National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Explanation of Executive Branch Policy Directives

While the U.S. Congress establishes its positions on National space policy through authorization and appropriations bills, the Executive Branch articulates the President's views on the Nation's ends and means for Space exploration and development through the budget it introduces annually, any other legislation it might introduce, and a series of policy directives. These directives, no less than congressional legislation, are the result of compromise, though the compromises are hammered out by a much smaller number of players, viz., representatives of Executive branch agencies in negotiation with White House staff assigned to various policy areas.

During the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George Bush, shaping and articulating "National" (but actually the Administration) space policy was the work of the National Space Council, descendant of the National Space Council first established in 1958 under the National Aeronautics and Space Act ("the Space Act"; PL 85-568). Chaired by the Vice-President, the Council consisted of the heads of all Federal departments or other high-level offices having either a programmatic role, or legitimate concern, in Federal government space activities, e.g., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Commerce (which contains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The National Space Council's policy declarations, designated "National Space Policy Directives" (NSPD's), were negotiated by the policy staffs of the member agencies, agreed to by their "principals," who sat on the Council, and eventually signed by the President.

Both Presidents Reagan and Bush displayed an interest in the unique importance of Space exploration to the country's future. For example, President Reagan openly supported NASA's Space Station Freedom initiative, while President Bush publicly endorsed a piloted ("manned") mission to the planet Mars. Not surprisingly, then, the Bush administration witnessed the articulation of an important series of NSPD's.

The first, NSPD-1 (1989), entitled "National Space Policy," articulated the Bush Administration's overall policy for U.S. purposes and activities in Space. NSPD-2 ("Commercial Space Launch Policy", 1990) reflected the Administration's commitment to developing a thriving commercial space sector by establishing "the long-term goal of a free and fair [space launch] market in which the U.S. industry can compete" internationally, while NSPD-3 elaborated the Administration's commercial Space policy with specific guidelines "aimed at expanding private sector investment in space by the market-driven Commercial Space Sector". NSPD-4 affirmed "assured access to Space" as a key element of National space launch policy. Maintaining "a continuity of Landsat-type [remote sensing] data" was the principal objective of NSPD-5 (1992), while the desire to ensure well coordinated planning and implementation of a U.S. program to examine natural and human-induced changes in the Earth system was reflected in NSPD-7 (1992). NSPD-6 ("Space Exploration Initiative", 1992) announced the strongest White House commitment to an ambitious program of human Space exploration since John F. Kennedy's clarion call of 1961 for a human mission to the Moon. Classified annexes to Space policy directives, or other classified directives, articulated policy for sensitive National security and intelligence activities in Space.

A repositioning of priorities in the Administration of William J. Clinton was reflected in the Administration decision in August 1993 to merge various White House science and technology councils into one National Science and Technology Council, which would do most of its day-to-day work through permanent or ad hoc interagency working groups. The National Space Council was absorbed into the new "NSTC" along with the National Critical Materials Council and the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology.

The new White House structure for articulating National policy for science and technology was put in place with a new "Presidential Review Directive (PRD)/NSTC" series and "Presidential Decision Directive (PDD)/NSTC" series; the directive establishing these new series became "PDD/NSTC-1." PDD/NSTC-1 was followed, within the space of four months in the summer of 1994, by three new PDD/NSTC's articulating Clinton administration Space policy. Citing the need "to reduce the cost of acquiring and operating polar-orbiting environmental satellite systems", PDD/NSTC-2 calls for the Departments of Commerce and Defense "to integrate their programs into a single, converged, national polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system." An "integrated program office" would be established, and NASA is to lead in "facilitating the development and insertion of new cost effective technologies that enhance the ability of the converged system to meet its operational requirements."

The Bush Administration's NSPD-5 was superseded by PDD/NSTC-3, designed to continue the Landsat 7 program, assure "the continuity of Landsat-type and quality of data," and reduce the "risk of data gap." All previous policies for U.S. space transportation were superseded with PDD/NSTC-4, which "establishes national policy, guidelines, and implementing actions for the conduct of National space transportation programs." Not the least of NSTC-4's provisions were those designed to allocate space transportation responsibilities among Federal civil and mililtary agencies. As of September 1995 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which serves the staff to the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, is conducting a Federal interagency review and update of the comprehensive 1989 NSPD-1 to ensure its consistency with White House Space policy directives issued since President Clinton took office.

For more information contact, Sylvia K. Kraemer, Office of Policy & Plans, Code Z, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546,
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