On Friday, June 30, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order reinstating within the White House the National Space Council, which was disbanded early in the Clinton Administration. The Council will be headed by Vice President Pence, who delivered a speech on July 6, 2017 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) outlining his vision for the Council, which will consist of the Secretary of State, Defense, Commerce, and Transportation, plus the Director of National Intelligence, the NASA Administrator, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Vice President Pence said the Council will convene “before the end of the summer.” He also vowed to include the private sector in the Council’s activities;the Executive Order calls for establishing a Users’ Advisory Group made up of individuals from the private sector and academia.
“The administration has a unique opportunity to develop a cohesive national space policy that can cut across agency ‘stovepipes’ that have hindered American efforts in space,” said James E. Dunstan, TechFreedom Senior Adjunct Fellow and founder of Mobius Legal Group. “Once up and running, the Council’s first order of business should be to identify current regulatory impediments that are slowing down innovative private sector space activities, and in some cases, driving U.S. companies overseas to set up shop in countries with more benign regulatory regimes. This effort could parallel the FCC’s widely acclaimed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).”
“The National Space Council could offer a long overdue re-think of U.S. space policy, but only if it’s truly independent from other agency agendas,” cautioned TechFreedom President Berin Szoka. “If the Council is staffed solely from within other agencies, it won’t have the clout necessary to break through some of the policies that have hindered U.S. space efforts, especially the entrepreneurial activities of companies seeking to create a whole new economy in outer space.”
“The Council’s overall mission should be nothing less than make America great at opening the space frontier again,” concluded Szóka. “As John Marburger, chief science advisor to President George W. Bush, said, the fundamental question is ‘whether we want to incorporate the Solar System in our economic sphere, or not.’ Absolutely, yes, and only private enterprise can do it. It’ll require not only removing regulatory barriers and that government works with the private sector instead of competing with it, but also a sound legal framework for space commerce. Congress started building that in late 2015 with legislation authorizing space mining, but now it must continue that process by crafting a light-touch legal framework to govern a wide variety of innovative activities — and the Council should help steer legislation in the right direction.”
We can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. See our other work on space law, including:
- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our space law series on the Tech Policy Podcast
- Our statement on a recent bill establishing a light-touch approach to space regulation
- Wired op-ed: How the US Can Lead the Way to Extraterrestrial Land Deals
- Wired op-ed: Space Law: Is Asteroid Mining Legal
- Tech Policy Podcast #165: Regulating the Universe