Conclusion: There is no national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA. Absent such a consensus, NASA cannot reasonably be expected to develop enduring strategic priorities for the purpose of resource allocation and planning.
Recommendation: The administration should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA’s future that is stated in terms of a set of clearly defined strategic goals and objectives. This process should apply both within the administration and between the administration and Congress and should be reached only after meaningful technical consultations with potential international partners. The strategic goals and objectives should be ambitious, yet technically rational, and should focus on the long term.
So there is no consensus on our strategic direction and objectives for NASA and thus the agency will continue as it has for a while now, muddling along with the various stovepiped interests within the agency continuing to fight for their individual agendas. The recommendation is that the administration and congress should work together to develop one a strategic plan but in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of the current relationship between the branches of government this will be difficult.'
Toward a Spacepower Theory of the Space Economy
In the years 2005-2008 I was associated with a research and writing effort carried out by the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU). The result of this effort was a multivolume book called Toward a Theory of Spacepower. The book was a set of carefully selected essays on the subject of spacepower theory, which is the theory of how the environment of space is a realm for the actions of nations and non national actors toward furthering their own interests. The book was commissioned by the Secretary of Defense and is constructed taxonomically in the same vein as Clauswitz’s Landpower theory, and particularly in the vein of Mahan’s seminal book on Seapower theory called The Influence of Seapower on History 1660-1783.
This was a fascinating effort and I learned much about how people outside of NASA think about the subject of space. Its about worldview and whenever the word “NASA” is used a certain worldview is imposed that then further defines all discussion on space. However, if you impose the worldview of power theory and then look at space, something vastly different emerges, something that could be useful in developing a national consensus regarding space. The reason that this can provide a firmer foundation is that the military theoretician, especially those that take the viewpoint derived from Mahan that actions of states (and private economic interests) to proactively operate in and protect their interests at sea (in our example space) helps to build the economy of the nation, which then increases the wealth of the people and thus builds a firmer foundation for the state itself.
The first essay in the “Toward a Theory of Spacepower” by Jon Sumida goes to the heart of building a workable premise for a national discussion on space policy. This premise formulated on the basis of a Mahanian political-economic outlook, which is far beyond simply building a strategic plan for a federal agency like NASA and helps to reformulate Mahan’s seapower theory questions into the space realm.
In his essay, Sumida reformulated the Mahanian seapower questions and concerns into their space analog as follows:
• What is the economic significance of the development of space activity, and to what degree does future American economic performance depend upon it?
• What are the security requirements of space-based economic activity?
• What role should the U.S. Government play in the promotion of space-based economic activity and its defense?
• What kind of diplomatic action will be required to support space-based economic activity and its defense?
I would posit that the mandate of the NRC study of how the [national] goals, objectives, and strategy might best be established and communicated….. is best addressed by answering the questions formulated by Sumida and not by an a-priori statement that a scientifically justifiable space program is the basis for the administration and congress to deliberate our future in space.