Sen. Rick Scott in the Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida Critical to U.S. Leadership in Modern Space Race

May 31, 2024

The Daytona Beach News Journal
Sen. Rick Scott
May 30, 2024

Since the birth of our nation’s space program, the eyes of the world have turned to Florida’s Space Coast to watch America’s brightest minds reach for the stars. While today’s space race does not evoke the drama and national attention it did decades ago, American dominance in space, which is critical to U.S. national security, is as important as ever and still firmly rooted in the Sunshine State. When Congress considers the authorizations of missions and programs within NASA, I am committed to making sure the U.S. prioritizes innovation and excellence in space and ensure Florida is well-positioned to continue to lead.

During the Obama administration, NASA was left on the back burner and its funding reached an all-time low as a percentage of the federal budget. Floridians know too well the devastating impacts of the Obama administration’s weak leadership and a lack of federal support for both NASA and America’s private space industry. Jobs were lost and strategic positions were conceded to rival nations that seek to dominate space and dictate order in this modern frontier.

As governor of Florida, I realized the strategic value of NASA to our state and nation and fought to maintain and expand Florida’s leadership – an uphill battle amid waning support in Washington - for space exploration. Over my eight years as governor, we worked to invest more than $230 million in spaceport projects to help the Space Coast thrive, supporting the creation of thousands of high-paying aerospace jobs.

While I’m proud of what Florida accomplished then, and the actions taken during the Trump administration, including the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the establishment of a new National Space Policy, it is imperative that we do not become complacent.

The modern space race looks far different than it did decades ago when we triumphed over the Soviet Union in putting a man on the moon. Our challenges are bigger and include innovating for next-generation leadership as we replace the outdated International Space Station with cutting-edge technology from commercial space partners. Today, the commercial space industry is a critical partner in our efforts to strengthen U.S. space leadership and it must be championed at every level of government. States like Florida cannot do this alone – the federal government must step up and be a partner.

That’s why I have continued to fight for U.S. leadership in space at the federal level as Florida’s U.S. senator and build on the good work our state did when I was governor. Earlier this Congress, I was proud to cosponsor the American Space Commerce Act and I am also fighting to pass the Licensing Aerospace Units to New Commercial Heights (LAUNCH) Act. These bills cut red tape and enhance our nation’s self-reliance in the space industry by prioritizing U.S. businesses. What these bills mean for Florida families is more jobs, and more American-made, U.S. dominance in the space industry which protects our national security and the thousands of aerospace jobs in Florida that keep our space program and commercial space industry innovating for the future.

America’s adversaries, like communist China and Russia, are actively working to outpace the United States and claim ownership of space. Every day our nation is competing against these adversaries in the space-launch industry, and we must put American interests and national security first.

Communist China believes that its time for space superiority has come. If China gets its way, Russia will benefit as well. In recent years, China’s growing space industry and investments have made clear that the U.S. cannot simply compete, but must remain superior in space to preserve order and protect our national security. The race for rare minerals is already underway in space as China is currently exploring the dark side of the moon.

Allowing China to become the leader in space jeopardizes U.S. satellite communications that control our military and civilian activities on Earth. This touches everything from special forces operations that prevent attacks on our homeland to the daily use of your cell phone, the ability to use a credit card at the grocery store and having a reliable internet connection. Nearly everything we do in our businesses and personal lives, as well as a huge part of our government’s operations, hinge on the stability of both federal and commercial systems that rely on American leadership in space.

America is the world leader in developing a commercial space industry because we have a robust network of partners from the private sector, nonprofits, and government actors. This partnership is strong and enduring, but we can’t let our foot off the gas.

Florida’s Space Coast is the hub for this innovation and we must continue this work with allies and partners. That requires strong federal support of NASA’s programs so that we are fully enabling U.S. space leadership and a continued presence through authorizations that keep U.S. engagement on track to succeed through the growth of our commercial space industry. And we must do everything possible to cut red tape that slows progress and disincentives innovation and entry of new players to the space industry.

We are at a critical crossroads in our work to protect U.S. national security and inspire the next generation of leaders. I will continue to fight for Florida and support our space stakeholders from across the wide breadth of partners who make American space leadership a reality to guarantee our freedoms into the future and beyond.

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the former governor of Florida.