Biden Sends Harris to Space

Critics worry Harris unprepared to chair National Space Council

Edited from Getty Images
March 30, 2021

President Biden is sending Vice President Kamala Harris to space after she struggled to address the illegal immigration crisis at the border.

On Monday, the Biden White House announced it will maintain the Trump administration's National Space Council. By law, the vice president chairs the National Space Council, which oversees an umbrella of government agencies and companies working on America's space mission.

Critics said Harris's inexperience on space and foreign policy could prove a major problem for the administration's approach to space-related national security issues. Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.), for example, said Harris's green record could undermine American supremacy in space.

"I just don't think at least [so far] in her career that this is something that Harris has been focused on," Waltz said. "It's still unclear how much of a priority this is going to be for Vice President Harris given she was just announced to lead the disaster that is the southern border right now."

Harris's additional responsibilities comes as the Biden administration faces a crisis on the southern border. On Wednesday, Biden tapped Harris to act as the administration's leader on the surge of illegal immigrants. By Friday, a senior adviser to Harris told reporters the vice president was no longer managing the border but instead the root causes of illegal immigration from Latin American countries. Harris will now add space to her growing responsibilities.

In the early days of the Biden administration, Harris has made few headlines on the space issue. In March, the vice president called two female astronauts aboard the International Space Station in honor of Women's History Month. Harris also called the space station in February to talk to astronaut Victor Glover in honor of Black History Month. In neither call did Harris indicate any plans for policy on the final frontier.

The National Space Council's responsibilities include coordinating America's long-term military and commercial goals. The job requires a keen sense of the national security challenges the United States faces in space. Perhaps the most important challenge in this domain is the rise of China, which launched more satellites in 2020 than the rest of the world combined. According to security analyst and author Brandon Weichert, Harris's national security record raises major questions about how she will confront America's enemies in space.

"This is one of those bizarre one step forward, two steps back instances that have become pervasive in this administration," Weichert said. "No one can say for sure where she will come down on the question of Space Race or Space Cooperation with China."

Harris's record on China places her squarely in the middle of a heated fight within the Biden administration, Weichert said. Dovish advisers, such as climate czar John Kerry, want to see Biden strike deals with Beijing. But others, such as National Security Council Asia director Kurt Campbell, argue there is no going back in America's showdown with China. Harris, however, has made her stance on China less clear. Since taking office, the vice president has reportedly attempted to beef up her foreign policy credentials by doing regular lunches with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Waltz, a member of the House's Space, Science and Technology and Armed Services Committees, said that there is no time to lose in building up America's ability to defend itself and its commercial activities in space.

"We need some very clear indicators from her on China," Waltz said of Harris. "We needed to be going on this yesterday, we are behind. … The first shots in every war game now are fired in space."

Harris's office did not respond to a request for comment.