Perlmutter’s Space Weather Bill Passes House

Bipartisan PROSWIFT Act to be signed into law

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Washington, D.C.-, September 16, 2020 | comments

Washington D.C. – The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05), today passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation is aimed at expanding the scientific understanding and forecasting of space weather, the naturally occurring variations in the space environment between the sun and the Earth. The Senate passed the negotiated bill, S. 881, on July 27th, and the bill is now on its way to the President’s desk and is expected to be signed into law.  

The PROSWIFT Act would strengthen space weather research by directing federal agencies to develop new tools and technologies to improve forecasting and measure space weather disturbances and their potential impacts on Earth. The bill will require the first ever space weather user survey to understand the needs of users of space weather products and incorporate those needs into an integrated strategy across the federal government to address space weather research and observational needs.  Importantly, this legislation will integrate the expertise of the academic community and the commercial space weather sector in the development and execution of the integrated strategy.

“Space weather can cause great damage to our infrastructure and our economy, and we need to make sure we are all working together to have the best research and prediction capabilities possible,” said Perlmutter. “This legislation will better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to impacted industries and ensure our academic, international, and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting, including with some of the best laboratories and research institutions on space weather right here in Colorado.”

“Marshall Space Flight Center scientists and engineers are at the forefront of space weather research. Under the PROSWIFT Act, their enhanced research will advance our understanding of, and ability to forecast, space weather. The PROSWIFT Act recognizes that space weather not only impacts us on Earth, it can and will impact us in deep space exploration. For example, before we launch NASA’s Artemis manned Moon missions that pave the way to Mars missions, it is best and we should better understand how space weather phenomena impacts life in space, satellites, and other space instrumentation. I thank Congressman Perlmutter for his leadership on this important issue and for working with me in the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to advance this Senate bill which is identical to the House version we have work long and hard on,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05).

“The passage of the PROSWIFT Act is a major milestone in advancing critical space weather prediction and research capabilities. This crucial bill will further promote collaboration among government, academia and commercial partners. Further understanding of our sun’s impact both on our ground-based and on our space-based assets is vital to our economic well-being and national security. This important legislation continues to demonstrate U.S. leadership in the area of space weather and addresses both the mitigation and prediction of dangerous solar events,” said Dr. Dan Baker, Distinguished Professor of Planetary & Space Physics and Director, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"At a time when society is more dependent than ever on advanced e-based technologies, this legislation is a critical step toward protecting vulnerable infrastructure from the impacts of space weather. It lays out a clear road map for the integration of existing national efforts, bringing together expertise in government, the private sector, and academia to better understand and predict solar storms and strengthen the U.S. economy and national security,” said Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

The legislation also outlines clear roles and responsibilities for the federal agencies which study and predict space weather, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Department of Defense (DOD).  Additionally, the legislation enhances the relationships between federal agencies, academic researchers and the commercial space weather industry.

Space weather has the potential to impact our infrastructure and could significantly disrupt the economy. Lloyds of London estimates a worst-case scenario space weather event could cost up to $2.6 trillion and impact as many as 40 million people by causing outages at electric utilities, disrupting GPS and communication networks and forcing airlines to reroute air traffic.

Perlmutter first introduced the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act in 2017 and introduced the renamed legislation again in November 2019 with Rep. Mo Brooks. It passed the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in January 2020.  The Senate companion has been led by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

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