The Biden administration will maintain the National Space Council and Vice President Kamala Harris will chair it, according to senior administration officials, adding another item to the vice president’s portfolio.
Harris confirmed her new role on Saturday, writing in a tweet, “As I’ve said before: In America, when we shoot for the moon, we plant our flag on it. I am honored to lead our National Space Council.”
Harris “intends to put her own personal stamp on the Council,” a senior administration official said. The official listed her personal priorities as STEM education, cybersecurity, supporting sustainable development of commercial space activity, diversity in the workforce and advancing peaceful norms and responsible behaviors in space, among others.
The National Space Council was led by Harris’ predecessor Vice President Mike Pence during the Trump administration. President Donald Trump had revived the council in 2017 by executive order and later, called for the creation of a “Space Force” that would create a sixth branch of the armed services.
Officials contend that for now, the National Space Council will operate under that same executive order from 2017 and haven’t made a decision whether changes are necessary but intend to review it.
As was the case for past space councils, the latest iteration will assist the President in generating national space policies and strategies and in synchronizing America’s civil commercial and national security space activities, officials said.
“In other words, the council’s basic objectives: national security, basic science, technological development, contributions to US economic growth and the commercial sector will all be maintained,” one official said.
Asked to identify the difference between Harris’ upcoming tenure and Pence’s, one official said: “I’ll just say without drawing too much of a contrast, I think her approach to this is just going to be to get the job done and use this to lead our space policy. And not really focus, perhaps, as much on big displays, but on getting the work done.”
Senior officials would not list where chairing the National Space Council lies among Harris’ other portfolio priorities, which now include leading diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants in the Northern Triangle and the administration’s efforts to expand broadband high-speed internet.
“She’s got a lot on her plate, as was originally said, and this is just one more big task that she is taking on because it’s important. It’s important to the President, and the country,” the official said.
The vice president will swear in newly confirmed NASA administrator Bill Nelson on Monday.
Harris, as vice president, has engaged repeatedly with members from NASA – speaking with astronauts Shannon Walker and Kate Rubins virtually to mark Women’s History Month in March, as well as with astronaut Victor Glover in February.
The process of finding a civilian executive secretary, who would be appointed by the President, is still ongoing, official said.
There’s no official date for the first formal meeting of the National Space Council, but senior administration officials said Harris will get started soon.