The Harper Government released its 2011 budget today which all three opposition parties said they would not support in its current form leading to speculation the government will fall and trigger an election for either May 2nd or May 9th. However one key item in the budget, should it go forward, is a comprehensive review of aerospace policy and programs.
This appears to be a significant change in attitude by the government. A Long Term Space Plan developed by the Canadian Space Agency after consultations with other government departments, academia and industry, has been shelved for several years now waiting for approval. As well, a Department of Defence newly created space policy which was to be released in January also had not been approved. And recently industry has been complaining that there was not enough funding for research and development.
Now, it appears the government is willing to listen and at least do a comprehensive review of the whole aerospace sector including the space sector and Department of Defence space initiatives. In so doing the government says it aims to develop a new federal policy framework to support these sectors and benefit Canadians.
The review process is expected to take 12-18 months and the government has said it will provide stable funding for its Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI) during the review. SADI is an initiative that supports Canada’s aerospace, defence, space and security industries by providing repayable contributions.
The news of a comprehensive review should come as welcome news to the space sector which has been feeling for some time it was neglected.
I’m not sure sure that space focused business or the Canadian Space Agency should be lumped together with the rest of the aerospace industry. Our business economic, R&D drivers and big defining stories are much much different.
As I wrote back in October 2010:
“Just take a look at how they’ve defined the current big, sexy industry story which, oddly enough, has absolutely nothing to do with rockets, Radarsat’s, Martian rovers or long term space plans.
Instead, it’s all about sixty-five “first-strike shock-and-awe” Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets the Stephen Harper government committed to buying back in July 2010 to replace Canada’s aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas CF-18’s.
The final decision over whether to move forward with this purchase will be almost entirely a political decision, heavily dependent on who wins the next election…”
If you want to read the rest of the article, go to http://acuriousguy.blogspot.com/2010/10/perils-of-being-niche-player-no-one-in.html#
Maybe not, but the fact remains that the Conservatives have lumped the aero in aerospace with space systems as it’s more commonly known along with DND space initiatives. So if the budget goes ahead then it will be a review of everything together. If there’s an election then and they don’t win a review of a different type will most likely happen.
I’m sure that people at the Canadian Space Agency are jumping with joy after being told that their budget would increase by 8.7%. This seems more like an audit where the government didn’t like what they saw in the DND and CSA plans and would like to do their own assessment. This budget statement just adds confusion to the space sector where both DND and CSA do not have a clear mandate for another year.
I agree. There will be no clear mandate for another year (if ever).
But most of the major players (including Telesat, MDA and ComDev) have already begun charting their own courses.
Telesat wants some one to buy it. MDA has moved from being a government contractor into satellite services and ComDev is slowly easing into micro-satellites.
The Canadian space sector doesn’t seem confused so much as it seems like they are abandoning the CSA to it’s fate.
I said over a year ago that this would happen and the CSA would slowly sink into irrelevance without a publicly released long term space plan.
I suppose I need to clarify one point in the story. While I believe industry welcomes the attention, they don’t necessarily support a review, especially the space sector part of Aerospace.
Through change, opportunity, though.
One problem that has been around since CSA got created was the loss of the combined, innovative, approach that was found for space work inside NRC. A combined review allows the space-aero divide to be re-examined. Also, can CRC take on more direct management of space comms, CCRS take on more direct management of remote sensing (they’re way closer to the customers), etc. In some sense, having a full review seems to be at least an opening up to the concept of needing new, innovative, approaches to aerospace management at the government level.
On the other hand, another 18 months of review, putting the community at 5 years of reviews, and seemingly nothing coming from years of CSAGOC discussions, CSACommunity discussions, etc, etc, is painful, and seems to highlight a growing communications disconnect between the space performer community (industrial and academic) and government processes.
So there are certainly pros and cons.
The UK recently created a Space Agency in order to centralize the coordination of all Civil Space programs and developments. France has CNES which coordinates Civil and Defence space programs and developments. The Americans criticizing themselves in having too many agencies and departments doing space programs where there are duplications, overlaps and collaboration between US agencies/departments increases cost.
If the Federal Budget had mentioned an increase to CSA’s budget as well as a review of the Space Policies, this would have confirmed the role of CSA. However, it seems that every thing is up for grabs, which I believe that Canada’s space policy is already going in the wrong direction.
I agree that the CSA is being downgraded in importance because of these endless promises of reviews that are never released or acted upon.
The first sensible step would seem to be to release the two completed reviews on the Canadian Long Term Space plan and the DND Space Policy update for public comment and political debate.
Depending on what those two reports say and how all this election talk turns out, we can move forward from there.
I think that it goes without saying that, based on the comments here, having yet another ‘review’ would be a waste of time and money. Especially at a time when a number of other countries are well past the point of reviews and have at least some sort of plan in action. One could argue that the US is going through some space budget reviews of its own but they still have an overarching blueprint to work from.
I agree that a sensible thing to do would be to release the current LTSP, get it “signed off” and get the DND space policy signed off. At least this would provide a framework against which any future reviews of the industry could be measured against and adjusted accordingly.
The problem is, as it has already been pointed out, by doing another review now, Canada is put further behind in an industry rapidly moving forward on a number of fronts (I have witnessed first hand the repercussions of this ongoing delay in the growing number of missions being proposed in which Canada has firmly been left out as other partnerships are established). In addition, a bulk of the 12-18 months will be spent getting non-space bureaucrats up to speed on the critical issues and will no doubt translate into an actual release time line of closer to 2 years, if not longer, as was the case for the LTSP that has been shelved.
With an election looming, it will be difficult, and most likely pointless, to get any LTSP signed off now but that doesn’t mean we can’t work to guide the discussions in that direction.
It should be noted that CSA budget increase mentioned was an estimate only used before the actual budget was released and that the appropriation would still need approval. With the government set to fall, most likely tomorrow, the proposed estimate increase is history. The CSA budget will be frozen at current levels until a new budget is approved.