Emerging Chinese defense technologies could enable the nation to block communications or destroy orbiting satellites, the U.S. Defense Department said on Friday as it rolled out a decade-long space security plan (see GSN, Feb. 3).
"The investment China is putting into counterspace capabilities is a matter of concern to us," Agence France-Presse quoted Deputy Defense Secretary Gregory Schulte as saying.
The new National Security Space Strategy is aimed at making the United States "more resilient" and capable of protecting its holdings in an increasingly trafficked and at times antagonistic setting, Schulte said.
"Space is no longer the preserve of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, at the time in which we could operate with impunity," he said.
"There are more competitors, more countries that are launching satellites ... and we increasingly have to worry about countries developing counterspace capabilities that can be used against the peaceful use of space," Schulte said. "China is at the forefront of the development of those capabilities."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has responded to U.S. worries over China's space program by working to incorporate space issues in talks with Beijing, he said. China eliminated one of its orbiting satellites in January 2007, raising international concerns about the nation's military reach in space (see GSN, Jan. 19, 2007).
Iran and Ethiopia have also moved to develop their clout in space, Schulte added. "They've jammed commercial satellites ... If Ethiopia can jam a commercial satellite, you have to worry about what others can do against our military satellites," the official said.
"Fifteen years ago we didn't have to worry about that but now we have to think differently, to think about how we can continue to conduct the critical functions that are performed from space, or, if they're degraded, we have to have alternative solutions," he said.
Steps for securing U.S. space holdings might include the formation of mutual defense agreements with other countries, according to the new space strategy. In addition, Washington "retains the option to respond in self-defense to attacks in space, and the response may not be in space, either," the official said (Karin Zeitvogel, Agence France-Presse/Google News, Feb. 6).
The new document draws from the U.S. National Security Strategy and National Space Policy, and its completion marked the final step in a Space Posture Review carried out in consultation with partner nations as well as other federal entities, according to a Pentagon press release.
“The strategy provides a basis to update defense plans and programs and make the hard choices that will be required to implement the strategy,” Gates said in the statement. “We look forward to working closely with Congress, industry, and allies to implement this new strategy for space.”
In putting the strategy into effect, the Pentagon indicated it would bolster "norms of behavior" in space, pursue relevant military activities with other nations, augment resiliency and revamp procedures for obtaining related materials and components.
The Obama administration's fiscal 2012 defense funding request would take into account the first activities for putting the strategy into effect, and the Defense Department would prepare over the next year to make additional updates in future budget cycles, the statement says (U.S. Defense Department release, Feb. 4).