Obama Administration to Release New Space Security Strategy

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Obama Administration to Release New Space Security Strategy

WASHINGTON - The
Obama administration is expected to release its National Security Space
Strategy sometime in the next few weeks. The document will spell out how the
Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will
carry out the president’s National Space Policy, which the administration issued
last June.

Space
is vital to U.S.
national interests. For example, Americans depend on satellites for a broad
range of critical civil and military services. The U.S. government, therefore, has a
keen interest in maintaining satellite safety and security, protecting the
space environment, and ensuring that insecurity in space does not threaten
security on the ground.

Experts
at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) expect the space strategy document
to consider security primarily from a military perspective. It is unlikely that
it will address broader ways to approach space security and sustainability
issues.

“While the strategy certainly will emphasize steps to
strengthen the security and stability of space and foster international
cooperation,” said Laura Grego, a senior scientist with UCS’s Global Security
Program, “it also will likely miss some important opportunities.”

For
example, the document is unlikely to recommend that the United States take the lead on space
diplomacy, she said. Diplomatic engagement could help relieve suspicions among countries,
reduce incentives for building anti-satellite systems and other space weapons by
establishing negotiated limits, and avert space disputes.

The strategy
document is likely to encourage bilateral discussions and confidence-building
and transparency measures, what Grego called “a good start,” but strong U.S. leadership
could reap even greater rewards, she said. For example, a more robust
diplomatic initiative that includes the major spacefaring countries would have
the potential to increase cooperation with countries that are not traditional U.S. military
allies, and spur other countries to develop realistic proposals that could
ensure a safe and sustainable future in space.

The
new National Security Space Strategy, like the National Space Policy, will not
emphasize the role that arms control agreements could play as part of a larger
scheme for keeping space secure. Well-crafted arms control proposals could lower
the risk of arms races or conflicts in space or on the ground, Grego said, and
protect the space environment from the harmful debris caused when countries deliberately
destroy satellites.

“Agreed-upon limits on weapons in space and interfering with
satellites could strengthen stability and security in space and on the ground,
and such limits should be part of the U.S. national security strategy,”
Grego said. “Unfortunately, the National Space Policy had little to say about
this issue, and it is unlikely that the new space strategy will urge the United States
to take the lead on it.”

UCS recently released a report that offers a broader
perspective on space security than what the organization expects to see in the
National Security Space Strategy. The report, “Securing
the Skies,”
identifies 10 near-term, practical steps the Obama
administration could take to safeguard U.S. satellites and protect the space.

The UCS report recommended that the Obama administration:

  • provide detailed guidance for U.S. policymakers that emphasizes
    international cooperation; reaffirm that all countries have equal rights to the
    peaceful use of space; and promote a balanced view of commercial, civil and
    military uses of space.
  • declare that the United States will not
    intentionally damage or disable satellites operating in accordance with the
    Outer Space Treaty, and pledge that it will not be the first country to station
    dedicated weapons in space. The administration should press other space powers
    to make the same pledge.
  • preserve valuable satellite capabilities -- and
    make them less tempting targets -- by making satellites more resistant to
    interference and developing ways to quickly replace them or compensate with
    other measures if they are disabled.
  • assemble a negotiating team with the appropriate
    expertise, work jointly with other countries to identify the most productive
    venue and agenda for negotiations, and engage in international discussions on
    space.
  • develop and implement transparency measures to
    improve safety and predictability in space, improve U.S. space surveillance
    capabilities, and develop options for verifying international compliance with
    potential space agreements.

“Because
of the nature of space, its security and sustainability cannot be guaranteed
unilaterally,” said Grego. “Given the United
States’ superiority in space and its recent opposition to
space negotiations, it will take vigorous U.S. leadership to make progress. While
the Obama administration has been making some of the right moves, we’re still
looking for it to play a more active role.”

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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