Friday, November 09, 2018

US Elections Have More Influence on the Space Industry than Canadian Elections

          By Henry Stewart

Unlike in Canada, where suggestions on what the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) should be doing tend to slip into a "black box" controlled by Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and are never seen again, US space policy is often wrapped around the initiatives of specific US House representatives and/or specific US senators, who spend a lot of time pushing their personal agendas.

The most notable example of this would be US Senator Richard Craig Shelby, the chair of the powerful US Senate Appropriations Committee, who has a reputation for staunchly advocating pretty much any funding bill associated with the NASA Space Launch System (SLS), especially if the funding can be spent in Alabama, where he needs to be re-elected every six years.

Shelby wasn't running for re-election this week, but others were. Here are a few quick overviews of some of the winners and losers from Tuesday's US election.
The post also said that, while the Republican party expanded its majority in the Senate and Senate committees will remain under their control: 
... the Republican party will likely rediscover its resistance toward non-defense discretionary spending and debt, something that had largely been set aside for the previous 2 years. 
Non-defense discretionary spending includes NASA, NOAA, and the National Science Foundation, and though these are generally not political targets, they are small enough to be caught up in the larger politics and brinkmanship likely to follow efforts to fund the government in coming years.
The post also noted five strong advocates for the US space industry in the Senate and House and noted whether or not they were successfully re-elected.
Screen shots c/o ADMO.

For the last four years, Culberson was the chair of the House Appropriations Committees' Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NASA funding and where he acted as a strong advocate of science and human spaceflight. 
Programs Culbertson was personally involved with included the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle (an American-European spacecraft program intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit), the NASA Europa Clipper mission and the legislative language that prohibits NASA from cooperating with China on a bilateral basis unless certain conditions are met.
As outlined in the November 7th, 2018 Space Policy Online post, "Democrats Win the House, Republicans Keep the Senate - Updated," it's not clear if the Democrats agree with Culbertson's policy decisions, especially as they relate to China.
During the campaign, Fletcher ran a series of ads accusing Culberson of preferring to spend money "to fund the search for aliens on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa" instead of providing funds for flood protection in his district and promised that “Lizzie Fletcher will invest in humans, not aliens.” 
Articles such as the November 8th, 2018 National Post article, "Is USMCA in trouble? What’s next for our trade deal," and the November 9th, 2018 Atlantic post, "Trump's Space Force Faces an Uncertain Fate," suggest that the path forward for at least the first two initiatives is problematic. 
Expect at least some of the confusion surrounding these policies to remain until January 2019, when the newest crop of US legislators formally take office. 
For more on the politics of our current space age, check out future editions of the Commercial Space blog.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

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