It's Time for Term Limits

image description

Yesterday, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) along with Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) reintroduced a bipartisan Joint Resolution in support of Congressional term limits. If adopted, the Constitutional amendment they are proposing would allow Congress to pass laws to limit the number of terms that a Representative or Senator may serve.

Bridenstine stated, “Members of Congress need to spend more time working for their constituents and spend less time focusing on their next election.”

O’Rourke added, “Because members of Congress will no longer be exclusively focused on their own re-elections, term limits will help bring urgency and courage when it comes to addressing our nation’s problems and opportunities.”

In 2013, Bridenstine and O’Rourke coauthored an op-ed in Politico when they originally offered the Constitutional amendment.  Op-ed below:

Checking the power of incumbency

Many in our country and in the districts we represent feel that Congress is out of touch and that members are more focused on reelection than on providing real solutions to our nation’s biggest challenges. We hear from constituents all the time that there is a lack of urgency and focus when it comes to solving our country’s toughest issues — like tackling the deficit and putting policies in place that will lead to economic growth.

The two of us, freshman members from different parties with divergent views on many issues, have come together because we believe a healthy debate is warranted on how we best serve the American people and whether, in a time of enormous powers of incumbency and multimillion-dollar campaigns for Congress, we can be better public servants and curb the corrupting influence of money and power by limiting a member’s term in office.

Public opinion in favor of term limits for members of Congress is unquestionable. A Gallup Poll released this past January reflects the same trend seen year after year from countless reputable research firms. Overall, 75 percent of American adults responding to the survey were in favor of implementing term limits and the support is unanimous across party lines.

That support stands in stark contrast to the overall approval rating of Congress, which hovers around 15 percent. Despite the unpopularity of Congress as a whole, sitting members still win reelection about 90 percent of the time, reflecting the overwhelming benefits of incumbency. A system that rewards poor performance with job security is clearly in need of a shake-up. Congressional term limits could be the change needed to steer the institution back in the right direction.

Our proposal is a simple constitutional amendment. It does not prescribe the number of terms a member can serve; rather, it gives Congress the constitutional authority to pass and implement term limits. The reason for this structure is that by taking away the details from the amendment process, the likelihood of passage increases. We believe that even members who are philosophically opposed to term limits would support a constitutional amendment providing the legislative branch with the ability to debate and vote on the issue.

Despite widespread popularity, congressional term limits are incredibly difficult to implement because doing so requires a constitutional amendment with two-thirds of both chambers as well as ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. Having supermajorities agree on the details of term limits, including the exact number of terms, is nearly impossible. Since 1995, there have been several attempts to move specific term limits amendments, but all have ended right where they began by being voted down in the House.

Previous efforts also have failed because the only people who can begin the process to impose term limits are those who would be most affected — incumbent members of Congress. By voting in favor of, or even publicly supporting a term limits amendment, members of Congress can be exposed to charges of hypocrisy or disingenuousness if they don’t also voluntarily limit their term of service. This has a chilling effect on those who would otherwise support term limit efforts.

Congress owes the American people action on term limits, including a new approach that actually stands a chance of becoming law. Our approach provides the flexibility needed to enact laws on term limits by a simple majority and to allow future generations to decide the term limit law that works best for them through the regular legislative process.

For far too long, Congress has failed to give the people what they clearly want. We should pass this amendment and finally put that power in their hands.

Why the Moon Matters

image description

On July 20, 1969, the free world won the space race when an American flag was planted on the Moon. Twelve Americans walked on the Moon during the Apollo program, resulting in a treasure trove of knowledge not only about the Moon, but about the universe.  Even better, by demonstrating the United States’ political, economic, and technological prowess, it played a part winning the Cold War. In 1983, Ronald Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative to defend the free world from nuclear ballistic missiles. While many called it destabilizing, and even suggested it was impossible to achieve, the Soviet Union took it very seriously, made every effort to eliminate it, and spent whatever it took to compete. They eventually went bankrupt.  SDI, while not fully implemented, was a geopolitical success built on the technical credibility provided by Apollo. As Ronald Reagan predicted, “We win. They lose.”

Through SDI, the Brilliant Pebbles program was born as a space based system to track and destroy ICBMs. Years later, in 1994, a Brilliant Pebbles satellite was repurposed to orbit and map the Moon. That mission, called Clementine, tested military sensors and made history when it provided evidence of lunar water ice. Later experiments by NASA and other space agencies indicated billions of tons of water ice at each lunar pole.

This single discovery should have immediately transformed America’s space program. Water ice not only represents a critical in situ resource for life support, but it can be cracked into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, to create the same chemical propellant that powers rockets.

All of this is available on a world that has no atmosphere and a gravity well that is 1/6th that of Earth. In other words, standard aerodynamic limitations do not apply, permitting the placement of the propellant into orbit either around the Moon or around the Earth.

From the discovery of water ice on the Moon until this day, the American objective should have been a permanent outpost of rovers and machines, with occasional manned missions for science and maintenance, in order to utilize the materials and energy of the Moon to drive down the costs and increase the capabilities of American operations in cis-lunar and interplanetary space.

Water ice on the Moon could be used to refuel satellites in orbit or perform on-orbit maintenance. Government and commercial satellite operators could save hundreds of millions of dollars by servicing their satellites with resources from the Moon rather than disposing of, and replacing, their expensive investments. Eventually, the customers of Direct TV, Dish Network, internet broadband from space, satellite radio, weather data, and others could see their bills reduced and their service capacities greatly increased.

While most satellites are not currently powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, next generation satellite architectures could utilize lunar propellant if low-cost in-orbit servicing were available. Commercial operators will follow if the United States leads with its own constellations.  Such leadership would require a whole-of-government approach with the interagency support of the newly reconstituted National Space Council. The objective is a self-sustaining, cis-lunar economy, whereby government and commercial operators save money and maximize the utilization of space through the use of lunar resources.

This is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system. A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization. The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars. Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion will start testing in 2018. This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the Moon to begin the cis-lunar economy. With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well; this time, to stay.

There are other economic benefits to a permanent presence on the Moon. Utilization of lunar oxides for in situ additive manufacturing (3-D printing) could sustain and develop lunar operations. If economical, we should pioneer the extraction of highly valuable platinum group metals and the ability to transport them back to Earth. The development of practical solar power satellites that beam energy directly to all areas of the Earth is made possible through the use of the resources of the Moon. Research on this concept is already being done in Japan, as well as at the Naval Research Lab here in the United States. The United States government should lead the way in retiring risk for these endeavors with the intent to empower commercial companies to sustain the cis-lunar economy. This could fundamentally alter the economic balance of power on Earth.

As the cis-lunar economy develops, competition for locations and resources on the Moon is inevitable. The Chinese currently have landers and rovers on the Moon. The United States does not. Very soon, the Chinese will be the first of humanity to explore the far side of the Moon and place robots at the poles. As my friend Congressman Bill Posey says, “They are not going there to collect rocks.” China has its own manned space station. The United States’ commitment to the International Space Station ends in 2024. China has a domestic capability to launch its Taikonauts into orbit. The United States relies on Russia. American adversaries are testing antisatellite weapons and proliferating satellite jamming, spoofing, and dazzling technologies. It is time for the United States to re-posture and assert true space leadership.

It must be stated that constitutionally, the U.S. government is required to provide for the common defense. This includes defending American military AND commercial assets in orbit, many of which have the dual role of providing commercial and military capabilities. The same applies for assets on and around the Moon. The U.S. government must establish a legal framework and be prepared to defend private and corporate rights and obligations, all keeping within the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The United States must have cis-lunar situational awareness, a cis-lunar presence, and eventually must be able to defend freedom of action in space. Cis-lunar development will proceed with American values and the rule of law if the United States leads.

Space utilization has transformed the human condition, including how we communicate, navigate, produce food and energy, conduct banking, predict weather and perform disaster relief. While many of these gains are a result of private investment and commercial markets, they are only possible because the United States government took the lead and retired risk for these capabilities. Today, we are experiencing a space renaissance. The first launch of the Space Launch System is less than two years away. In 2021, we will use the Orion capsule to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the 1970s. Commercial launch vehicles are maturing and commercial deep space habitats are currently in development. A renewed focus on utilizing the Moon can help further these advances and achievements. The choices we make now can forever make America the preeminent spacefaring nation.


Congressman Jim Bridenstine Applauds Nomination of Scott Pruitt

image description

Congressman Bridenstine:

“President Obama has turned the EPA into one of the most vilified agencies in the ‘swamp’ of over-reaching government.  As EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt will bring a rational, constitutional, and federalist perspective to environmental stewardship.  He knows the value of preserving our air, water, and land as well as the impact that regulations have had on jobs and people.  He is an excellent choice for the Trump Administration.”

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Votes Against Continuing Resolution

image description

Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine voted against HR 2028, legislation amended by the Senate into a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until April 28.

Congressman Bridenstine said:

“As I’ve stated before, Continuing Resolutions represent a failure to govern, a failure to represent the people, and a failure to exercise the power of the purse.  In passing a CR, Congress abandons its representational duty and fails to fulfill the role given it by the Constitution.”

National Defense Authorization Act Includes Bridenstine Provisions

image description

Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine voted for the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. The NDAA conference report reconciles differences in the House and Senate versions passed earlier this year.   NDAA is a bipartisan bill that authorizes funding for America’s armed forces and sets Department of Defense policy.  Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act 55 years in a row.  

The NDAA conference report includes a number of critical provisions:

  • Pay raise for the troops above the President’s request
  • Additional funding to stop the drawdown in Army soldiers and Marines
  • Expanded care at military hospitals

The NDAA conference report rejects a number of controversial policy changes in the Senate NDAA including:

  • Requiring women to register with Selective Service
  • Cuts to housing allowance (including dual military families)
The NDAA conference report includes several provisions from Rep. Bridenstine’s American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA).  In April 2016, Congressman Bridenstine introduced ASRA, groundbreaking legislation to enact bold reforms across military, civil, and commercial space sectors.  NDAA is the first step in Bridenstine’s strategy to enact ASRA piece-by-piece using different legislative vehicles.  The conference report includes ten ASRA provisions, including:
  • Section 1605 - Modifies the terms of the Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to ensure DOD uses accurate cost estimates and fully considers commercial SATCOM technologies.  The Pentagon uses AoAs to help select new weapons systems to replace old programs.  DOD will start the SATCOM AoA shortly to help choose a successor system to the current Wideband Global SATCOM satellite constellation, which provides long-distance communications capabilities to our warfighter. 
  • Section 1606 – Redirects funding to jump start a pilot program to test next-generation SATCOM technologies.  Private sector SATCOM companies are offering leap-ahead capacity for commercial customers.  The Department of Defense should take advantage of this. 
  • Section 1613 - Establishes a pilot program for the Air Force to buy, test, and evaluate commercial weather data.  Utilizing data provided by innovative private sector weather companies can lower costs to taxpayers, produce better weather products for the warfighter, and complicate the targeting solutions of our enemies by distributing space architectures.


American Astronautical Society and American Meteorological Society Speech

image description

Thank you Dr. Hooke for that kind introduction, and thank you to the American Astronautical Society and the American Meteorological Society for having me tonight. It is an honor to be here.

I have the privilege of representing the First Congressional District of Oklahoma. Every year, I have constituents who die due to severe weather, specifically tornadoes. It is my responsibility to my constituents to promote policies that improve our forecasting abilities. I currently serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment of the Science Space and Technology Committee, which oversees NOAA. In that role, I have dedicated my work to move the United States to a day where we see zero deaths from tornadoes and minimize damage to property. My constituents, and the American people, deserve nothing less.

Two weeks ago, we saw a big step in that direction with the launch of GOES-R, the first in a series of four next-generation geostationary weather satellites. While this program has not been completely without issue, over which the Environment Subcommittee has conducted robust oversight, GOES-R will greatly improve our ability to detect weather early, among other things. This satellite represents a large upgrade in technology from our current fleet of geostationary satellites, akin to going from a flip phone to a smart phone. I’d like to congratulate the teams at NOAA and NASA as well as Lockheed Martin, Harris Corporation, Assurance Technology Corporation, and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

As an Oklahoman, I am looking forward to the improved forecasts this satellite will bring to bear. I also pledge to continue the subcommittee’s vigorous oversight of the remaining S, T, and U satellites in order to ensure they remain on budget and launch on time.

In May of 2015, the House passed H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, which I was proud to cosponsor along with my good friends from Oklahoma and Oregon, Frank Lucas and Suzanne Bonamici. If passed into law, this legislation will bring a newfound focus on weather research within NOAA, direct computing resources toward forecasting and next generation modeling, test innovative data methods, and emphasize technology transfers between research and operations.

This bipartisan legislation brings together the research side of NOAA, the operational side of the National Weather Service, as well as academia and private weather industry stakeholders to develop a forecasting improvement program, a Tornado Warning improvement program, and a Hurricane Warning improvement program.

It explicitly sets up a technology transfer initiative between the different silos within NOAA, as well as private sector and academic stakeholders, in order to prevent technological developments from getting stuck in the “valley of death” from research to operations.

H.R. 1561 also encouraged NOAA to do data simulation experiments to test the benefits of certain data types, such as GPS radio occultation and hyperspectral soundings.

Finally, the bill authorized a pilot program for NOAA to purchase and validate space based data from a nascent industry of commercial weather satellite companies. This provision presents an opportunity to bring about a paradigm shift to the weather prediction landscape.

We have been in constant negotiations with the Senate to pass this bill, and it is my understanding that H.R. 1561 is waiting to clear the “unanimous consent” process. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to expedite this process so that we can send the bill to the President before the end of this Congress.

In the meantime, in lieu of authorizing legislation, the Environment subcommittee has continued to work with NOAA to lean forward on policies that allow for innovative solutions to the issues facing our nation.

First, let me be absolutely clear: I have never, nor would ever, advocate for the cancelling of the JPSS or GOES programs. The data these systems will provide are critical to the safety of my constituents. To protect lives and property of American citizens, there is a need for a government backbone providing critical data to inform our weather forecasts.

However, I believe that commercial weather data can and should be a piece of the solution available to NOAA. First and foremost, it is a mitigation strategy in the event of gaps in weather data. My subcommittee has held many hearings where we have examined the issues with NOAA’s satellite programs that could lead to data gaps. Second, the advancements of this nascent industry have real potential to improve our forecasting capabilities.

Our subcommittee partnered with the House Appropriations committee in order to fund the commercial weather data pilot while we await further action on authorizing legislation. I am very pleased with the progress that has been made on this program so far. In September, NOAA awarded two contracts under this program to acquire data from Spire and GeoOptics – the first contracts of their kind.

Coupled with NOAA’s release of a Commercial Space Policy and a draft of its Commercial Space Activities Assessment, efforts which the Environment Subcommittee has pushed for, and NOAA is signaling that the government is seriously interested in leveraging this new industry. These are great first steps, but we have the ability to do more, and I intend to keep working with NOAA to advance these policies.

We’ve also placed a similar provision in the 2017 NDAA for the Department of Defense to purchase commercial weather data. With this legislation expected to pass this week, we should see the DoD begin moving out on this effort early next year.

I’ve focused most of my remarks so far on the need to improve our ability to study, understand, and predict in order to save lives and property. But there are other earth science missions that are critically important as well.

In recent years, earth science has become unfortunately politicized. It has been used as a means to an end, with presupposed outcomes and responses to those outcomes. However, I think it is important we study the Earth and have a full breadth of knowledge of our planet. And we need to respond to this knowledge in ways that improve quality of life in our country.

Earth science has practical applications. We’ve already spoken about weather, which in addition to protecting people also has great effects on all aspects of our economy which we need to better appreciate and respond to. Agriculture can benefit from Earth science. For instance, the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite which was launched in January of 2015 is returning data that farmers could utilize to better understand when and where they need to water their crops. When launched, observations from IceSat-2 could inform shipping companies of available routes. Remote sensing imagery, from a variety of sources, is integral to the success of military campaigns, and it can also be useful to study the aftermath of natural disasters and enhance the response.

These are but a few examples. As my subcommittee has jurisdiction over NASA’s Earth Science directorate, I also intend to remain vigilant in my oversight of these programs and missions.

Environmental intelligence – particularly data and information we derive from space-based assets – is critical to our national security, the safety of our citizens, and the growth of our economy. The work your community does is invaluable, and I look forward to continue partnering with you to advance policies that promote growth and enhance safety. Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

This is our Sputnik moment.

image description

I’d like to thank the Lunar Exploration Group for having me, and thank Bob Richards of Moon Express for inviting me to address this group. Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge Dr. Paul Spudis, who is here tonight, for his book the Value of the Moon and Dennis Wingo for his book Moon Rush. Both books have been valuable sources of information.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a shiny sphere 23 inches wide into orbit.  Sputnik harmlessly transmitted radio pulses, but it called into question the technological prowess of the United States of America and, correspondingly, our competing political and economic systems.  We responded overwhelmingly.  In 1962, President Kennedy addressed Rice University (my alma mater) and stated that we were sending Americans to the moon because it is who we are as Americans.

Around the world, free people and representative governments aligned.  The American spirit led.  On July 20, 1969, the free world won the space race when an American flag was planted on the moon.  From that day until December 14, 1972, twelve Americans walked on the moon resulting in a treasure trove of knowledge not only about the moon, but about our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe.  Even better, it was one small step toward a giant leap in winning the Cold War.

Ten years after the last Apollo Mission, Ronald Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative to defend the free world from nuclear ballistic missiles.  While professional thinkers and academics in the United States denounced it, called it destabilizing, and even suggested it was impossible to achieve, the Soviet Union took it very seriously, made every effort to eliminate it, and spent whatever it took to compete.  They eventually went bankrupt.  SDI, while not fully implemented, was a geopolitical success built on the credibility of Apollo.  As Ronald Reagan said, “We win.  They lose.”

Through SDI, the Brilliant Pebbles program was born to track ICBMs and provide fire-quality coordinates for their kinetic destruction.  In 1994, the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (now the Missile Defense Agency) created plan whereby a Brilliant Pebbles satellite would be outfitted to orbit and map the moon.  Testing not only military sensors, the Clementine mission made history when a bistatic radio frequency experiment using the Goldstone radio antenna in California showed evidence of water ice through enhanced circular polarization of the radio signal.  The ice was at the poles of the moon in the dark shadows that never see light.  Later experiments by NASA and other space agencies provided more evidence suggesting 10 billion tons of water ice at each lunar pole.  Many in this room have been involved in these experiments.

This single discovery should have immediately transformed America’s space program.  Water ice not only represents a critical in situ resource for life support (air and water); it can be cracked into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, to create the same chemical propellant that powered the Space Shuttle.  Even better, this chemical propellant sits at the poles of the moon, which receive almost constant sunlight for photovoltaic power, which is necessary crack the water into hydrogen and oxygen.

All of this is available on a world that has no atmosphere and a gravity well that is 1/6 that of earth.  In other words, standard aerodynamic limitations do not apply.  Fairings on the moon are not necessary and launches are not limited by volume or size.  While mass is still a limitation, it is a lot less of a limitation than that of earth.  These features fundamentally undermine the single biggest impediment to space-based capabilities:  the tyranny of the rocket equation.  Remember, every time we launch from earth, 80% of the mass is propellant just to get to low earth orbit.

From the discovery of water ice on the moon until this day, the American objective should have been a permanent outpost of rovers and machines at the poles with occasional manned missions for science and maintenance.  The purpose of such an outpost should have been to utilize the materials and energy of the moon to drive down the costs and increase the capabilities of cis-lunar space.  Let’s talk about why.

The watershed discovery of lunar ice happened at a time when space was transforming all of our lives.  Today, our very way of life depends on space.  We have transformed how we communicate, navigate, produce food and energy, conduct banking, predict weather, perform disaster relieve, provide security, and so much more.  Each of these market segments continues to grow and improve the human condition on Earth, but a 2013 study by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee determined that the debris population in low earth orbit will continue to grow due to collisions even if nothing new is launched.  Catastrophic collisions such as Iridium 33-Cosmos 2251 will occur every five to nine years.  Each such collision will create thousands of pieces of debris and result in more collisions.

Instead of no new launches, however, launches will continue with increasing frequency and new constellations of hundreds and even thousands of satellites will be placed in orbit.  In this environment, satellites will require shielding and, correspondingly, heavier launch solutions.  Firms will need replacement satellites, more robust distributed architectures, and higher cost insurance.  In sum, the costs will reduce investment returns, challenge capital formation, and limit our ability to maximize the utility of space.

In situ resource utilization of water ice on the moon is one tool of many tools with the potential to reverse this trend.  Instead of abandoning satellites depleted of station keeping fuel (many of which break apart and create additional conjunction hazards), we should service satellites with hydrogen and oxygen from the moon for a fraction of the cost of launching energy or new satellites from Earth.  Yes, this requires manufacturers and operators to modify their satellites, but they might do so if low-cost in-orbit servicing were available.  It would be a simple economic decision to extend the life of their multimillion and in some cases billion dollar investments.

The in-orbit maintenance, servicing, and refueling market, already being planned, could be greatly enhanced by an architecture that includes staging nodes, fuel depots, transit spacecraft and lunar landers.  This architecture makes economic sense when considering the cost of building and launching new satellites.  And the economics improve when considering the returns from orbital satellite assembly and a new generation of communication satellites with unprecedented bandwidth.  To be clear, satellite servicing and assembly requires a lunar program that is permanent to include long term human habitation, machines, rovers, and resource production.

Let’s talk about China.   In 2007 China used a direct ascent anti-satellite missile to shoot down one of its own weather satellites creating thousands of pieces of orbital debris.  Since then, they have been testing such missiles all the way out to geostationary orbit.  Recently, the Chang’E 2 spacecraft orbited and mapped the moon.  It then travelled to the Sun-Earth L-2 point before travelling to a near-earth asteroid.  Such devices could be used for a kinetic intercept path from above GEO or other spoofing, dazzling, or jamming activities.  Attacks from above GEO would be very difficult if not impossible to detect.  In 2014, the Chinese hacked into the U.S. National Weather Service and compelled us to stop collecting space-based weather data for a period of three days.  That significant if you’re from Oklahoma.  They currently have two astronauts (taikonauts) on their domestically produced space station: the Tiangong-2.  The Taikonauts flew there on domestic Chinese rockets and capsules:  the Shenzhou Program.  They currently have rovers and machines on the moon, and they have developed unhackable, unjammable, unspoofable quantum communications.  It is clear the Chinese understand the geopolitical value of space operations.

The United States has also recognized the tremendous geopolitical value of space and the cost savings of buying commercial.  The United States Department of Defense is already dependent on commercial communication satellites in Geostationary Orbit, which now provide 80% of the DoD’s unprotected over-the-horizon communications.  Last year, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) announced its commercial geoint policy, which is spurring new commercial constellations of remote sensing and imagery satellites.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also produced a commercial space policy for space-based weather data.  NASA, of course, is currently using commercial capabilities to resupply the ISS and soon will use commercial services to fly astronauts to and from the ISS.  The U.S Government understands that in the future, and even today, it will be a customer of routine space services, not a provider of routine space services.  One of those services could also someday be in situ resource utilization from the Moon to fuel and power missions to locations deeper into our solar system, such as Mars.

This is only possible because of all the risk that the government has already retired for these capabilities.  Now, the U.S. government should play a part in developing the tools for lunar energy resource development, cis-lunar satellite servicing, and maintenance.  The U.S. government must work to retire risk, make the operations routine, and once again empower commercial companies.  This has already worked to an extent in low Earth orbit, and now we should apply this model to cis-lunar space. This is not only appropriate for economic development and to improve the human condition on Earth, but to provide for national security, which is now entirely dependent on space-based capabilities.  Every domain of warfare today depends on space.

I was proud to work with Rep. Honda to get language into the House CJS appropriations bill this year directing NASA to work with commercial partners to develop small scale missions to the lunar surface.  I want to thank those of you within NASA who have already begun moving out on this Congressional directive.  I’m pleased that NASA announced on Nov. 1st an RFI for small lunar surface payloads to potentially fly on US commercial lunar cargo transportation vehicles.

Once the cis-lunar market develops to service and maintain our traditional space-based military and commercial capabilities, other opportunities will naturally follow.  The surface of the moon is composed mainly of oxides of metals:  iron, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, titanium and others.  While these oxides can be used to produce oxygen for life support and metals for additive manufacturing in situ, they will not likely be exported to earth.  However, it is possible, if not likely, that highly valuable platinum group metals are much more available on the moon from astroblemes than they are on earth.  Such a discovery with cis-lunar transportation capabilities would fundamentally transform American commercial lunar development and could profoundly alter the economic and geopolitical balance of power on Earth.  This could explain the Chinese interest in the moon.  The question is: What are WE, the United States, doing to make sure the free world participates economically in such a discovery?  The U.S. government has a role to play here.

Competition for locations on the moon (the poles) and resources is inevitable.  It must be stated that constitutionally, the U.S. government is required to provide for the common defense.  This includes defending American military assets in space AND commercial assets in space, many of which have and will have a dual role of providing commercial and military capabilities.  President Kennedy said, “Whatever men shall undertake, free men must fully share.”  The U.S. government must establish a legal framework and be prepared to defend private and corporate rights and obligations all within keeping the Outer Space Treaty.  And to enable freedom of action, the United States must have cis-lunar situational awareness, a cis-lunar presence, and eventually must be able to enforce the law through cis-lunar power projection.  Cis-lunar development will either take the form of American values with the rule of law, or it will take the form of totalitarian state control.  The United States can decide who leads.

The first element of an American legal framework that needs to be implemented is an enhanced payload review process.  The U.S. government is required to provide authorization and continuing supervision for lunar and cis-lunar space activities in keeping with the Outer Space Treaty.  Currently, the State Department does not believe the US government has the tools to approve and supervise many of the new non-traditional space activities.  Congress needs to provide the legal and regulatory process.  The process should be known, transparent, allows for recourse, and provide the certainty that the industry needs to capitalize its missions.  The objective is to provide the maximum regulatory certainty with the minimum regulatory burden. The enhanced payload review process needs to be codified in law so future missions will not be jeopardized when China or others compete for or challenge locations and resources.

The second element of an American legal framework must be enhanced space situational awareness and reporting.  Currently the DoD provides the preponderance of conjunction analysis and reporting because it has the tools to do so.  Unfortunately, as space has become congested, competitive, and contested, the Air Force is not properly resourced for routine international and commercial space traffic analysis and reporting.  Additionally, the Air Force, not being a regulatory body, does not have the authority to do anything other than advise international and commercial entities.  SSA and reporting should be managed by a civilian agency with regulatory authority, because there could come a day when space situational awareness information is used to enable space traffic management.  The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation is right agency to manage these activities.

Space represents what is exceptional about the United States of America.  We are characterized by a spirit of adventure, risk taking, and entrepreneurialism.  When our national security is threatened, we respond.  When challenges seem overwhelming, we strive.   When we experience a setback, we double our resolve.  It is who we are.

This exceptionalism is not genetic.  It is born of a competitive, free enterprise, merit-driven culture.  Today, American entrepreneurs have revolutionized access and operations in space.  In fact, our very way of life now depends on space.  We have transformed how we communicate, navigate, produce food and energy, conduct banking, predict weather, perform disaster relieve, provide security, and so much more.

The United States of America is the only nation that can protect space for the free world and responsible entities, and preserve space for generations to come.

This is our Sputnik moment.  America must forever be the preeminent spacefaring nation and the moon is a path to being so.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Votes Against Billions in Inappropriate Spending

image description

Last night, I voted against the FY17 Continuing Resolution (CR), legislation which denies my constituents representation in determining how their taxpayer money is spent.  CRs represent the worst of Washington: a broken process to fund the government, backroom deal making, and refusal for Congress to use the “power over the purse” to reign in the executive branch. 

We see this every year:  Harry Reid and Senate Democrats filibuster bills to fund the government in regular order.  Reid and Obama then threaten to shut down the government unless Republican Leadership gives in to their demands.  A short-term CR is passed followed by a trillion-dollar, 2,000-page Omnibus a few months later. 

This particular CR does the following:

  • Gives a raise to Planned Parenthood
  • Spends over $1 billion to combat Zika without any offsetting spending cuts.  Instead of new spending, the Obama Administration should use tens of billions available in unspent International Assistance funds. 
  • New spending for disaster relief in Louisiana, Maryland and West Virginia.  Yet, my office confirmed that FEMA will have $1.7 billion in unspent Disaster Relief Fund money which could be used.
  • Busts the budget caps for non-defense social welfare programs by $1.5 billion. 
  • Creates $6 billion in fake “savings” from a budget gimmick called Changes in Mandatory Programs (CHIMPS).
  • Fully funds Obamacare despite insurers fleeing the exchanges and jacking up premiums, including an average of 76% in Oklahoma. 

The American people have elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Yet, zero provisions in the CR achieve conservative policy goals including stopping Obama’s internet handover, the Syrian refugee program, and illegal executive amnesty. 

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Moves to Save Lives and Property in Tulsa

image description

The 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed in the House today included my amendment to help saves lives and property in the First District.  I would like to thank Senator Jim Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, for his leadership on including this provision in the Senate-passed version of the bill.

This amendment requires the Army Corp of Engineers (ACE) to prioritize funding for construction of the Tulsa-West Tulsa levees following an ACE feasibility study that is expected to confirm they are at high risk of failure. A previous ACE assessment found they are among the most high risk levees in the country.

The Tulsa-West Tulsa levee system was constructed during World War II, making the twenty miles of levees woefully outdated.  These levees protect billions of dollars of infrastructure, including homes, businesses, and petroleum refinery facilities.  The potential loss of life and destruction of property in the event of a breach would be devastating to my constituents.

VIDEO of Congressman Bridenstine Speaking on House Floor

Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Encourage U.S. and Israeli Collaborations on Space Exploration Breakthroughs

image description

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-01) introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage U.S. and Israeli scientists to continue collaborating on breakthroughs in space exploration. The United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act would direct the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to work with the Israel Space Agency to identify and together pursue new potential scientific discoveries in space.

“We want to make sure that the United States and our allies remain global space leaders,” said Kilmer. “This bill allows us to work with one of our key partners to continue breaking the boundaries of space. In turn, it will keep us on a path that fosters innovation and experimentation, encourage the growth of the U.S. space industry, and create American jobs.” 

“Space plays a vital role in national security and is an important aspect of our everyday lives. Innovations in this area keep our citizens safe while enhancing their quality of life. This bill will allow us to continue advancing these goals alongside one of our greatest allies,” said Bridenstine.

In 2015, NASA and the Israel Space Agency signed a civil space agreement during the International Astronautical Congress to enable new cooperation and research in space.