Kamala Harris-led Space Council faces challenges from Russia and China | New


The Biden administration faces national security concerns in space as Vice President Kamala Harris prepares to chair her first Space Council meeting.

Harris said early on that she wanted to focus on issues such as climate change, cybersecurity and education while chairing the board, according to Sarah Mineiro, associate senior researcher at the Center for New American Security. “What we have seen in the last few weeks is that our strategic competitors, our strategic opponents, also got a vote on the agenda.”

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This includes recent actions in space by Russia and China, including Moscow’s “dangerous and irresponsible” missile test, which forced the International Space Station crew into hiding in the middle of a debris explosion last month.

Meanwhile, a hypersonic weapon test conducted by Beijing last summer capacities employed that no other country has demonstrated, the Financial Time reported.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not call the nuclear-capable hypersonic missile a “Sputnik moment”, but, Speaking to Bloomberg Television, said he had come close.

The extent to which Harris and Board members address these issues will be closely monitored.

“While the administration, and in particular Vice President Harris, had expected this first meeting of the National Space Council to insist on things that were more aligned with its agenda, our strategic adversaries forced space into it. [the administration’s] program for defense and security considerations, ”said Mineiro, former personnel director of the Chamber of Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. “It will be interesting to see how this balances out. “

Harris introduced the agenda earlier this month, noting that the council intended to “set a comprehensive framework for our nation’s space priorities, from our civilian efforts … to our military and national security efforts.” through STEM education and the emerging space economy ”.

She added: “I can’t wait to see this.”

The National Security Council caught on the role of issuing “national security memoranda”, replacing the Space Council’s directives under the Trump administration. The Director of the Bureau of Science and Technology Policy has been elevated to a Cabinet-level post and is part of the National Security Council. Some have speculated that these changes suggested that the board would be removed.

“There was a lot of concern and skepticism that he was going to be dissolved or otherwise deprioritized in the administration. And thankfully that did not happen,” Mineiro said.

A former Trump administration official said the council has so far followed the path set out by former Vice President Mike Pence, under whom the body has met eight times, garnering praise from the industry and government officials.

Scott Pace, executive secretary of the Trump administration’s National Space Council between 2017 and 2020, told the Washington Examiner that he sees continuity with the council’s work on returning astronauts to the moon through the Artemis lunar exploration program and in promoting the commercial industry.

The approach was viewed positively by foreign officials, said Pace, now director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. “They found it impressive to see very experienced members of the Cabinet talking about space and speaking knowledgeably… and not just about something that was limited to technicians.”

One likely change will be an updated presidential decree, with the Biden administration adding new representatives from agencies the administration hopes to involve, such as the ministries of education or labor.

Having only spent a few years in Washington before taking office, the leadership of the Harris Space Council could help it bolster its national security credentials and strengthen its interagency relations, as well as strengthen ties between the United States. vice president with foreign leaders.

“There is a real role for the Vice President to make positive statements on the role of international partners and allies, on the need for technical standards for the sustainability of space, on the need for increased transparency in the space field, especially in light of these two test events in Russia and China, ”said Mineiro.

“Not recognizing them would be a huge missed opportunity, which, again, will be a delicate balancing act because that’s not necessarily where [Harris] wanted the focus to be on this inaugural first meeting of the Space Council, ”Mineiro added, with the caveat that she“ wouldn’t expect them to get too hot and heavy there- inside “.

Harris recently announced a plan to deepen space cooperation with France, focusing on several climate priorities.

“We pledged to focus initially on expanding cooperation to tackle the climate crisis, including discussions on improving the exchange of Earth observation satellite data. and a joint analysis of the risks associated with climate change, ”Harris said in a backgrounder after his meeting with French President Emmanuel. Macron at the beginning of the month.

Competition with China has complicated Washington’s relations with Paris in recent months, causing a split on nuclear powered submarines that Washington has agreed to deliver to Australia and China’s 5G technology disagreements.

Harris’ other major assignments were heavy.

Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden tasked Harris with slowing migration from the Northern Triangle – which he oversaw while he was vice president to former President Barack Obama. But migration across the southern border of the United States increased after the Biden administration took office, giving the mission a caustic political dynamic. Coupled with messaging challenges, including Harris’ staff claiming that migration issues along the U.S. border and within the U.S. were not part of the mission, helped a political agent called a “Political hand grenade”.

Harris has also made voting rights a priority. However, the efforts have largely overtaken Biden’s hefty spending, and supporters remain anxious for her to take on a more public role as scrutiny intensifies on the president’s advanced age.

National security experts hope Harris’s leadership at the top of the Space Council will help ensure a cohesive strategy.

“What you will hopefully see with Vice President Harris’ agenda is that there is a real recognition that we are at our best as a nation when we support our industry and our ingenuity. it has to come from the highest levels of the US government, “Mineiro said. Pence, for his part, brought to the role “a genuine personal interest in space and space security issues from his House service and committee assignments when he was a member of Congress.”

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She added, “The importance of having the vice president sharing the National Space Council is that you get that continuity across the entire US government.”

Pace said it was too early to predict that Harris’ tenure on the board would play out, but that she could be successful “if she is able to connect and speak with” Democrats and others on the board. questions at stake, including “why space is important to the country for economic growth and the creation of opportunity.

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