DOD Official Outlines Space Strategy

WASHINGTON (DOD PR) — In June, the Defense Department released its Space Strategy document. That document lays out the department’s four-pillar strategy for work that needs to be done in space within the next decade and beyond.

Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discussed that strategy at a virtual Heritage Foundation event today.

The first line of effort, he said, is for the U.S. Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

(more…)

Trump Fills Key NOAA Posts with Global Warming Skeptics

An aircraft drops chemicals on wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: USAF)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the West Coast ablaze with wildfires and rising seas threatening to flood coastlines, the man who called global warming a Chinese hoax is filling two top jobs at the U.S. government’s premiere weather and climate agency with people who don’t believe warming is a problem.

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump has tapped Ryan Maue to fill the post of chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

(more…)

Sharpiegate: A Chronology

The Aeolus satellite passed close to Hurricane Dorian as the storm stalled over the Bahamas, as shown in this image from NASA’s Aqua satellite taken at 1805 UTC on 1 September 2019. The red line has been superimposed to indicate Aeolus’s path. The Aeolus wind data for that path and beyond, from about 6°N to 42°N, are shown below. (Credit: NASA)

NOAA Hurricane Advisory
Sept. 1, 2019
8 a.m.

Hurricane Dorian forecast at 8 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2019. (Credit: NOAA)

The NOAA advisory issued on Sept. 1 at 8 a.m. EDT showed up to a 10 percent probability of tropical storm force winds stronger than 39 mph lasting an average of 1 minute for a small portion of southeastern Alabama.

Tweet by President Donald Trump
Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019
10:51 a.m. EDT

In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!

(more…)

Sharpiegate: OIG Report Slams Commerce, NOAA & White House for Hurricane Dorian Actions

President Donald Trump redraws Hurricane Dorian’s path after the fact.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A government review of the Sharpiegate scandal has concluded that Commerce Department officials erred last year when they forced NOAA to issue a statement last year criticizing the National Weather Service (NWS) and backing President Donald Trump’s erroneous forecast regarding Hurricane Dorian impact’s on Alabama.

(more…)

Chairwoman Johnson Demands Cooperation from Department of Commerce on Hurricane Dorian OIG Report

Eddie Bernice Johnson

DALLAS (Eddie Bernice Johnson PR) – Today,  Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding the July 1 memorandum sent to Secretary Ross by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General, Peggy Gustafson. The memo expressed concerns over the Department’s efforts to obstruct the publication of a completed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, which was provided to the Department on June 26 and due to be published on June 29.

(more…)

Chair Grijalva, Ranking Member Cantwell Urge Trump Administration to Stop Obstructing Release of Sharpiegate Report

President Donald Trump redraws Hurricane Dorian’s path after the fact.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Raul Grijalva/Maria Canwell PR) – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Senate Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who lead the committees of jurisdiction over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross demanding that the Trump administration stop interfering with the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s (IG) “Sharpiegate” investigation that was scheduled to be released last week.

(more…)

Sharpiegate: Commerce OIG Summary of Findings on Hurricane Dorian Statement

This Copernicus Sentinel-3 image features Hurricane Dorian as it pummels the Bahamas on 2 September 2019 at 15:16 GMT (11:16 EDT). (Credit: ESA)

Evaluation of NOAA’s September 6, 2019, Statement About
Hurricane Dorian Forecasts
FINAL REPORT NO. OIG-20-032-I
JUNE 26, 2020

U.S. Department of Commerce
Office of Inspector General

June 26, 2019

INFORMATION MEMORANDUM FOR SECRETARY [WILBUR] ROSS

From: Peggy E. Gustafson
Inspector General

RE: Evaluation of NOAA’s September 6, 2019, Statement About Hurricane Dorian Forecasts
Final Report No. OIG-20-032-1

On Friday, September 6, 2019–the day Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the United States as a Category 1 hurricane–the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an unsighed statement (Statement) [redacted at Department’s request while the Department and its interagency stakeholders complete a pending privilege review] The statement rebuked the NOAA National Weather Service’s (NWS’s) Birmingham, Alabama, office (NWS Birmingham) for a September 1, 2019, tweet that advised that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian” [redacted at Department’s request while the Department and its interagency stakeholders complete a pending privilege review]

(more…)

Sharpiegate: Commerce OIG Memo Accusing Commerce Officials of Blocking Hurricane Dorian Report

NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this image of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station as it flew more than 200 miles above the storm on Sept. 2, 2019. (Credits: NASA/Christina Koch)

July 1, 2020

INFORMATION MEMORANDUM FOR SECRETARY [WILBUR] ROSS

FROM: Peggy E. Gustafson
Inspector General

SUBJECT: The Department Is Actively Preventing OIG from Completing an Evaluation

This memorandum expresses my deep concern that the Department is failing to identify specific privileges and provide privilege markings to a U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) evaluation, while claiming amorphous and generalized privileges, which effectively prevent us from publicly releasing the evaluation that is otherwise ready for release. Under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, 5 U.S.C. App. (IG Act), OIG is an “independent and objective” unit created “to conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations” of the Department.1 To promote and maintain this independence, the IG Act prohibits you or your staff from preventing OIG from carrying out or completing our work.2 Further, “[i]t is Department policy that all employees fully cooperate with the OIG” in its evaluations.3 This policy requires that all Department employees “shall make every effort to assist the OIG.” 4 As described below, that full cooperation and assistance is absent here.

(more…)

Sharpiegate: IG Accuses Commerce Officials of Blocking Release of Critical Hurricane Dorian Report

President Donald Trump redraws Hurricane Dorian’s path after the fact.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has publicly accused department officials of preventing the public release of a report critical of actions taken by high-level department officials during hurricane Dorian last September.

In a memorandum to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross posted on the OIG website, Inspector General (IG) Peggy E. Gustafson said officials have held up the report by refusing to identify specific sections that should be redacted because they contain privileged information.

(more…)

Johnson: Commerce Department Obstructing Hurricane Dorian Investigation

Eddie Bernice Johnson

DALLAS (Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson PR) — Today, the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy Gustafson sent a memo to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressing concerns over the Department’s obstruction of a completed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.

The OIG report examines a statement issued on September 6, 2019, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding a tweet sent by the Birmingham National Weather Service forecast office.

(more…)

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Initiates Section 232 Investigation into Imports of Vanadium

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has initiated an investigation into whether the present quantities or circumstances of vanadium imports into the United States threaten to impair the national security.

This decision follows review of the petition filed by domestic producers, AMG Vanadium LLC (Cambridge, OH), and U.S. Vanadium LLC (Hot Springs, AR), on November 19, 2019, requesting that the Department of Commerce launch an investigation into vanadium imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended.

(more…)

The Federation Praises Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation today praised the Department of Commerce’s release this week of a rulemaking that dramatically reforms the U.S. government’s regulation of the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry.

“We wish to thank Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Office of Space Commerce and its Director Kevin O’Connell, and NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs for publishing this forward-leaning, streamlined set of rules for this growing and important industry,”  declared Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “And we again thank Vice President Pence, the National Space Council, and its Executive Secretary Scott Pace for issuing Space Policy Directive 2 two years ago, which focused agencies across the government to minimize regulatory burden and streamline oversight.”

Up until now, the U.S. remote sensing industry has been governed by legislation and regulations written in the early 1990’s.  While capabilities and technologies have progressed over the decades, companies dealt with these outdated regulations, often prohibiting new technologies and disincentivising the industry.  License applications regularly took too long to authorize with little to no transparency into the decision making process. With these revised regulations, comes a new era for the remote sensing industry and as new licenses are granted, we hope to see these principles put into practice.

“Thank you to the Commerce Department for developing these new rules that reduce bureaucratic restrictions on industry so they can innovate faster, compete effectively internationally, and enable new applications for satellite observations of the Earth,” said Stallmer.  “CSF has fought hard for several years to promote legislative and regulatory reforms that would streamline these rules.  We believe that these new rules from the Department of Commerce are an important step forward to enable U.S. companies to compete in a growing international marketplace while protecting America’s national security concerns.”

Commerce Department Releases New Streamlined Commercial Remote Sensing Regulations

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2020 (NASA PR) — Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce released new regulations to improve the licensing process for private U.S. satellite remote sensing operations, helping ensure continued U.S. leadership in a critical commercial space industry.

The new final rules increase openness and transparency in the licensing process, will eliminate most restrictions on how licensed remote sensing systems may be operated, such as limits on the resolution of imagery, and prohibit the government from imposing additional conditions after a license has been issued.

(more…)

House Members Ask FCC To Delay Action on Orbital Debris Rules

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three leaders of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay action on new orbital debris mitigation rules planned for Thursday.

“Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, the immense effort undertaken to recover from the pandemic, and the potential for the FCC’s proposal to exacerbate impacts on U.S. industry and international competitiveness at a critical period in our nation’s history, we hope that you will agree to postpone future action,” the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai read.

(more…)

Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

(more…)