Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Space Weapons Harm Nonproliferation, Analyst Says
WASHINGTON — A U.S. push for military dominance in space could backfire by damaging international efforts to curb WMD proliferation, a top analyst said here yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 19, 2004).
Stimson Center President Emeritus Michael Krepon said the U.S. Defense Department policy of seeking “full spectrum dominance” in space and elsewhere works against unity among countries vital to international nonproliferation work.
“If we’re disunited, it’s very hard to stop dangerous proliferation programs,” the former U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency official said at a Council for a Livable World meeting on space weapons.
The “next most consequential effects on international security” after those that would be caused by new nuclear weapon testing, Krepon said, would come from testing of space weapons.
Krepon and Center for Defense Information Vice President Theresa Hitchens, both of whom attended a meeting organized by China and Russia on space weapons last week in Geneva, argued yesterday that seeking to protect satellites with space-based weapons would be counterproductive.
The two analysts said antisatellite weapons would produce orbiting debris that would endanger all satellites, disproportionately harming the United States, which has more satellites in space than any other country. They added that U.S. work on space weapons, which they said may be taking place under ambiguous line items in the federal budget, could also provoke other countries to follow suit. That would negate any initial advantage from the weapons, Krepon and Hitchens said.
“If we try to protect the satellites with weapons, we’re going to be worse off,” said Krepon, who has been advocating an international treaty or code of conduct governing countries’ military activities in space.
There are presently no devices specifically designed and tested for space warfare, according to Krepon, who advocated a “hedging strategy” of conducting space weapons work behind closed doors without flight-testing or deployment.
Hitchens estimated President George W. Bush’s fiscal 2006 budget request contains more than $300 million for space weapons work. However, it is “very unclear” what line items refer to such work, which takes place throughout the Defense Department, she said.
The Bush administration “is funding programs that will create ‘facts in orbit.’ These facts — the development and testing of space weapons and the deployment of dual-use systems — will drive U.S. policy toward space weapons without a debate in either Congress or the public,” Hitchens wrote last month in an analysis.
“We dominate space already,” she said yesterday. “We have the most to lose.”
Kepler Research space programs analyst Lawrence Cooper, who published a commentary this month on the subject in Defense News, said in an interview today that there is a need for a “high-level discussion, not only in Congress but also in international fora, regarding space weapons.” He said, though, that some type of space defense is necessary.
“Dialogue is important, but discounting space weapons entirely, I think, borders on irresponsible or glossing over potential threat,” said Cooper, who is working on a doctoral dissertation on space weapons.
The Defense Department is reportedly seeking to mitigate the problem of debris, said Cooper, by looking into weapons that would jam or disable satellites without physically destroying them.
“The space weapons don’t have to involve destruction,” he said.
Cooper added that satellites are “not necessarily defensible from space” but that “space weapons are not just weapons in space” but can include ground-based technology.
He termed an international code of conduct “a good start” on the problem. “Research and development is prudent; deploying it is debatable, and that’s where a national and international debate needs to be done,” he said.
Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region: Report Prepared for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliamentarians, and Publics
April 3, 2013
This report is the result of a Track II dialogue including distinguished former senior political leaders, senior military officers, defence officials, and security experts from Europe, Russia, and the United States.
April 2, 2013
An op-ed in The International Herald Tribune urging today's leaders to move decisively and permanently toward a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.