In this week’s issue of The Space Review, I provide an overview of the new policy and some reactions, particularly on areas of international cooperation and commercialization. While international cooperation is “woven throughout the new policy”, in the words of one White House official and there’s language in the policy (re)opening the door to space arms control accords, that doesn’t mean a treaty banning weapons in space is imminent or even likely for the near future. Also, the lack of specific details about space export control reform is not an oversight, but instead reflects the fact that such reform is ongoing.
The Marshall Institute has a much more thorough examination of the new policy, comparing sections of it side-by-side with the 2006 Bush Administration policy. “In general terms, the new policy builds on the old policy, much as one expects,” Marshall Institute president Jeff Keuter notes in the white paper. He adds, though, that the policy features some new terminology such as “sustainability” and “responsible behavior”. “How those terms come to be interpreted and subsequently reflected in decisions about other policies and programs will be of considerable interest to U.S. departments and agencies, policy analysts, and foreign governments.”
One of the more curious reactions came last week from the Greater Houston Partnership, which decried what it called the “Obama ‘United Nations’ NASA Space Plan”. “While we think the Administration’s plan is well-intended, we question the wisdom of its United Nations approach to our homeland security,” Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the partnership, said in a statement. Homeland security? He explains that “it is important from a competitive standpoint that we not abandon the independence of our space exploration program and allow any country to forge ahead of us in space leadership. Our national security and economy is very dependent upon a space program that should remain independent and uncompromised.” Left unstated in the release is that many Houston-area people are working on something of a “United Nations” space program: the International Space Station.