The Dinkin Commission report (part 1)
3. Create several customer offices as part of the agency: the Mars Office, the Moon Office and the Deep Space Office. DoD should get its own customer offices in addition to the usual satellite customers: the US Space Navy, the US Space Force, and the US Space Marines.
It’s time for Mars to get its own office. It should get its own group of staffers to head to Capitol Hill to seek funding and authorization for development. Mars needs to fight in the halls of Congress to get what it needs against the Moon, Deep Space, and all other space and non-space priorities. It is time to disambiguate the different space constituencies and space customers. A Mars mission should have to undergo the same sort of scrutiny the V-22 undergoes at the DoD.
The Moon should also get its own office. The Moon Office should advocate Moon missions. The Crusader has to defend itself against the V-22, the latest drones, or extra plating for Humvees. By creating customer advocates, the best crafted plan (albeit with geographically disparate corporate interests) will emerge.
The rest of the destinations and astronomy should go into the Deep Space Office. As new destinations become worthy of consideration like the asteroids, the Deep Space Office should fission spinning off a new near destination office and keeping the Deep Space Office around for further. It should keep a business development facility for that purpose.
The DoD should spawn its own internal customers: a proto-US Space Navy, US Space Force and US Space Marines. Different cultures at different services will think differently about space threats and space force projection. Who will think of insertion better: Marines or Navy? Who will ponder logistics better: Navy or Air Force? Thinking needs to be diversified to allow competition to create better choices for government.
Each constituency will need its own supporting ecosystem. Much of that is largely outside the hands of the President and even all of Congress. But by framing the debate and picking the captains of the debate teams, the outcomes will be shaped and the dice will be cast.
By thinking like customers, dividing along the lines of customer wants, divesting and privatizing infrastructure and operations, the US can decisively break with a broken past. By establishing a private, commercial space economy with an anchor tenant of the federal government, we can take up the baton dropped over three decades ago and march to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
4. Create a matrix agency that has heads at State, Commerce, OMB, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), Customs Service, the FCC, and even the Fed.
Space is not just a one-department gig. When the US went in to govern Iraq, it called on every cabinet agency to help govern creating new interim laws and regulations. It called on monetary expertise from the Fed and constitutional negotiation from State It totally bungled spectrum and thence hurt security, development and diplomacy by not deploying a new cell phone system right away, but it got a lot right.
Setting the framework for colonizing new worlds takes expertise from almost every government agency. We need to think outside the sphere and imagine the regulations that would facilitate colonization of the Moon and Mars. The FCC should establish a spectrum policy for the Moon and Mars. State, a new Outer Space Treaty that supports property rights and individual and corporate rights in space. The PTO, a new patent regime that encourages development of space technology and implicitly subsidizes off-world industry and intellectual property to bootstrap a viable space economy. There should be some thinking about customs for space travelers and a Space Guard. The Federal Reserve (or maybe USDA or Interior) should monitor a regime of low interest loans that would enable the space economy to keep humming when it needs stimulus.
5. Privatize 50% of NASA by 2005 and 90% of NASA by 2008.
President Bush, if you can topple Saddam Hussein with a shaky UN mandate, why can’t you topple the NASA bureaucracy in one year? Haven’t you shown that you are no slave to the way things were done by your father? More calming lullabies from yes people are not going to get you remembered like Queen Isabella. Are things presented by the Aldridge Commission so different from the Rogers Commission? As existing stakeholders paint policy into a corner, it’s time that the rules are changed, eggs are broken, and life should be lived outside the box.
Mr. President, do what CEOs do when they have to turnaround companies? Outsource. Wholesale layoffs. Take a huge writedown. Sure it’s painful. Sure it takes a big chunk of money that could have been used for space and gives it to laid-off NASA scientists. But look what it does to your budget. Suddenly you have an extra $30 billion to get to the Moon by 2008 while you are still in office. Suddenly there are thousands of NASA scientists who have to start or join private ventures with big severance packages itching to become part of garage venture space startups.
Having a hockey-stick plan that postpones all change until after you are out of office may be bold for a bureaucracy and polity that has been so beaten down by years of diminished expectations. How about a revolution? How about the American way? Half measures like FFRDCs are for wimps although possibly the best that can be achieved without whipping up a national fervor. How about having a ten-year space policy that front-loads all the spending into $150B in irrevocable prizes in year one like your tax policy?
Do we remember Queen Isabella as the woman who said, “Hey let’s see how much cash we can raise with the Inquisition and then let’s explore the new world no later than 1512 but perhaps as early as 1507”? What legacy do you want?
6. Limit the new department to a customer role specifying functional requirements.
In software we talk about functional and non-functional requirements. We want the information to be displayed a certain way for the user—functional requirement. We want it to use a certain kind of database—non-functional requirement. We want the software to have a certain response time—functional requirement. We want the hardware to have 70% US content—non-functional requirement.
By forcing the US government to specify functional requirements, it is forced out of the infrastructure business. No longer can the US be the operator of the hardware. No longer can it be the specifier of the technology. Of course there are some technologies that follow from some functional requirements. Form does follow function. But it is certainly not true in all cases that there are no technology choices for a given set of functions. Once NASA is privatized, the Department of Space Security should just specify functional requirements. It should be a flexible customer.
By getting out of the infrastructure provider, researcher, and developer roles, the federal government will be stepping out of the way. In its place will be a vibrant and wonderful private US facility with deeper capabilities, more innovative delivery, profitable, and flexible.
This is a policy that cuts out special interests in favor of general ones. The special interests would almost all prefer a boom in space to the current malaise. They need to be shown that they will be winners and that the train is leaving the station with or without them.
How will America conduct an ambitious space agenda without having a centrally planned technology development roadmap? The Department of Space Security should offer prizes. The Aldridge report talks about a 40-to-1 multiplier of prize money to beget private sector development money. Our space goals should be contracted on a fixed-price basis and insured. If the goal is not met, we will have the money to try again. Overruns become the responsibility of the contractor. To aid planning, a futures market should be used to gauge prices of different options a la DARPA’s policy futures exchange.
If the US can credibly, irrevocably post prizes, then it can just sit back and wait while a frenzy of excitement makes the activity happen without further government intervention. Posting a $10-billion Mars prize and backing it in a credible way such as paying five different insurance company consortia—including some overseas—to fund $2 billion each of the prize would make the money for all practical purposes irrevocable. Such a prize would spark the race of the century. Work your way up to that, Mr. President. Start with hundreds of millions in irrevocable prizes in 2004 and work your way up to billion dollar and multi-billion dollar prizes by 2008.
For goals such as ISS resupply, insure the supply trip so that if it blows up, you can buy a new one on the open market. That way, the risk is transferred to the private parties. This kind of incentive means that development overruns are the sole problem of the vendor. It’s true that there will be some delays associated with failed vendors and some bucks associated with insurance. But isn’t that better than overruns and disastrously overbudget projects that suck out all money and good will from the entire national space policy?