NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2021


Date: March 26, 2021 at 2:30:41 PM EDT



Subject: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis

National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group (UAG) members and subject matter experts (Principals bcc:’d),

Please see the message below from our Chair, ADM Jim Ellis, with attachment.  This information is intended for UAG members and expert support as an internal status report.  Please feel free to contact ADM Ellis or any of your respective subcommittee chairs to exchange any related information.  You are of course always welcome to contact me via the coordinates in the signature block below.  Hope that all are staying healthy and that we have the opportunity to see each other in person later this year.  Respectfully, JJ

James Joseph Miller, Deputy Director

Policy & Strategic Communications - Space Communications and Navigation

Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate - NASA Headquarters

300 E Street, SW, Suite 7Z68 - Washington D.C.  20546-0001

(w) 202-358-4417 (m) 202-262-0929 (f) 202-358-2830


Dear UAG Members, 

It has been several event-filled months since our last virtual gathering, the Artemis Program fact-finding session that was held on December 15, 2020. As you all appreciate, space milestones continue to be met, including a remarkable NASA Mars landing, a successful test of the Space Launch System, along with continuing progress on both the commercial and national security sides of the nation's space efforts.

UAG Update:

I also expect that, in addition to the announced nomination of the next NASA Administrator, you may have seen various press reports of potential realignment of space responsibilities, authorities, and oversight in the new Biden Administration. While I am not yet a part of those appropriately internal and private conversations, I am pleased to forward, in case you did not see it, a copy of the UAG Transition Summary which was part of the package provided to the incoming team as part of the National Space Council (NSpC) turnover process (Enclosure). At this time the NSpC is staffed by two persons at the Executive Offices of the President (EOP). We are working to reschedule a planned meeting with them to update them on our UAG Subcommittee activities and, in turn, receive any administrative guidance they can provide.

In the meantime, our UAG executive Committee (ExCom) has continued to meet on a regular basis and several Subcommittees, most notably the Education and Outreach Subcommittee, have also continued meeting or are planning to do so. Your participation in those sessions will, of course, be key to their continuing success. In summary, as both the UAG and the NSpC we advise are still active organizations, it seems appropriate that we continue to work to identify areas where we can contribute, even as we await any potential organizational changes.

Transition Summary Feedback Request:

As you can see from the Transition Summary, activities of the UAG encompassed a broad range of space and space-related activities, bringing together broad representation from associations, manufacturers, educators, national security experts, and policy makers. Some of our efforts were directed at issues in direct support of NSpC activities; others were self-generated and represented original concepts, observations, findings, or recommendations drawn from the extensive backgrounds of our membership. Our composition has also evolved to appropriately include scientific and regional economic insights, as well. Our diverse representation has been our key strength since it has enabled discussion across many disciplines.

That said, it is also true that there have been some lessons learned along the way and some areas in which I welcome your insights as we work to identify future organizational and process improvements. For example, reconciling the understandable requirements for public deliberations contained in the Federal Advisory Council Act (FACA) with the desire to contribute meaningfully to pre-decisional processes, still in the formative stages of shaping space policies and programs, is difficult. The UAG would clearly benefit from increased access to pre-decisional information, which in turn requires us to find compliant ways to ensure confidentiality.  In terms of organization, there can be a tension between the size of an organization and its agility; we have attempted to address that through the employment of six Subcommittees to narrow the focus while preserving the broad representation of a larger entity. Are there other ways to address the size/agility dynamics? Also, the meetings of the UAG, in order to achieve desired interactions and meeting efficiency, were often linked to the large public meetings of the NSpC. Would additional separate sessions, perhaps with more frequency, be useful? Finally, many of you have been active participants in other government or private sector boards and advisory groups for many years. What "best practices" have you seen that could add to the efficiency and effectiveness of a future UAG? Please send any thoughts to me and our Executive Secretary; I appreciate candor and your comments will not be attributed to you without your consent.

Thanks and Appreciation:

Finally, I want to thank all of you, again, for your exceptional contributions over these past three years. I especially appreciate the service of the Subcommittee Chairs who generously gave of their time and talent to shepherd our collective action as well as that of our NASA Designated Federal Officers, led by our UAG Executive Secretary Mr. JJ Miller. Even as we await more clarity on what future role we might play, please remember that, in ways large and small, each of you has had a role in supporting the efforts of the National Space Council as it dealt with the challenges and opportunities of defining the future of the nation’s space enterprise. Thank you.

Warm regards and all the best,


Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr. USN (Ret)

Chairman, Users’ Advisory Group

National Space Council

Annenberg Distinguished Fellow

Hoover Institution 

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305-6010

Enclosure: UAG Transition Summary

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