The National Space Council’s top staff member quit last week as the future of  Council’s space policy coordination remains unclear. In a December 31 announcement, Scott Pace revealed that he was stepping down as the National Space Council’s executive secretary to move to George Washington University, where he served as head of the Center for Space Policy. In July 2017, Pace left the university to oversee the Council’s day-to-day activities, chaired by Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States.

In a tweet, Pace said becoming the executive secretary of the Council was the “great honour of a lifetime.” I am so pleased with the team here and the work we have done to pave the groundwork for continued innovation and growth in the civil, industrial and national space industries. I am looking forward to returning to George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and training future space leaders. A few weeks after officially reconstituting the committee, which had been inactive since President George H.W. Bush’s presidency in the early 1990s, the White House picked Pace.

There was significant doubt at the time as to whether the Council would be beneficial, particularly considering the history of the Council’s previous iteration, where the White House and NASA were at conflict with the Space Exploration Initiative. Much of the space industry was won over by a continuous trickle of space initiatives and other papers, including an amended National Space Policy unveiled at the most recent Council meeting on December 9. If the new Biden government, which has been mostly quiet on space strategy, will keep the Council remains uncertain.

Some groups are asking for the continuation of the Council under the current government. In a December report on its proposals for space policy in the incoming administration, the Secure World Foundation reported that “the National Space Council is already tremendously successful in formulating an appropriate process for debating, discussing, and completing national space policy.” The Council also observed that “the political importance and public visibility” of the space policy have been strengthened.

The Secure World Foundation proposed some improvements as to how Council as well as its Users’ Advisory Group, an independent body that gives Council advice, should work. The Foundation’s report acknowledged that the public hearings of the Council “are more organized events than real space policy discussions,” that it argued could be detrimental to building up public interest in this issue. It also suggested adding participants who are actual users of space software to the Users’ Advisory Committee.

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