from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 81
August 19, 2008

Secrecy News Blog:

Support Secrecy News:


A newly disclosed National Security Presidential Directive on space exploration illustrates the broad topical scope of such directives, as well as their practical limitations.

The Bush Administration directive, issued in 2004, ambitiously called for "a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond" and even a "human presence across the solar system."

The document has not been formally released to the public, and multiple requests for its disclosure have been rebuffed by the National Security Council. It was obtained and released by, a website that publishes confidential documents.

See "U.S. Space Exploration Policy," National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 31, January 14, 2004:

The National Security Presidential Directive largely replicates the contents of the Bush Administration's Vision for Space Exploration, which was announced on the same day the Directive was signed. But it has some remarkable features of its own.

For one thing, it has nothing at all to do with national security as the term is commonly understood. Although space exploration was also addressed in national security directives in previous administrations, such as the Clinton Administration's PDD-49, in such cases it was considered along with intelligence and national security space. NSPD-31 by contrast is purely a statement of science and technology policy with no national security component. This raises the possibility that other Bush Directives, yet undisclosed, also address topics outside of the usual national security framework.

Aside from that, the Bush Directive serves as a reminder that just because a President orders an agency to perform a certain action, that doesn't guarantee compliance. Thus, in 2004 the President directed NASA to undertake a series of robotic missions to the Moon "starting no later than 2008." But that is not going to happen. Instead, NASA may launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter no earlier than February 2009.

Some other Bush Administration National Security Presidential Directives are available here:


Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests," August 13, 2008:

"Stability in Russia's Chechnya and Other Regions of the North Caucasus: Recent Developments," August 12, 2008:

"Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests," updated July 28, 2008:

"Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court," updated July 29, 2008:

"Journalists' Privilege: Overview of the Law and Legislation in the 109th and 110th Congresses," updated July 29, 2008:

"U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy," updated August 6, 2008:

"National Security Strategy: Legislative Mandates, Execution to Date, and Considerations for Congress," updated July 28, 2008:

"Nanotechnology and Environmental, Health, and Safety: Issues for Consideration," August 6, 2008:

"Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer," August 12, 2008:


A new documentary collection provides a glimpse of the Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, which is an operational hub for intelligence support to the U.S. military.

"The Aerospace Data Facility is a DoD information processing, analysis, relay, and test facility supporting the U.S. Government and its allies," according to one official document.

Among other things, the ADF represents "the major U.S.-based technical downlink for intelligence satellites operated by the military, the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office."

See "Aerospace Data Facility / Denver Security Operations Center, Buckley AFB, Colorado," compiled by Allen Thomson, August 2008:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here: