Presidential Decisions: NSC Documents from the George W. Bush Administration


George W. Bush’s Administration displayed great continuity with his predecessors by issuing fact sheets on most of the same space issue areas and integrating them in a comprehensive national space policy signed on 31 August 2006.  The recap below emphasizes areas where Bush’s policies diverged significantly from Clinton’s.  The April 2003 fact sheet on commercial remote sensing policy summarized National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 27, the classified policy that superseded PDD 23, indicating that the U.S. Government would: competitively outsource functions in order to rely “to the maximum practical extent” on U.S. commercial remote sensing capabilities for filling its imagery and geospatial needs; focus its remote sensing capabilities on needs that cannot “effectively, reliably, and affordably” be satisfied by commercial providers; and maintain a Sensitive Technology List of “advanced information, systems, technologies, and components” that would be approved for export only rarely, on a case-by-case basis.

In January 2004 President Bush announced his “Vision for Space Exploration” that sought to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program including a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations.  The Constellation program was developed by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to realize this vision, but the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee (Augustine Committee) reported in October 2009 that implementation would take an additional $3 billion annually and the Obama Administration did not request funding for Constellation in the NASA budget submitted to Congress in February 2010.

On 15 December 2004 a Fact Sheet on “U.S. Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing Policy” was released to explain the policy that superseded NSTC-6 and noted that “the Global Positioning System has grown into a global utility whose multi-use services are integral to U.S. national security, economic growth, transportation safety, and homeland security, and are an essential element of the worldwide economic infrastructure.”  The fundamental goals of this policy include ensuring uninterrupted position, navigation, and timing (PNT) services, remaining preeminent in military PNT, continuing to provide civil services that exceed or are competitive with foreign civil PNT services, remaining an essential component of internationally accepted PNT services, and promoting U.S. technological leadership in PNT applications.  In addition, the policy assigned to the Secretary of Defense responsibility for development, acquisition, operation, security, and continued modernization of GPS; to the Secretary of Transportation lead responsibility for development of requirements for civil applications for the U.S. Government; to the Secretaries of Commerce, State, Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence roles in protecting the radio spectrum used by GPS, managing international use of GPS, and monitoring and responding to domestic and international interference with PNT services.  It also established a permanent National Space-Based PNT Executive Committee co-chaired by the Deputy Secretaries of the Departments of Defense and Transportation with a Coordination Office to provide secretariat and staff functions for the Executive Committee and an Advisory Board chartered as a Federal Advisory Committee.

The Bush Administration released on 6 January 2005 a Fact Sheet on “U.S. Space Transportation Policy” explaining the policy that superseded NSTC-4 including the goals of demonstrating initial capabilities for operationally responsive access to and use of space, developing capabilities for human exploration beyond LEO, and sustaining and promoting a domestic space transportation industrial base.  The policy also made the Secretary of Defense responsible for maintaining two EELV providers, called for the Secretary to reevaluate this policy with the Director of National Intelligence and NASA Administrator no later than 2010, and charged the NASA Administrator to develop options to meet potential exploration-unique requirements for heavy lift beyond the capabilities of the EELV that emphasize the potential for using EELV derivatives as well as evaluations of the comparative costs and benefits of a new dedicated heavy-lift launch vehicle or options based on the use of Shuttle-derived systems.

The final space policy of the Bush Administration was NSPD-49, “U.S. National Space Policy,” signed on 31 August 2006.  An unclassified Fact Sheet about this policy was released on 6 October and took a slightly more competitive tone than the Clinton National Space Policy ten years earlier, indicating “those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not. Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”  The statement also emphasized that the United States “considers space capabilities—including the ground and space segments and supporting links—vital to its national interests” and “will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.”  To achieve the goals of the policy the U.S. Government will: develop space professionals, improve space system development and procurement, increase and strengthen interagency partnerships, and strengthen and maintain the U.S. space-related science, technology, and industrial base.  In addition, the policy made the Secretary of Defense responsible for providing space situational awareness (SSA) for the U.S. Government and U.S. commercial space capabilities and services that support national security.

NSPD 23 National Policy on BMD, 16 Dec 2002

Details need for and progress in U.S. missile defense capabilities.

  • Press Release

U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Space Policy, 13 May 2003

Focuses on the relationship between the U.S. Government and the commercial remote sensing industry.

  • Fact Sheet

A Renewed Spirit of Discovery


NSPD 31 U.S. Space Exploration Policy, 14 Jan 2004

Establishes U.S. policy, guidelines, and implementation actions for space exploration and supplements Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-49/NSTC-8, National Space Policy, Section 11, Civil Space Guidelines.


U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Policy

Establishes guidance and implementation actions for space-based positioning, navigation, and timing programs, augmentations, and activities for U.S. national and homeland security, civil, scientific, and commercial purposes.


NSPD 40 U.S. Space Transportation Policy, 6 Jan 2005

Authorizes a new policy establishing national policy, guidelines, and implementation actions for U.S. space transportation programs and activities.

  • Fact sheet

U.S. National Space Policy, 31 Aug 2006

Establishes overarching national policy that governs the conduct of U.S. space activities;supersedes Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-49/NSTC-8, National Space Policy dated September 14, 1996.

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