One year ago today the Obama Administration released its national space policy, a document that, while having much of the same policy foundations as previous documents, differed in both details and tone. The new policy placed a greater emphasis on space sustainability, responsible use of space, and international cooperation, while also supporting commercial space efforts, improved space system procurement, and other initiatives. So, one year later, how is the government doing to implement that policy?
In this week’s issue of The Space Review, I report on one assessment of the policy from a panel discussion earlier this month in Washington. Peter Marquez, who coordinated the development of the policy last year as the director of space policy for the National Security Council (and is now working in the private sector), said in general government is doing a “good job” carrying out the policy. He cited in particular efforts by government agencies, working with industry and other governments, to battle the “existential threat” to GPS posed by LightSquared. However, the government is lagging in other areas, such as support for space situational awareness and progress on export control reform, he said.
Another panelist, Andrew Palowitch, the director of the Space Protection Program, suggested that, for now, the impact of the new policy has been relatively limited. “Everything that happened in this last year, and everything that’s going to happen in the next year, is completely independent of that national space policy,” he said, citing the long lead times of space initiatives. He did, though, call the new space policy “fantastic” that will start having more of an impact in 18 to 24 months. Marquez disagreed with this assessment to some degree, arguing that what the US has been doing “on the international front” has been strong affected by the new policy.
The policy, argued Ben Baseley-Walker of the Secure World Foundation, has helped improve the US’s reputation internationally: “What the national space policy has done is to start to rebuild trust, start to rebuild consistency, and start to rebuild the reliability of the US as an internationally-engaged partner.” However, panelists agreed that while the new policy is consistent in its general themes with the European Union’s proposed code of conduct for outer space activities, it does not mean the US will, or should, sign on to that code.