House Measure Would Prohibit NASA Cooperation With China

House Republicans have decided that they, rather than President Barack Obama, should run foreign policy as it relates to NASA’s international outreach efforts. House appropriators have inserted a provision into a proposed continuing resolution to fund that government that prohibits any joint cooperation between NASA and China on space.

SEC. 1339. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In 2009, President Obama visited China, resulting in a mutual pledge to explore cooperation in space and an exchange of official visits. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited with Chinese space officials in October. The space agency has been working on a reciprocal visit by the administrator of the China National Space Administration.

The prospects for significant cooperation are uncertain. Chinese officials were cool to Bolden’s overture. The NASA chief has said that neither side needs the other to succeed in its space program.

The continuing resolution, which would fund the government for the last seven months of the fiscal year end Sept. 30, will be considered by Congress in the coming weeks.  The White House likely sees the Chinese ban as a Congressional intrusion into its foreign policy-making domain; whether it fights the provision depends upon what compromises it needs to make in other areas and how much value it places on this outreach effort.