Spacelift Washington Update: Bush, Gore Stand-ins Call for Commercial Space, NASA Help in ‘Debate’

By frank_sietzen
July 20, 2000
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Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washingon Archive

WASHINGTON – No matter which of the two major Presidential candidates wins in November, the U.S. space program and its industries are in for a boost in spending and greater emphasis, spokesmen for the Bush and Gore campaigns said Thursday.
But in a much-ballyhooed ‘debate’ sponsored by Women In Aerospace (WIA) in Washington on future U.S. space policy, there was little separating the candidates.

Former House Science committee chair Bob Walker, speaking for the George W. Bush campaign, and Gore associate Steve Palmer representing the Vice President, each pledged greater support for NASA and the space program in general. But while the candidate’s stand-ins boosted space, they also shied away from specific timetables for a new Presidential space address or policy after next January’s inauguration.

“Al Gore knows and understands the aerospace industry,” Palmer said. “He will invest in an aerospace policy that promotes growth and commercial opportunities,” he added. Walker, while careful to say his ideas for the Bush space policy were only ‘conceptual’ in nature, nonetheless predicted the Texas Governor would seek a new space policy if elected in November. “The Bush administration would make space a priority, and that has not been done in the Clinton-Gore years,” Walker charged. “Space goals have become part of their political agenda. NASA’s budget has been cut and its workers have been punished for efficiency,” he said.

Both singled out commercial space as targets for renewed emphasis and policy reform.

Both Walker and Palmer pledged that satellite export policy and commercial space exports would be eased under their respective Presidents, with both pledging reforms in export laws and licensing to aid the ailing U.S. commercial space industry. Changes in export policy and regulations since 1998 have tightened export restrictions and made the cooperative exchange of space hardware harder. Walker and Palmer said that would change next year.

The two also pledged increases to NASA budgets under their Presidents, as well as increases to research programs for space technology both at NASA and the Pentagon.

Walker predicted Bush would embrace renewed emphasis on expanding human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars, boost research in both civil and military space technologies, increase purchases of space data from commercial firms, and develop advanced space propulsion systems both to launch payloads from the surface of the Earth and to send advanced spacecraft throughout the Solar System. Walker also suggested that Bush would seek to develop a legal structure to embrace property rights by settlers on other worlds.

Palmer predicted Gore would raise the NASA budget each year and give priority to developing a new launch system and advanced robotics technology. Gore would support the development of a missile defense system, but Palmer said only after it could be proven to work and if it did not “destabilize world peace.”

The biggest difference between the two spokesmen concerned management of space policy by the next U.S. President. Walker predicted Bush would propose creation of an aerospace council “to address critical issues facing the space industry”. Palmer touted Gore’s knowledge of space issues, saying that the Vice President would prefer to “make those decisions directly from the Oval Office” if he became President. Walker derided such an idea, saying a President would not have the time for “day-to-day implementation” of a new vision for space.

The last time a space council existed in the executive branch was under President George Bush from 1989-1993. The council was abolished by the Clinton administration.

They each called for continuation of the evolution of NASA towards research and less operational management of projects, urging continued outsourcing and privatization of functions within the space agency that were once the province of civil servants. Both said they supported sending astronauts back to the Moon and onward to Mars, with Walker saying that increased investments in technology and a centralized goal would be needed. Palmer was more cautious, saying it was “a matter not if we went to Mars but when.” That date would be determined when such an enterprise could be attempted safely and in concert with international partners, Palmer said.

Both also called for completion of the International Space Station and making some of its laboratory space available to commercial industry.

While their policy prescriptions were similar, Walker called for a more aggressive role by the next President in space policy. “Inspiration requires leadership. And focus,” he said. “You have to convince the public you are committed, no matter what the polls might say.”

Spacelift Washington (c) 2000 by Aerospace FYI Inc. A Frank Sietzen,
Jr. Company. The views, analysis, and information contained herein are
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