Vice President Kamala Harris stated maintaining space safe for commercial, military, and civilian, operations is a priority concern at the Biden administration’s National Space Council’s inaugural meeting on December 1. One of the council’s three main aims, according to Harris, will be to develop “laws and norms for appropriate behavior in space,” along with utilizing space to tackle climate change and extend STEM education.
The Defense Department is going to play a key role in defining the debate about space standards, which has gotten a lot of attention since Russia’s missile strike on a satellite in orbit on November 15.
“From the Defense Department’s perspective, we’d like to see all nations agree to stop testing anti-satellite weapons that produce debris, pollute the space environment, risk damaging space objects, and endanger the lives of future and current space explorers,” said Kathleen Hicks, the Deputy Defense Secretary at the council meeting.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued broad rules on July 7 in a message that outlined five concepts of responsible behavior: restrict the development of long-lived debris, minimize detrimental interference, maintain secure separation and trajectory, and communicate and notify about space activities.
Austin tasked US Space Command and the Department of Defense’s civilian-led policy office with putting the recommendations into action and aligning them with other agencies as well as international allies. This could be difficult because the Pentagon currently has no individual in charge of space policy who has been confirmed by the Senate. In the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2020, Congress mandated the Pentagon to create a new agency to supervise space policy and established the new role of assistant secretary of defense for the space policy to oversee national security space concerns.
In July, Biden named John Plumb, a former executive of the Aerospace Corporation, as assistant secretary in charge of the defense for space strategy. The nominee was delivered to the Senate, but Committee of Senate Armed Services has yet to set a confirmation hearing. The Senate is engaged in legislative debates over federal funding and 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, so it’s uncertain when that will happen.
At a time when tensions over Chinese and Russian developments in counterspace technology are at an all-time high, the Department of Defense lacks a Senate-authenticated space policy leader. The government emphasized in a policy paper released Dec. 1 that foreign adversaries consider space as crucial to modern warfare, as well as anti-satellite missiles are increasingly posing a threat to United States assets in orbit.
At the council meeting, Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor stated that there are many “stakeholders” who “come into play on the issue of dealing with space norms and space governance.” According to him, this issue goes beyond civilian space and national security, the public and commercial sectors, and countries.