Space Goals, Strategy, Objectives, and Tactics

Posted: June 4, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , ,

nsp coverWhat are the goals of the United States as they pertain to space?  Here’s a quote from the President in the National Space Policy (on page 1 of the NSP, if you’re checking; page 5 of the pdf itself):

Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.

OK, you could argue that goal is already being met through the activities on the International Space Station.  A more important question is instead this: how are the activities on the ISS advancing the interests of the United States?

After the introduction, which includes the quote above, the NSP goes into a series of “Principles” which are listed on page 3 (page 7 of the pdf).

After that, the NSP has a list of “Goals,” not to be confused with the aforementioned goal (page 4; page 8 of the pdf).

Energize competitive domestic industries

Expand international cooperation

Strengthen stability in space

Increase assurance and resilience of mission-essential functions

Pursue human and robotic initiatives

Improve space-based Earth and solar observation

At this point, the usefulness of the NSP has gone epic fail as the document is basically boilerplate, listing things that are inherently good, but not achievable or conversely, are not granular enough to guide planning activities.  What make this an epic fail?  Because when there is gruesome mismatch between stated objectives (goals, or whatever they are called) and resources, the whole effort is a waste of time. 

What should the overarching goal of the NSP be?  I’d offer something like this: To enhance U.S. national power.   Who really cares about ‘strengthening U.S. space leadership’ when we can strengthen U.S. space capabilities?

The thing that is missing in the NSP is the list of what our priorities should be

As it is, by default, the things that get funded are the priorities and the things that don’t, aren’t.  This leads to a programmatic focus instead of a visionary focus.  What we need then is a strategy that matches resources to desired outcomes. 

While military space is in a lot better shape than NASA (that is, NASA’s manned space missions) regarding its future, that’s because when the Manned Orbiting Laboratory was cancelled in 1969 it was because

It was determined the capabilities of unmanned spy satellites met or exceeded the capabilities of manned MOL missions.

More discussion regarding NASA’s way ahead is here, but the source of much confusion is the sloppiness of our language, in using (for example) words like goals, intent, strategies, outcomes, and the likes interchangeably. 

Imprecise language leads to imprecise thinking.


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