Testimony - Dr. John H. Gibbons
Testimony of John H. Gibbons

Office of Science and Technology Policy

before the
Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications

U.S. House of Representatives

October 6, 1993

Thank you Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, for the opportunity to share with you the Administration's view on the important relationship we are building with the Russians through the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. Although the Vice President was unable to appear today, he wanted me to extend his personal thanks to you Mr. Chairman, for your letter of invitation and the opportunity to share our views.

I would like to begin with some background. I think all of us here today would agree that since the events of August, 1991, we have witnessed a dramatic and fundamental change take place in the former Soviet Union. This change has opened up new vistas in our cooperative relationship with Russia, allowing us to leave behind the vestiges of the Cold War and develop a new partnership.

The vision of this new relationship was first sketched out by President Clinton and President Yeltsin during their summit in Vancouver. The two Presidents agreed to establish a Joint Commission, headed by Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, to transform this vision into reality. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Vice President and the Prime Minister met in early September to initiate the work of the Commission. What I would like to do today is provide the Subcommittee with a fuller understanding of the results of this first meeting, not only as they relate to space, but also the other areas under the Commission.

Let me begin with the Committee on Space Cooperation, since I know it is the focus of the Subcommittee's interest.

I think we all recall, Mr. Chairman, the Apollo-Soyuz project of 1975 which demonstrated, for the first time, that the U.S. and Russian space programs--even under the most difficult circumstances--could work together. We now have an historic opportunity to combine our efforts in space across a spectrum of programs, not in the context of an adversarial relationship, but rather, one that is based on cooperation and partnership.

We believe that the steps taken during the Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting will set us on a course which will allow us to work together on space activities to minimize costs, maximize research potential and reduce the time needed to do projects.

In the area of human space flight, we intend to undertake a phased program of cooperation that will have clear cut advantages for both sides. Phase one involves expanding the number of rendezvous and docking missions between the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Mir space station. In this initial phase, we will also have an opportunity to fly long duration missions on board the Mir space station. These activities will help us gain experience in preparation for rendezvous and docking missions with the U.S.-led international Space Station.

In the second phase of this program, we will examine the possible use of a Mir module, flown in conjunction with a U.S. lab and serviced by the Shuttle, as an interim human-tended science facility. This phase of the program could provide an on-orbit facility that would allow us to conduct precursor activities in utilization and operations.

We are working with the Russians and consulting with our current partners regarding a third phase of this program consisting of possible Russian participation in the U.S.-led international space station program. NASA and the Russian Space Agency will develop a detailed plan by November 1 which will address how this phase could be implemented.

The President believes that the Space Station program represents an important international partnership between the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. He also believes that we now have an historic opportunity to include Russia in this endeavor, thereby not only putting the Cold War farther behind us, but also adding a positive new dimension to the development of an international space station. I know that he views this possibility as an important element of the new relationship we are developing with Russia and is representative of the type of project where we can work together to shape a more desirable future

Alongside the initiative in human space flight, the Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting produced agreements to expand cooperation in space sciences and environmental observation as well as fundamental research in aeronautical sciences.

In this first area--space science and environmental observations--NASA and NOAA will be working closely with the Russian Space Agency to study the feasibility of a range of cooperative programs. This is a promising new venture where both sides will examine how to increase international cooperation to minimize costs, avoid duplication and increase the scope and effectiveness of work in these areas. In the second area--aeronautics--we will pursue the negotiation of an MOU with the Russians which will provide a framework for government-to-government cooperation. The Russians have developed a very robust aeronautics capability and we are eager to begin a dialogue that can benefit both sides. Our desire is to have the MOU signed and in force by early November.

During the Commission meeting, the Vice President and the Prime Minister also signed a U.S.-Russian Commercial Space Launch Agreement. The agreement opens the international commercial space launch market to Russia, under measured and equitable conditions. The agreement establishes basic rules for the commercial space launch market concerning government involvement in such areas as subsidies, market inducements, and corrupt business practices. In our view, the agreement reflects Russia's commitment to enter the international marketplace in a fair and responsible manner.

At this point, I would like to emphasize two extremely important points.

First, Mr. Chairman, we must recognize that this initiative in space cooperation fits into the context of a much larger partnership with Russia, a relationship that will define the post-Cold War era. Our negotiations with the Russians in preparation for the first Commission meeting produced a key understanding that Russia is committed to adhere to the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime, one of the most important international regimes for the nonproliferation of weapons technology. This MTCR commitment is a strong signal that Russia is prepared to be a consistent and responsible partner, one we can work with over the long term.

Second, I want to emphasize that the Space Station will be a U.S.-led international space station. As you recall, in March of this year, the President requested a review of the Space Station Freedom Program in order to examine whether the program's development, operations, and utilization costs could be significantly reduced while still achieving our scientific research goals and fulfilling our international commitments. On June 17, following a review of NASA's study by an independent panel of experts headed by Dr. Charles Vest, President of MIT, the President announced his support for a scaled-down modular version of Space Station Freedom that meets these objectives. The President also called for pursuing expanded international involvement in the space station with the possible participation of Russia.

We believe that the Space Station Alpha program meets these objectives. It will not only provide power, a microgravity environment and scientific facilities comparable to Space Station Freedom, but do so at less cost. Additionally, the Space Station Alpha design allows us to maintain our international commitments while also accommodating the possibility of Russian participation.

With respect to potential Russian participation, however, no one should confuse the course we are charting with relinquishing control of the Space Station or exporting jobs out of the U.S. In developing this cooperative program, we are focusing on areas that will not negatively impact the U.S. aerospace sector. We intend to proceed in a way that protects our vital domestic interests while maximizing the benefit we can derive from fuller interaction with the Russians. In some areas, such as solar dynamic power, and possibly closed life support systems , we believe that the net gain of new technologies from the Russians could stimulate jobs in the U.S.

I know the Subcommittee will hear in detail from NASA Administrator Goldin on the specific technical elements of the phased program I've described as well as the activities in space science, environmental observations and aeronautics. The primary message I want to convey to you is the Administration's commitment to the Space Station Alpha program as a national science and technology priority and our enthusiasm about the opportunities we see emerging from cooperation with Russia.

During the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Energy and Space, the Vice President and Prime Minister also agreed on the agenda of five committees in addition to the Space Committee. I would like briefly to review some of the key objectives and activities of the other committees. One of the immediate objectives of the Energy Committee will be to work closely with the Russians to strengthen the role for U.S. firms in the Russian oil and gas sector. The near term emphasis will be on removing bureaucratic obstacles to implementing the many U.S. private sector oil and gas projects that are on the table. During the Commission meeting, for example, we were able to announce the final arrangements for a project in Western Siberia. In this project, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation will provide $28 million in loan guaranty and insurance support for Texaco's $80 million oil well restoration project in Western Siberia. This is illustrative of what we want to accomplish across the board to increase both the number of projects and also increase employment opportunities in Russia. In the longer term, we also hope that the Energy Committee will be a useful forum to exchange views on policy development and regulatory processes, particularly as the Russian Government wrestles with the need to put energy legislation in place.

The Energy Committee will also oversee joint work emphasizing efficient and environmentally sensitive ways to produce and utilize energy resources as well as acceleration of our joint efforts in the area of nuclear safety. During this first Commission meeting, we agreed to initiate a joint study to examine more effective ways to ensure reactor safety. We are also committed to making progress on nuclear liability protection, with hopes of coming to closure on a liability agreement very soon. I know Secretary O'Leary recently visited Moscow to continue discussions on these topics and I am confident we will see progress as a result.

The second committee, the Business Development Committee, chaired by Secretary Brown, is working to improve market access across a wide range of energy and technology areas. Opening new markets on each side will create a win-win situation for both the U.S. and Russia. The Business Development Committee will serve as a forum to advocate specific trade and investment projects, also serving as a "matchmaker" between U.S. and Russian firms in energy, aerospace and other areas. One specific step this committee will soon take is the appointment of U.S. and Russian ombudsmen to work with firms to overcome obstacles to business and investment.

The Administration is convinced that a strong role for the private sector through enhanced trade and investment can support Russia's economic reform. Through Secretary Brown's Committee, we are working with the Russians to create a business climate that is conducive to U.S. private sector investment by developing a legal and commercial framework to normalize business relations between our two countries.

In the remaining three areas, Environment, Science and Technology, and Defense Diversification, we are just beginning to set our agenda. The Vice President and the Prime Minister agreed to establish these committees during the first Commission meeting. I expect the program of work will be fully developed in time for the next full Commission meeting in late November or early December.

I would note, however, that we see the Environment and Science and Technology Committee as having a cross-cutting function. We want to be sure that the benefits of our cooperation in the environmental area flow through and impact activities underway in the Energy Committee. Similarly, we will need to have a close coupling between the Science and Technology Committee and the Environment and Energy Committees.

In closing, I think it is fair to say that we face a major challenge and opportunity in our work with Russia. The challenge, clearly, will be to turn forty years of competition into a future of cooperation. The opportunity lies in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world. The Administration has seized this challenge with vigor and, working with the Congress, we are confident it is the right course for both nations. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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