White House to revise charter and membership of space council advisory group

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Biden administration plans to revise both the charter and the membership of the National Space Council’s advisory group to better reflect its priorities.

In a presentation at the 36th Space Symposium here Aug. 25, Chirag Parikh said the administration would update the Users’ Advisory Group (UAG) to ensure it offers the council the views of the commercial space sector.

“One of the things that we’re going to be doing here pretty soon is reviewing the charter of the Users’ Advisory Group to make sure it reflects the priorities of the vice president and this administration, and also reviewing the membership of the UAG to determine how we want to have the composition of the UAG reflect those priorities along the way,” he said.

Parikh said a formal nomination process for UAG positions would be released shortly but didn’t otherwise offer a schedule for either selecting new members of the group or revising its charter.

The UAG is formally organized as a federal advisory committee whose members provide advice to the council, which is chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and includes the heads of various federal agencies involved in space. The five-page charter, last updated in December 2019, outlines its roles to provide advice and recommendation on topics such as national security, exploration and economic development.

The UAG has been led since its reconstitution in 2018 by James Ellis, a retired admiral. It currently has 27 members, including the chief executives of major aerospace companies, former astronauts and politicians.

The Biden administration said earlier this year it would retain the National Space Council, which had been dormant for nearly a quarter of a century until President Donald Trump revived it in 2017. The White House confirmed May 1 that Harris would chair the council and named Parikh as executive secretary Aug. 2. The council’s first meeting in this administration is expected some time in the fall.

“This administration is taking space very seriously,” Parikh said in his remarks at the conference. “Vice President Harris is very energized by her role. We’ve had several meetings with her already and she is actively engaged, asking all the right questions, the hard questions.”

He emphasized the role the plays in interagency coordination on crosscutting issues. “Any part of space, any of those sectors that you pull, has both an opportunity and an impact on those other sectors of space,” he said. “That’s why having a National Space Council is critical, because it leverages the whole-of-government approach.”

“The vice president has made clear that space is a priority for her,” he added, referencing both traditional priorities in civil, commercial and national security space and new ones that the White House previously mentioned would be important to Harris, from climate change to improving diversity and inclusion.

“What I’ve been trying to tell everybody this entire week is that the way we must be communicating about space is not space for the sake of space,” he said, “but the value of space for citizens.”

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