The council is chaired by the vice president, who serves as the president's principal advisor on national space policy and strategy. Other members of the council include: the secretaries of state, treasury, defense, commerce, transportation, and energy; the director of the Office of Management and Budget; the chief of staff to the president; the assistant to the president for national security affairs; the assistant to the president for science and technology; the director of central intelligence; and the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The vice president invites the participation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of other departments, and other senior officials in the Executive Office of the President when the topics under consideration by the council so warrant. The council's charter is to advise and assist the president on national space policy and strategy, much as the National Security Council does in its area of responsibility. The council carries out activities to integrate and coordinate civil, commercial, and national security space activities. One of the first tasks for the council was to develop a national space policy planning process for development and monitoring of the implementation of the national space policy and strategy.
The planning process the council adopted consists of four phases:
The council has also identified five key elements that will form the basis of the US national space strategy. Those elements are: transport, exploration, solutions, opportunity, and freedom.(225) These elements highlight the space program objectives of preserving the nation's security; creating economic opportunity; developing new and better technologies; attracting students to engineering, math, and science; and exploring space for the benefit of mankind.(226)
Development of the nation's space launch capability and related infrastructure as a national resource is one area under review by the council. Launch capability and infrastructure must accommodate the current and future needs of the space program. A second element the council is investigating is opening the frontier of space by manned and unmanned programs. The commitment is to ensure a balanced scientific program that will emphasize human activities as well as scientific excellence and research.(227) A third area is intensification of the use of space to solve problems on Earth such as environmental concerns, treaty verifications, and satellite communications to link people around the globe. Opportunity is the fourth element in the council's plan for space. Space exploration is crucial to the nation's technological and scientific development and economic competitiveness.(228) Capitalizing on the unique environment of space to produce and investigate new materials, medicine, and energy could result in private investment and new jobs. The last element is ensuring that the space program contributes to the nation's security. Ensuring freedom to use space for exploration, development, and security for the United States and all nations is an inherent right of self-defense and of US defense commitments to its allies.
The space program needs open-mindedness, practicality, and the willingness of the space establishment to get behind a feasible plan. The National Space Council is an important vehicle for the administration's national space policy.
Despite ongoing funding limitations, the space community continues to progress. Space organizations and missions are continuing to evolve and have had modest growth. Recent experience with Operation Desert Storm has highlighted the invaluable contributions of space systems. In fact, Desert Storm was a watershed event for the advancement of space information to the war-fighting personnel. Such systems as the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communication System, Defense Support Program, and Defense Meteorological Satellite Program provided unprecedented levels of data support to the theater. Desert Storm proved that growing reliance on space systems for warning, intelligence, navigation, targeting, communications, and weather was merited. In subsequent chapters and annexes, this volume discusses the effect of space systems support in wars and the role the NSpC will play in shaping our current and future space policy and doctrine.