19–22 August 2019
JW Marriott, Indianapolis, Indiana

Engineers as Space Policy Influencers

Posted: 12 July 2017, 9:00 a.m. EDT

Panelists: Moderator Mark J. Lewis, director of science and technology policy, Institute for Defense Analyses; Sandra Magnus, executive director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Chris Shank, senior adviser to the secretary and undersecretary of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force

by Tom Risen, Aerospace America staff reporter

Aerospace professionals can make a major impact by bringing their technical expertise to federal policy discussions, two former members of U.S. President Donald Trump’s NASA transition team said July 11 during the “Presidential Transition” session at the 2017 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta.

Chris Shank, now senior adviser to the secretary and undersecretary of the Air Force, said he was asked in November to form a NASA review team to meet before the inauguration to help propose space policy for the Trump administration.

Among the members Shank recruited was Sandra Magnus, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the parent company of Aerospace America.

Magnus said there is a need for people who have technical degrees to help explain technical issues to policymakers through opportunities like speaking on panels or being members of advisory groups, which is why she agreed to join the transition team.

“If we choose not to engage with the people in D.C., they can’t make informed decisions on what good policy is,” she said. “I’m glad I did it.”

The White House has not yet chosen a full-time NASA administrator, but Shank said public comments by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence since the inauguration in support of U.S. space exploration are a sign the administration considers space a priority.


Participants in the panel discussion, "Presidential Transition,” July 11 at the 2017 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta.

There will be more opportunities for nonfederal members of the aerospace community to inform policy now that the administration has re-established the National Space Council, which will appoint and meet at least once a year with a “Users’ Advisory Group.” The council, which includes numerous top-ranking Cabinet members and national security officials, “can be very valuable” if it manages to have some top-level philosophical discussions about how all government departments can approach space and build public-private partnerships on space, Magnus said.

AIAA can be a “neutral ground” for technology discussions with people who help shape government policy, Magnus said. Members of Congress pay attention to correspondence they get from constituents and listen to letters that suggest solutions to issues, Magnus said, so she encouraged aerospace professionals to reach out to lawmakers.

“Most people don’t engage with the political process in our country, so those of you that do have a proportionally louder voice," she said. "Be a resource for your members.”

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Dates to Remember

  • Abstract Deadline: 31 Jan 2019
  • Manuscript Deadline: 15 Jul 2019

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