John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Washington Space Business Roundtable
" Space Policy: Status and Direction"
June 24, 1993
I am very pleased to be able to join you today, to speak with you about thecurrent status and future dir ection of our space program. I have a fewremarks I would like to make, and then I would be pleased to answer anyquestions or hear any comments you might have about the Administration's spacepolicies or other science and technology programs.
Wh en President Clinton took office, one of his major initiatives was tostreamline government and make it more efficient. Well, I am living proof thathe is serious about that promise. At last count, I think that I wore fourdifferent hats for the Admini stration. One of those responsibilities is tocoordinate space policy for the President, which brings us to the subject oftoday's discussion.
I think there is no doubt that some years from now we will look back on thisperiod as a crossroads for the U. S. space program, both in terms of our owndomestic investment in science and technology and in terms of our internationalrole.
The most visible and immediate example of this is the current debate over thespace station program.
J ust a week ago, the President announced his plans to support the developmentof a redesigned space station. This is obviously an important decision for thefuture direction of our nation's civil space program, so I would like to see ifI can illuminate f or you the path that brought the Administration and thePresident to this decision.
Shortly after taking office, President Clinton asked for a review of the SpaceStation Freedom program. This was done out of concern over the program's highcosts , unrealistic projections of increased funding, and apparent management.
The goal of this 90 - day intensive review was to see if we could reduce thespace station's cost while achieving many of program's science and technologygoals and maintaini ng international participation in the project.
To accomplish this, the Administration established a process which included aNASA redesign team, as well as an independent review panel of widely recognizedexperts chaired by Dr. Charles Vest, Presi dent of MIT.
At the same time, NASA initiated a major review of the true cost of the SpaceStation Freedom program.
NASA's redesign team produced three basic options, with some variants, forconsideration by the review panel. Two of these options were essentiallyderivations of the current Space Station Freedom, while the third optionrepresented a completely new concept.
The Vest Panel was charged with evaluation the technical merits of the optionsdeveloped by NASA, verifying NA SA's cost estimates, and making recommendationsto the President. On June 11, Dr. Vest formally presented his panel's reportto the Vice President and myself. Among its findings, the Vest Panel concludedthat:
(1) All three NASA options were t echnically viable, and could offersignificant cost savings over the current Space Station Freedom design.
(2) The space station program could accommodate and would benefitsignificantly from increased international participation. Considerab le valuewas placed upon the future opportunities for cost savings, utility, andinternational value of pursuing this end, including the option of placing thestation in a higher orbital inclination that would be accessible by morenations.
(3) Successfully completing the space station program at reduced costs would require major management changes in order to decrease excess personnel,reduce the bureaucracy, and increase efficiency. Without these changes, it was judged that NASA would by unlikely to successfully develop any spacestation.
After reviewing NASA' s redesign options and carefully considering theconclusions and recommendations of the Vest Panel, the President called for theU. S. to work our international partners to develop a reduced cost, scaled -down version of the original Space Station Freedom.
At the same time, the President called for enhancing and expanding theopportunities for international participation in the space station project, so that the space station can serve as a model of nations coming together inpeaceful cooperation.
Finally, NASA was directed to implement personnel reductions and majormanagement changes to cut costs, reduce bureaucracy, and improve efficiency.
The specific design chosen to pursue was a simplified version of SpaceStation Freedom recommended by the Review Panel -- referred to as redesignoption A. It is our intention to optimize this design over the next ninetydays in cooperation with ou r international partners.
I believe that by any criteria the redesign effort was a success. We estimatethat the cost savings from this redesign -- including the savings from themanagement redesign -- will exceed $4 billion during the next 5 yea rs, comparedwith the cost of funding the Space Station Freedom program. Over the life ofthe program, these savings will increase to an estimated $18 billion.
The redesign space station will also serve as a model for the kind ofbureaucratic ref orm that is needed throughout NASA and across our government.At the same time, we are enhancing the role of the space station as the singlemost important example of peaceful international cooperation.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives vote d for the first time on theredesign space station program. They voted to support it -- by one vote. Whatdo we take from that?
Clearly, we are facing difficult budget decisions. However, the majority ofMembers agreed with the President that w e cannot retreat from our obligation toinvest in the future.
As to the narrowness of the vote, I think it signals that Members of Congressare serious about wanting to see the cost cuts and management reforms that wehave proposed. While that is understandable, I can assure you that theAdministration -- starting with the President and the Vice President, andincluding myself, OMB, and NEC, will ensure that these changes come about.It's either that, or no space station program.
Getting beyond the current focus on the space station, there are a number ofimportant space policy issues that need to be addressed in the months ahead.
From a broad perspective, NASA needs to gain new relevance to our nation'simmediate challenges in a reas like competitiveness, job creation, and theenvironment. For instance, NASA will be part of this Administration's overalleffort to forge closer working relationship between government and industry inour country. To that end, we are proposing a ma jor new technology program inareas like aeronautics, robotics, and launch technologies that can have adirect impact on American industry.
In the months ahead, I will also be initiating a major review of variousspecific space policies and progra ms, leading to a general reassessment of U.S. space policies and programs. These reviews will be focused on areas such asaeronautics, space transportation, earth observation, and the need to achievegreater efficiencies between the military and civil space programs.
Before closing, I would like to underscore the Administration's strongcommitment to NASA's Mission to Planet Earth with its Earth Observing System(EOS). These missions will provide the crucial space - based data andinformation on may important global environmental issues.
I am pleased to note that Mission to Planet Earth is well underway today, withspacecraft already measuring important aspects of our oceans, atmosphere, andland. EOS will soon be providing us with cr itical long - term comprehensivemeasurements of the many interrelated elements of the Earth's environmentalsystem. The data from these missions will be critical in helping us tounderstand changes in the earth's environment, and will provide the scient ificbasis for sound policy decisions in this area.
Again, I would just like to reemphasize our continuing support for these veryimportant NASA programs, now and in the future.
I will simply close by noting that this is a time of great ch allenge and greatopportunity for NASA, as it is for all of our nation's science and technologyefforts. I count myself as singularly blessed to be able to be a part of thisexciting challenge, and I look forward to working with all of you towardssucces