The National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy), pursuant to directives set forth in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2020, has contracted with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration to conduct an assessment of the Office of Space Commerce. The Academy is charged with five main tasks:
The Academy Panel (the Panel) found a variety of strong competencies throughout the federal government and beyond to conduct commercial Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Traffic Management (STM) duties.
The Panel found that, for these duties to be executed properly, an agency must be prepared to liaise with private sector and other government stakeholders as well as be able to support the necessary technical and operational requirements inherent in the provision of SSA and STM services. This entity must be regularly funded and provided standing departmental support.
The Panel further found that basic SSA/STM data are a public good and require a dedicated government entity to disseminate data associated with those services that are necessary to both spaceflight safety and the bolstering of premium services developed by the private sector.
After considering the requirements incumbent upon a civilian SSA/STM agency, and the relative strengths of four candidate entities, the Academy Panel recommends that the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) in the Department of Commerce be selected to conduct the SSA/STM mission, as per Space Policy Directive-3. The Panel further recommends that OSC be elevated to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce, should the Secretary of Commerce deem it appropriate.
The Panel also requests that the Congress enact authorizing legislation without delay to ensure that OSC has the requisite on-orbit authorities that would allow it to promulgate STM regulations for operations that fall outside the current licensing and continuing supervision framework. The Congress was also asked to provide the Department of Commerce with a mixture of appropriated funds and authority to assess and employ fee-for-service to build out the office as needed.