had clashed with the White House over the proposed Space Force. President Donald Trump wanted it to be a separate, sixth branch of the Armed Forces. Wilson, whose views prevailed in a proposal now before Congress, wanted it to be a new command within the Air Force.

NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 4 Establishing Space Force

Washington
White House Press Release

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”

— President Donald J. Trump

ESTABLISHING THE SPACE FORCE: President Donald J. Trump’s Space Policy Directive-4 is a bold, strategic step toward guaranteeing American space dominance that sets the framework for establishing the United States Space Force.

  • Space Policy Directive-4 calls on the Secretary of Defense to develop a legislative proposal establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces.
    • The Space Force will initially be established within the Department of the Air Force.
  • The legislative proposal will embody President Trump’s vision for the Space Force by requiring this new branch of the Armed Forces to:
    • Strengthen America’s ability to compete, deter and win in an increasingly contested domain.
    • Organize, train and equip our space warfighters with next-generation capabilities.
    • Maximize warfighting capability and advocacy for space while minimizing bureaucracy.

A VITAL NATIONAL INTEREST: Our use of space is necessary to keep our country safe, protect lives, and support our way of life.

  • The United States is the best in space, and our adversaries know it.
    • Space is a key source of strategic advantage for the United States, and potential foreign adversaries are determined to restrict our access to it.
    • America has the most capable military in the world, but we must address the looming threats from foreign adversaries in space to maintain our leadership and outpace competitors.
  • America will always seek peace through strength, and we will work with our allies and partners to secure that peace in space.
    • United States space forces will be ready to win in a competitive multi-domain environment against increasingly competitive adversaries.
  • To meet and deter challenges in space, Space Policy Directive-4:
    • Launches a joint interagency review by the National Space Council and the National Security Council to recommend changes to space operational authorities in order to address the threats posed by foreign adversaries.
    • Requires the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community to create collaborative mechanisms to improve space capabilities and operations.

LEADING IN A NEW WARFIGHTING DOMAIN: President Trump knows warfare is changing – space is now a warfighting domain just like the air, land and sea.

  • No branch of the Armed Forces has been created since the United States Air Force was established in 1947, more than 70 years ago. The world has changed significantly since then.
  • Establishing the Space Force is critical to preparing the Department of Defense for the evolving warfighting environments of the twenty-first century.
  • President Trump is dedicated to protecting the Nation and preparing America’s military to deter and defeat threats in space.

Comments of President Trump and Vice President Pence at Space Force Directive Signing

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, I’m thrilled to sign a new order taking the next step to create the United States Space Force. So important, when you look at defense, when you look at all of the other aspects of where the world will be someday. I mean, this is the beginning. This is a very important process.

First, I want to recognize our wonderful Vice President, Mike Pence, who serves as the Chairman of the National Space Council. Thank you, Mike. Great job. I know you feel the same way I do.

I also want to thank Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who is with us; Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva; and the Executive Secretary of the Space Council, Dr. Scott Pace for being here today.

They’ve all worked very hard on the Space Force. They all believe in it very strongly, as I do. It’s the future. It’s where we’re going. I suspect, whether we like it or not, that’s where we’re going. It’s space. That’s the next step, and we have to be prepared.

Our adversaries and — whether we get along with them or not, they’re up in space. And they’re doing it, and we’re doing it. And that’s going to be a very big part of where the defense of our nation — and you could say “offense” — but let’s just be nice about it and let’s say the defense of our nation is going to be.

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Text of Space Policy Directive-4: Establishment of the United States Space Force

Credit: Matt Wade

SUBJECT: Establishment of the United States Space Force

Section 1.  Introduction.  Space is integral to our way of life, our national security, and modern warfare.  Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict.  It is imperative that the United States adapt its national security organizations, policies, doctrine, and capabilities to deter aggression and protect our interests. Toward that end, the Department of Defense shall take actions under existing authority to marshal its space resources to deter and counter threats in space, and to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force. This is an important step toward a future military department for space.  Under this proposal, the United States Space Force would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military space forces of the United States to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.

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Trump Nominates NASA Goddard Director to Head National Reconnaissance Office

Christopher Scolese

Presidential Nomination

Christopher Scolese of New York, to be the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Mr. Scolese currently serves as the Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously, he served as the associate administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and as NASA’s chief engineer.

Mr. Scolese is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, the NASA Distinguished Leadership Medal, the Goddard Outstanding Leadership Medal, two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) National Capital Section Young Engineer/Scientist of the Year award.

Government Shutdown Ends — for Now

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President Donald Trump just announced that a deal has been reached to reopen the government after a partial shutdown that has lasted five weeks.

The agreement does not include any money for the wall Trump wants to build on the southern border with Mexico. And the deal only lasts three weeks. So, either the president and Congress will negotiate their differences and reach a permanent deal during that time. Or, it’s going to be like deja vu all over again come Feb. 15.

Federal employees will receive full pay they lost during the shutdown. Many government contractors will not. What effect the closure will have on the economy is yet to be seen.

Two events occurred today that may have influenced the decision to end the shutdown.

One in 10 unpaid air traffic controllers called in sick to work. The resulting shortfall resulted in the FAA stopping flights from landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. That, in turn, caused disruptions of air travel across the system.

The slowdown came two days after three unions representing air traffic controllers, airline pilots and flight attendants issued a dire statement saying the safety and security of air travel were rapidly breaking down.

“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented,” they said.

Trump has gotten most of the blame from the public for the shutdown. Air travel grinding to a halt for any length of time due to an air traffic controller sickout would have been very bad news for the administration politically. A major air disaster would be even worse.

The other major development on this Friday was the indictment of long-time Trump associate Roger Stone by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. That story is too complicated to go into here. Suffice to say, whether planned or not, the end of the shutdown allowed Trump to appear on TV and change the subject — if only temporarily.

Stay tuned. It ain’t over yet.

NOAA Nominee Steps Down as AccuWeather CEO, Sells Interest in Company

Barry Lee Myers

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Jan. 4, 2019 (AccuWeather PR) — AccuWeather, the world’s largest and fastest growing weather media company as well as the leader in weather-related big data, business and predictive analytics, today announced that Chief Executive Officer Barry Lee Myers has stepped down as officer and director from AccuWeather and has sold all of his interest in the company and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, effective January 1, 2019.

Myers is one of the world’s leading authorities on the business of weather, and on the use and distribution of weather-related and similar information, and has been an integral part and a leading force on AccuWeather’s executive management team for decades. He was nominated by President Trump to become the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Myers was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee after a public hearing and his nomination was forwarded to the full Senate for confirmation. His nomination, along with hundreds of others, did not receive Senate confirmation before the expiration of the 115th Congress and will require re-nomination by the President to advance in the 116th Congress.

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Trump Orders Creation of United States Space Command

Credit: Matt Wade

President to the Secretary of Defense Regarding the Establishment of the United States Space Command

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT:       Establishment of United States Space Command as a Unified Combatant Command

Pursuant to my authority as the Commander in Chief and under section 161 of title 10, United States Code, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I direct the establishment, consistent with United States law, of United States Space Command as a functional Unified Combatant Command.  I also direct the Secretary of Defense to recommend officers for my nomination and Senate confirmation as Commander and Deputy Commander of the new United States Space Command.

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Trump Nominee to Head NOAA Unlikely to Receive a Senate Vote


President Donald Trump’s nominee to head NOAA remains in limbo as the current Congress prepares to go out of business this month and the administration approaches its second year in January, The New York Times reports.

Barry Lee Myers, the chief executive of AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm that relies largely on data from the agency’s National Weather Service, has been a controversial figure since President Trump first nominated him to lead the agency in October 2017. Democrats have said that Mr. Myers has significant conflicts of interest, including his past eagerness to privatize the National Weather Service. For several years, Mr. Myers fought government programs that would compete with AccuWeather services….

Under Senate rules, any nomination not approved or rejected during one session of Congress must be resubmitted by the president unless the Senate unanimously agrees to waive the rule. It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will put Mr. Myers’s name forward a third time. An attorney for AccuWeather who has been representing Mr. Myers, Tom Fahy, referred questions to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to predicting the weather, the agency is charged with monitoring oceans, helping coastal communities protect themselves from storms and managing fisheries. The agency is also responsible for launching and maintaining satellites that provide data for climate trends and weather forecasts for severe events like hurricanes.

Scientists said the administration’s failure to install permanent leaders in top positions underscored its disinterest in science.

NASA, NSF Announce Support for White House STEM Engagement Plan

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with other federal agencies, have committed to a White House-led effort to strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education lays out the federal government’s role in furthering STEM education by working with state and local stakeholders, the education community and American employers. Its goals include building a STEM-proficient citizenry, creating a STEM-ready workforce and removing barriers to STEM careers, especially for women and underrepresented groups.

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NOAA-Led Climate Change Report Predicts Dire Consequences for Nation

The second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released last week forecasts a future full of wrath of God type events right out of the Bible. [Download report at nca2018.globalchange.gov]

In the decades ahead, the United States will experience: rising sea levels swamping coastal areas; severe droughts that will threaten vital food supplies; killer heat waves that will leave thousands dead annually; an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires like the ones seen in California this year; stronger hurricanes and other storms causing severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure; an increased number of power outages as an aging power grid struggles under the heat; and the migration of tropical diseases northward.

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Officials Give Widely Varying Estimates on Cost of Space Force

Defense One reports that senior Pentagon officials remain widely apart on what the Space Force will cost to set up.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday told reporters at the Pentagon that it would cost “single digit, not a double-digit” billions of dollars. “It might be lower than $5” billion, he said.

About two hours later, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson defended her service’s far higher estimate. In September, she estimated that standing up a Space Force and a new combatant command for space warfare would cost about $13 billion over five years. (Shanahan did not specify the timeframe for his $5 billion estimate on Thursday.)

“Our cost estimate that we gave to a lot of people in the Pentagon in September was the cost of a fully-fledged, stand-alone department and also a unified combatant command,” she said at the Defense One Summit. “Whatever is put forward needs to implement the president’s proposal,” she said.