Walker Praises New OTA Report on US-Russian Space Activities

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Publication date: 
1 June 1995

Even as the House and Senate voted to pass budget resolutions with
provisions to abolish the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)
(see FYI #74), House Science Committee Chairman Robert Walker
(R-PA) praised a May 15 OTA report for its review of US-Russian
space partnerships. 

Of the 144-page report, "U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space," Walker
said, "The Committee is delighted to have such a valuable study to
use in weighing our evolutionary space partnership with Russia.
The OTA report covers the range of significant concerns that
supporters and opponents of space development now face working with
Russia...."  OTA has planned future reports on the US launch
industry, but their status is questionable in light of OTA's
uncertain future.

The OTA report "surveys the potential benefits and drawbacks of
expanded cooperation with Russia and other nations of the FSU
[former Soviet Union] in space activities....  Such cooperation has
begun to return scientific, technological, political, and economic
benefits to the United States.  However, the political and economic
risks of cooperating with the Russians are higher than with the
United States' traditional partners in space."

According to the report, "NASA is exploring cooperative space
research and development with Russia in virtually every
programmatic area."  In addition to Russia's technical
contributions, foreign policy benefits may accrue from NASA's
purchases of almost $650 million in goods and services.  This may
assist in the stabilization of the Russian economy and preserving
employment for some Russian engineers and technicians.  Yet
Russia's "severe economic hardships" pose the risk that its
government and enterprises may not be able to perform as necessary.
OTA recommends the following elements as critical to the success of
any cooperative space partnership:  successful management of large,
multilateral projects; progress in stabilizing Russia's political
and economic institutions; preservation of Russian space
enterprises; awareness and management of cultural and institutional
differences; Russian adherence to missile-technology controls; and
liberalization of export control, customs, and finance laws.

With the exception of the space station, OTA notes that "Russian
contributions are not in the `critical path' to completion of key
projects."  While Russian involvement in the space station
"promises to increase program flexibility and capability," the
report warns that "placing the Russian contribution in the critical
path...poses unprecedented programmatic and political risks." 

In addition to NASA's cooperative programs, the report says, "most
large U.S. aerospace companies are pursuing some form of joint
venture or partnership with Russian concerns,...[but] it is too
early to tell how successful they will be."  OTA advocates reform
of U.S. export-control laws to help such efforts, but finds no
consensus on how expanded cooperation with Russia will affect the
U.S. aerospace industry.

The report, OTA-ISS-618, can be purchased from the Government
Printing Office.  Contact the Superintendent of Documents, Mail
Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC. 20402-9328; (202) 512-0132; fax: (202)
512-2250; or it can be accessed via the WorldWideWeb at

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