Senior space officials met to “war game” Biden administration space policy

Enlarge / US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a public memorial service for former astronaut and US Senator John Glenn at Ohio State University on December 17, 2016.

Paul Vernon/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday about a dozen space officials met virtually to simulate how a National Space Council might operate during a Joe Biden administration, should the Democratic Party nominee win the 2020 presidential election.

The American Foreign Policy Council convened what it characterized as a “closed-door” and “scenario-based simulation” to understand how the Biden administration would think through important space events. Invitations were sent to officials in the aerospace industry whom the Biden administration might call upon as advisers or to fill key leadership roles. The event was not organized at the behest of the Biden campaign.

Invitations from the non-profit organization to would-be participants explained that they would be assigned various roles to play, such as NASA administrator and the head of other agencies such as the Department of Defense and Department of Commerce. The participants would then act as a “National Space Council” to war-game scenarios.

“The simulation moderator will provide anticipatable year-by-year headlines, and members of the National Space Council will roleplay and discuss how they would react in each situation,” the invitation stated. “We are hoping to field about 12 individuals with expertise across the space enterprise who could convincingly role-play interests and responses, and develop ideas for anticipatory policy under a democratic administration and individuals likely to be part of the brain trust of such an administration.”

The meeting was not public and was conducted under the Chatham House Rule, so two sources familiar with what happened declined to provide specifics. “It was a great group of people, well executed, with a view to possible future scenarios that might arise in an upcoming administration,” said one source. “It was a healthy, serious dialog that was respectful and well done.”

About a dozen officials participated. Attendees included two former astronauts, Charlie Bolden and Pam Melroy, who have worked in space policy since their retirements. Bolden was NASA administrator under President Obama. Also participating were two former senior NASA officials—Mike French, chief of staff under Bolden, and Doug Loverro, a chief of human spaceflight for the Trump administration. Loverro was forced to step down in February and is now under investigation for improper contact with Boeing. The meeting also had participation from industry, including entrepreneur Rick Tumlinson and Marc Berkowitz of Lockheed Martin.

Although some of the meeting’s participants may be involved in a future Biden administration, sources say there are no formal advisers yet to the campaign specifically for space. It is expected that such a group would only be named after the election, should Biden win, to help lead his transition team on space-related issues.

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