Trump Nominee to Head NOAA Unlikely to Receive a Senate Vote


President Donald Trump’s nominee to head NOAA remains in limbo as the current Congress prepares to go out of business this month and the administration approaches its second year in January, The New York Times reports.

Barry Lee Myers, the chief executive of AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm that relies largely on data from the agency’s National Weather Service, has been a controversial figure since President Trump first nominated him to lead the agency in October 2017. Democrats have said that Mr. Myers has significant conflicts of interest, including his past eagerness to privatize the National Weather Service. For several years, Mr. Myers fought government programs that would compete with AccuWeather services….

Under Senate rules, any nomination not approved or rejected during one session of Congress must be resubmitted by the president unless the Senate unanimously agrees to waive the rule. It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will put Mr. Myers’s name forward a third time. An attorney for AccuWeather who has been representing Mr. Myers, Tom Fahy, referred questions to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to predicting the weather, the agency is charged with monitoring oceans, helping coastal communities protect themselves from storms and managing fisheries. The agency is also responsible for launching and maintaining satellites that provide data for climate trends and weather forecasts for severe events like hurricanes.

Scientists said the administration’s failure to install permanent leaders in top positions underscored its disinterest in science.

NASA, NSF Announce Support for White House STEM Engagement Plan

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with other federal agencies, have committed to a White House-led effort to strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education lays out the federal government’s role in furthering STEM education by working with state and local stakeholders, the education community and American employers. Its goals include building a STEM-proficient citizenry, creating a STEM-ready workforce and removing barriers to STEM careers, especially for women and underrepresented groups.

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NOAA-Led Climate Change Report Predicts Dire Consequences for Nation

The second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released last week forecasts a future full of wrath of God type events right out of the Bible. [Download report at nca2018.globalchange.gov]

In the decades ahead, the United States will experience: rising sea levels swamping coastal areas; severe droughts that will threaten vital food supplies; killer heat waves that will leave thousands dead annually; an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires like the ones seen in California this year; stronger hurricanes and other storms causing severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure; an increased number of power outages as an aging power grid struggles under the heat; and the migration of tropical diseases northward.

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Officials Give Widely Varying Estimates on Cost of Space Force

Defense One reports that senior Pentagon officials remain widely apart on what the Space Force will cost to set up.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday told reporters at the Pentagon that it would cost “single digit, not a double-digit” billions of dollars. “It might be lower than $5” billion, he said.

About two hours later, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson defended her service’s far higher estimate. In September, she estimated that standing up a Space Force and a new combatant command for space warfare would cost about $13 billion over five years. (Shanahan did not specify the timeframe for his $5 billion estimate on Thursday.)

“Our cost estimate that we gave to a lot of people in the Pentagon in September was the cost of a fully-fledged, stand-alone department and also a unified combatant command,” she said at the Defense One Summit. “Whatever is put forward needs to implement the president’s proposal,” she said.

Trump Appoints Alan Stern to National Science Board

Alan Stern

WASHINGTON (White House PR) — President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the National Science Board for the remainder of six-year terms expiring May 10, 2024:

  • Maureen L. Condic of Utah
  • Suresh V. Garimella of Indiana
  • Steven Leath of Alabama
  • Geraldine Richmond of Oregon
  • S. Alan Stern of Colorado
  • Stephen Willard of Maryland
  • Maria Theresa Zuber of Massachusetts

Musk: Still Looking to Launch BFR to Mars in 2024

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Kara Swisher of Recode posted an interview with Elon Musk last week. Below are lightly edited excepts concerning SpaceX and Musk’s plans for Mars.

Well let’s get to rockets, then. SpaceX. Last time we talked, you said you wanted to die on Mars, just not on landing. Which was a very funny joke, although it’s probably not a joke, it’s probably —

Well, it’d be ironic if that had happened. I have to be careful about tempting fate, because I think often the most ironic outcome is the most probable….

Instead of discussing your death, let’s discuss what’s going on at SpaceX. What are some of the things you’re doing?

We successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. So that’s twice the power, twice the thrust of the next biggest rocket. And we actually launched a Tesla — my Tesla Roadster — to Mars orbit. The reason we did that is actually because, normally, when a new rocket is launched, you just put a dummy payload, which is like a block of concrete or something.
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SIA Praises Administration Effort to Develop Sustainable Spectrum Strategy

Washington, D.C., October 29, 2018 – The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced that it is commending the release of a Presidential Memorandum calling for the development of a long-term sustainable American spectrum plan.  In the Presidential Memo titled, “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future” the President called for policy recommendations that recognize the importance of sustaining a spectrum environment for critical space networks and the need to develop a Spectrum Strategy Task Force which will include representation of the National Space Council.

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Presidential Memorandum on Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future

Credit: Matt Wade

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT:  Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It is the policy of the United States to use radiofrequency spectrum (spectrum) as efficiently and effectively as possible to help meet our economic, national security, science, safety, and other Federal mission goals now and in the future.  To best achieve this policy, the Nation requires a balanced, forward-looking, flexible, and sustainable approach to spectrum management.

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National Space Council Approves Measures to Advance Space Force

Mike Pence

The National Space Council today approved six recommendations to the president concerning the establishment of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Services.

The six recommendations presented include:

  • Forming a United States Space Command to control our space forces and develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures for military space operations.
  • Establishing the Space Force as a separate and distinct branch of the military whose mission will be to organize, train, and equip combat space forces.
  • Calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a Space Force and provide funding for the United States Space Command.
  • Launching a joint review by the National Space Council and National Security Council of existing space operational authorities for meeting national security objectives, informed by DOD’s assessment of the authorities required.
  • Creating a Space Development Agency to ensure Americans in the Space Force have cutting-edge warfighting capabilities.
  • Creating collaborative mechanisms with the Intelligence Community to improve unity of efforts for the development of space capabilities and operations.

The approvals came after the council, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, heard from three experts who said that establishing an independent Space Force was essential to meeting the growing threats posed to the United States by foreign adversaries.

The White House also published a press release today outlining plans for the Space Force.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine gave an update on the investigation into the aborted launch of a crew flight to the International Space Station. He said he was confident that Russia will have resolved the problem in time to launch a new crew to the International Space Station in December as planned.

Wilson, Griffin at Odds Over How to Create Military Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

Space News reports that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who serves as undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, are at odds over how to create a new space development agency designed to transform how the military creates advanced space technologies.

In her memo, Wilson suggests the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office and that it should be geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command. She recommends using “existing structures designed and chartered to acquire capabilities rapidly, rather than establishing new structures.”

Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress.

In Wilson’s plan, the Space Development Agency and other acquisition organizations would transition to the new Department of the Space Force. She pointedly pushes back on the idea of having an assistant secretary of defense for space or a Space Development Agency that reports to that office. She argues that such a setup would create additional bureaucracy that would be removed from the operators who use and maintain the equipment.

The space development agency is part of an effort by the Trump Administration to establish an independent space force within the Department of Defense.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Wilson Could Be Fired

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson

Foreign Policy reports that U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson might be on the way out because President Donald Trump is angry over slow progress on setting up an independent space force.

Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, recently angered Trump as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Defense Secretary James Mattis’s second in command, with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort, the sources said.

The news comes just weeks after an explosive new book by journalist Bob Woodward alleged that members of Trump’s Cabinet, including Mattis himself, are quietly trying to undercut or slow roll the president’s orders. An anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times last month described similar resistance within the administration.

In the current case, the administration believes Wilson also “is trying to undermine this part of the president’s agenda from within,” said one source with knowledge of the internal debate.

“Some senior officials know how to disagree with [the president] without being disagreeable to him. Heather Wilson hasn’t managed to do that. Her opposition to the Space Force has grated on him and I think he permanently sees her as troublesome and ineffective now,” an administration official told FP.

Trump’s Space Force to Cost $13 Billion to Establish

Defense News reports the U.S. Ar Force has estimated it will cost $13 billion over five years to establish an independent space force.

In a Sept. 14 memo obtained by Defense News and signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service laid out its proposal to transition its space functions to a sixth branch of the military known as the Space Force.

Notably, the Air Force’s Space Force proposal pushes back on a previous proposal, put forth by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in several key ways, including advocating for increased integration with the National Reconnaissance Office and objecting to the White House’s plan to install an assistant secretary of defense for space to help guide the transition.

In an exclusive Sept. 17 interview with Defense News, Wilson said her intention was not to hit back at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, but to provide an alternative way to execute President Donald Trump’s direction to create a Space Force….

The proposal put forward by the Air Force would strip all space capability and personnel from the existing services, but even then, there will be additional funding needed to run a new space branch.

Bridenstine: NASA Lunar Plan Focused on Sustainable, Commercial Architecture

Orion near the moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon within a decade using a sustainable architecture that stresses reusable vehicles and open systems, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

“So how do we go sustainably?” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “We start by taking advantage of capabilities in this country that didn’t exist even five or 10 years ago. We have commercial companies that can do things that weren’t possible even a few years ago….

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Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

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President Donald J. Trump is Building the United States Space Force for a 21st Century Military

Credit: Matt Wade

White House Press Release

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

— President Donald J. Trump

BUILDING SPACE FORCE: President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are laying the groundwork to build Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military.
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