Designing a Better Future through Policy and Strategy

Clark article banner, 640x80Designing a Better Future through Policy and Strategy

Aerospace works closely with its customers to keep them informed of what is happening in the policy and strategy arena and how those outcomes may affect space system acquisition planning.

First published May 2013, Crosslink® magazine

Jack Clarke and James Vedda


Policy and strategy are very much at the front end of space system acquisition planning. Understanding these ever-changing factors helps to define the direction of U.S. national space programs and guide the organizations that oversee those programs. Simply stated, policy is what to do and why it is important to do it, while strategy is how to do it. The process of formulating, implementing, monitoring, and revising policy is quite complex. This is especially true when factors such as advanced technology, geopolitics, and international economics intersect.

Policy drives requirements, directs research, and guides space system acquisition and operations. Without sufficiently understanding the policy environment, it can be difficult to see how a particular technical solution supports, or might detract from, broader national objectives. Policy needs to be integrated into technical studies as a reality check on proposed solutions to meet the nation’s or a particular customer’s needs.

The Aerospace Corporation has a substantial presence in the Washington, D.C., area where issues of policy, strategy, law, and regulation dominate the environment and drive choices for technology programs and their manner of implementation. As the federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) for space, Aerospace must ensure that its analysis and technical solutions—for requirements definition, anomaly resolution, assessment of options, and other needs—are grounded in a sound understanding of the policy environment in which they will be delivered.

Policies and strategies at the national and government agency levels impact the choices that are available for architectural and other technical efforts for space system planners and demand that Aerospace keep an eye on the future. Space planners must remain vigilant of political, economic, and other societal trends in addition to technical advances. Aerospace tracks the trends and shares the lessons learned with its customers to help avoid pitfalls and delays that can undermine programmatic and mission success.

Aerospace personnel apply their expertise to the analyses of budgets, policy proposals, legislation, and regulatory changes in these national, agency, and programmatic contexts. The challenge is to make sure that new and updated policies align with technical realities, observed trends, and the language and intent of related guidance, including those related to international commitments.

Organizational Resources

Aerospace has a history of performing policy-related functions for a variety of customers since the company’s formation in 1960. The Strategic Awareness and Policy division (also known as Project West Wing) is located at the company’s El Segundo, California, headquarters and has traditionally focused on threat analysis. This group’s work on the Counter Space Sensitive Technologies list has assisted U.S. government policymakers in the understanding of foreign counterspace technologies and has aided in export control licensing decisions.

In 2000, Aerospace established the Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) in Arlington, Virginia. This group’s mandate is to provide policy and strategy support across the civil, commercial, and national security space customer sectors of the company. CSPS keeps abreast of current national policies and laws related to space and monitors developments and trends beyond the traditional space engineering disciplines that may affect Aerospace’s activities, such as economic and technological globalization, geopolitical developments such as those happening in many Asian nations, domestic and international financial crises, environmental degradation, energy, and climate change.

In addition to strong familiarity with a wide range of issues, solid analysis requires knowledge of the entire policy environment, including insight into the history, rules, behaviors, and even the personalities involved in the formulation and implementation of various policies. This involves keeping track of a constant flow of government policy documents, think-tank studies, scholarly papers, trade press reporting, and Internet updates.

In Washington, Aerospace has provided policy support to the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), providing current policy, acquisition, systems engineering, and intelligence information. Aerospace also reports on policy information to the DOD Executive Agent for Space. Aerospace supports NASA, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Transportation in these areas too. In the intelligence community, Aerospace has provided policy in-formation to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Increasingly, space activities and their related issues cross over among the civil, commercial, and national security sectors, so a broad, integrated perspective is essential. The geopolitical and operational field is constantly shifting, driving the evolution of customer needs. Aerospace has a multidisciplinary team keeping up with this complex, dynamic environment and is ready to support space program decisions. In addition, the corporation’s outreach to the policy community provides a window into the environment and processes that shape government policies and programs.

Examples of Policy Support

Aerospace does not write policy; that is the government’s responsibility. However, many times the company has been asked to study options or give advice to government agencies, providing a valuable supplement that allows its customers clearer insight into developing long-term strategic planning on sound technical footing.

For example, in recent years the NGA has worked to integrate commercial satellite imagery into its operations. Aerospace has conducted several studies for the NGA to assist in its decision making. By studying current and future prospects and surveying current policies, laws, and international agreements governing satellite remote sensing, the studies have chronicled the evolution of civil and commercial policy and looked ahead toward future policy and market scenarios.

One of Aerospace’s customers for policy-related work has been the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The FAA is responsible for the licensing and regulation of commercial launch and reentry operations. Aerospace has developed two reports for Congress at the request of the FAA. The first was an 18-month effort to support a congressional decision on an extension of the U.S. government’s third-party liability risk sharing for commercial launch providers. The second was a one-year analysis of human spaceflight safety, a diverse study that included policy components. Aerospace also delivered a 90-page study to the FAA that examined the regulatory history of traditional transportation modes for gathering lessons for present and future regulatory action in commercial spaceflight.

Aerospace has contributed to a strategic plan adopted by the Office of Space Commercialization, Department of Commerce, and served the State Department during its engagement with an international committee on global satellite navigation systems.

Aerospace has applied policy expertise to its work on defense programs as well. In support of OSD and the Executive Agent for Space, Aerospace has provided a bridge for the technical/policy evaluations found in wargaming. In recent years, wargames across the military services and the intelligence community have incorporated space-related elements with strong policy implications. Aerospace has helped in areas where technical assistance must be coupled with policy and other nontechnical aspects to help develop a realistic future environment for the analysis and employment of new technology and systems. This assistance has included helping analyze the findings of wargames to better inform the intelligence community of the findings.

In general, the technical development of space and missile systems and experimental payloads cannot begin until certain questions are answered. These include: Is this action in conformity with policy and law? Does it involve international collaboration, and if so, are there export controls or other obstacles to overcome? Are there treaty implications? Aerospace has studied questions like these on behalf of various government customers, some of whom are formulating top-level policy. For example, Aerospace provided input and support during the development of the national space policies signed by Presidents Bush and Obama.

There will be no shortage of policy issues to address in the years ahead. As policy issues focused on partnering and capability sharing enter further into space architectures, and critical policy issues like protection and resilience move from concept to reality, the bridge Aerospace offers between policy and technology will only increase in importance.

All sectors of space activity are dynamic areas, offering promising applications and fascinating discoveries, alongside the risk of failure and frustration. Proper attention to policy and strategy helps to maximize the positive aspects of this dynamic climate and minimize the negative aspects. Aerospace will continue to be ready and able to help its customers bridge the gap between policy, strategy, and technology for space programs.

Further Reading

James A. Vedda, “A National Policy for Exploration and Development,” Space News, p. 19 (Nov. 1, 2010).

James A. Vedda, “An Alternative Approach to National Space Policy,” AIAA Space 2010 (Anaheim, CA, August 30, 2010).

James A. Vedda, Becoming Spacefarers: Rescuing America’s Space Program (Xlibris Corp., Bloomington, IN, 2012).

James A. Vedda, “Challenges to the Sustainability of Space Exploration,” Astropolitics, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 22–49 (Jan.–Apr. 2008).

James A. Vedda, Choice, Not Fate: Shaping a Sustainable Future in the Space Age (Xlibris Corp., Bloomington, IN, 2009).

James A. Vedda, “Humans to Mars: Logical Step or Dangerous Distraction?” AIAA Space 2007 (Long Beach, CA, Sept. 19, 2007).

James A. Vedda, “Reviving Space Futurism: A New Focus on Long-Term Strategic Planning,” AIAA Space 2008 (San Diego, CA, Sept. 11, 2008).

James A. Vedda, “The Changing Purpose of the Space Station,” Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 34–39 (Aug. 2006).

James A. Vedda, “The Role of Space Development in Globalization,” Societal Impact of Space-flight, NASA History Division, Washington, DC, pp. 193–205 (2007).

James A. Vedda and David Turner, “The Impact of Foreign Space Developments on U.S. Defense Policy,” Space and Defense Policy (Routledge Publishers, London, England, 2009).

About the Authors

Jack Clark Jack Clarke

Systems Director, National Security Space Policy, Programs, and Oversight, joined Aerospace in 2008. He manages Aerospace support to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. He has supported the DOD executive agent for space; the deputy assistant secretary of defense for communications, command and control, and cyber; and the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering. He served for 20 years in the Air Force, working with space and missile operations, international military wargame facilitation, and defense space policy development. He has an M.S. in systems engineering from George Washington University.

James Vedda James Vedda

Senior Project Engineer, National Security Space Programs, Policy, and Oversight, performs analyses on national security, civil, and commercial space issues. Before joining Aerospace in 2004, he worked at the Office of the Secretary of Defense in space policy and homeland defense, and as an associate professor in space studies at the University of North Dakota. He is the author of Choice, Not Fate: Shaping a Sustainable Future in the Space Age (December 2009) and Becoming Spacefarers: Rescuing America’s Space Program (June 2012). He has an M.S. in science and technology policy from George Washington University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida.

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