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Weaponization of space

 
  

Project: US Military

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November 1957

       Thomas D. White, Air Force chief of staff, tells the National Press Club, “Whoever has the capability to control space will likewise possess the capability to exert control of the surface of earth.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
People and organizations involved: Thomas D. White
          

February 1997

       US Space Command publishes its brochure, Vision for 2020, in which it summarizes its ambitions for weaponizing space. The report states that US Space Command views the militarization and weaponization of space as a means “to protect military and commercial national interests and investment....” Its back cover features a picture of a satellite striking a target in Iraq with a laser. [American Foreign Services Association, 4/2001 Sources: Vision for 2020]
          

April 1998

       US Space Command issues its Long Range Plan, arguing that the US must maintain its superiority in space and prevent it from becoming a level playing field where “national military forces, paramilitary units, terrorists, and any other potential adversaries” might share the “high ground” with the US. If adversaries establish a presence in space, it would be “devastating to the United States,” the report says. Chapter 2 of the report summarizes the Space Program's vision for 2020. It emphasizes the need to (1) “ensure un-interrupted access to space for US forces and our allies, freedom of operations within the space medium and an ability to deny others the use of space;” (2) achieve “global surveillance of the Earth (see anything, anytime), worldwide missile defense, and the potential ability to apply force from space;” (3) seamlessly join “space-derived information and space forces with information and forces from the land, sea, and air;” and (4) “augment the military's space capabilities by leveraging civil, commercial, and international space systems.” [American Foreign Services Association, 4/2001 Sources: US Space Program Long Range Plan, 4/1998]
          

August 1999

       In a report to Congress, the Department of Defense explains the importance of applying the principles of “Network Centric Warfare” (NCW) theory to US military strategy. Its premise is that the capability to share large amounts of data in real-time across all levels of the military will revolutionize warfare and give those who possess it an enormous advantage over their adversaries. NCW, the report explains, “represents a powerful set of warfighting concepts and associated military capabilities that allow warfighters to take full advantage of all available information and bring all available assets to bear in a rapid and flexible manner.” The Global Information Grid (GIG), the US military's so-called “war net,” will make it possible for the US to put NCW concepts into practice. The application of NCW concepts will allow soldiers to “achieve situational dominance and dramatically increase survivability, lethality, speed, timeliness, and responsiveness,” the report says. The report says that the effort to develop such a system “will span a quarter-century or more.” [The New York Times, 11/13/2004; DNE Technologies, Inc., 2003 Sources: Executive Summary, Network Centric Warfare, Department of Defense Report to Congress. 8/1999]
          

August 24, 1999

       The Space and Missile Systems Center announces that Lockheed Martin and Hughes Space & Communications Company have each been awarded a contract in connection with the development of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program. The two contracts are worth a total of $22 million. [United States Air force, 8/24/1999] According to a 2004 description of the program, Advanced Extremely High Frequency system is “a joint service satellite communications system that provides near-worldwide, secure, survivable, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea, and air assets.” The system will consist of three satellites, costing approximately $477 million each, that will be capable of “servicing up to 4,000 networks and 6,000 terminals” 24 hours a day. The first satellite is set to be launched in 2007. [United States Air force, 4/2004] The military will soon develop another system, Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT), which promises to be much faster. AEHF will serve to provide a “smooth transition” from the military's current system to TSAT. [Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]
          

2000

       General Richard B. Myers, chief of Space Command, states: “The American military is built to dominate all phases and mediums of combat. We must acknowledge that our way of war requires superiority in all mediums of conflict, including space. Thus, we must plan for, and execute to win, space superiority.” [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1/2001; American Foreign Services Association, 4/2001; Yes Magazine, Summer 2001]
People and organizations involved: Richard B. Myers
          

September 14, 2000

       In Geneva, at the Conference on Disarmament, US Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. says that US interest in weaponizing space will not spark an arms race and therefore efforts to establish the proposed Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty would be “unwise,” “unrealistic,” and a waste of time. “The United States agrees that it is appropriate to keep this topic [PAROS] under review,” he says. “On the other hand, we have repeatedly pointed out that there is no arms race in outer space—nor any prospect of an arms race in outer space, for as far down the road as anyone can see.” The US and Israel are the only countries that oppose efforts to outlaw the weaponization of space. Members of the conference express concern that US intentions in space reflect its desire to achieve world hegemony. Grey adamantly denies that the US is motivated by such goals. “We reject allegations that actions or plans of the United States attest to a desire for hegemony, or any intent to carry out nuclear blackmail, or any supposed quest for absolute freedom to use force or threaten to use force in international relations.” He further asserts that this view has “no basis in reality,” because a limited National Missile Defense (NMD) would does “not give anyone ‘hegemony.’” He claims also that hegemony “is unattainable in any case” since the world is so diverse and complex. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1/2001; US Department of State, 9/15/2000]
People and organizations involved: Robert T. Grey
          

Early 2001

       A Group of Air Force officers gather at Schriever Air Force Base for five days to conduct war games. The games are centered on a scenario where the US is at war with a country resembling China and the battlefield is in space. Describing the games, MSNBC reports: “[T]he United States and its adversary deployed microsatellites—small, highly maneuverable spacecraft that shadowed the other side's satellites, then neutralized them by either blocking their view, jamming their signals or melting their circuitry with lasers. Also prowling the extraterrestrial battlefield were infrared early-warning satellites and space-based radar, offering tempting targets to ground stations and aircraft that harassed them with lasers and jamming signals.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
          

January 11, 2001

       The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, issues its report to Congress warning that the US military's satellites are vulnerable to attack. The military has some 600 satellites that it depends on for photo reconnaissance, targeting, communications, weather forecasting, early warning and intelligence gathering. An attack on these satellites, or on those belonging to US businesses, would be disastrous for the US economy and military, the report says. The report argues that the US must establish a military presence in space to protect its assets from a “Space Pearl Harbor” and asserts that warfare in space is a “virtual certainty.” To counter this vulnerability, the commission recommends that the US develop “superior space capabilities,” including the ability to “negate the hostile use of space against US interests.” It must project power “in, from and through space,” the report says. The president should “have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attacks on US interests.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2001; Agence France Presse, 1/29/2004; Toronto Globe and Mail, 5/9/2001; American Foreign Services Association, 4/2001 Sources: Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

April 2001

       MSNBC interviews Paul Stares, an expert on space at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, for an article it is preparing on US plans to weaponize space. Stares is very critical of these plans, arguing that it will spark a new arms race and ultimately increase the vulnerability of US military and commercial assets in space. “It is currently not in the US interest to develop an anti-satellite system,” he says.“We have more to lose than gain from developing such a system. So you really have to wonder at the end of the day whether this is a path we really want to encourage others to go down.” Other experts interviewed by MSNBC have similar opinions. Michael Krepon, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, also says that by weaponizing space, it would encourage others to do the same. [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
          

April 2001

       Lt. Col. Donald Miles, spokesman for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, tells MSNBC.com: “Space is the ultimate high ground. The high ground has always provided an advantage, whether it's a hill, a balloon, an observation aircraft or air superiority. You take that to the next level, and we're talking about space superiority.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
People and organizations involved: Donald Miles
          

August 24, 2001

       President George W. Bush appoints Gen. Richard Myers, an expert in hi-tech computer and space warfare, as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Observers say that Bush's nomination of Myers, a former head of the US Space Command, reflects the Bush administration intent to develop a missile defense system and weaponize space. [US Department of State, 8/24/2001; PBS, 8/24/2001; Reuters, 8/30/2001]
People and organizations involved: Richard B. Myers, George W. Bush
          

August 30, 2001

       The United Nations urges the US not to weaponize space. UN Undersecretary General for disarmament affairs Jayantha Dhanapala tells Reuters in an interview that if the US follows through with its stated intentions of dominating space, it would likely lead to a renewed arms race. “It's going to certainly according to the stated intentions of some countries lead to the production of more missiles,” Dhanapala says. “My discussions with the Chinese, discussions I've had in Beijing and elsewhere, indicated this.” [Reuters, 8/30/2001]
People and organizations involved: Jayantha Dhanapala
          

September 30, 2001

       The Defense Department completes its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The 71-page report, mostly written before the September 11 attacks, attempts to layout a strategy for transforming the military from a cold war era model to one that can respond quickly and efficiently to a variety of symmetrical and asymmetrical threats from both state and non-state adversaries. According to the document, the US military must maintain its status as the most powerful military in the world in order to ensure global stability. “America's political, diplomatic, and economic leadership contributes directly to global peace, freedom, and prosperity,” it states, asserting that “US military strength is essential to achieving these goals.” As part of the transformation process, the military must focus “more on how an adversary might fight rather than specifically whom the adversary might be or where a war might occur.” The military should drop its focus, the report says, on being able to win simultaneous wars in two separate theatres, in favor of a strategy that allows the US to decisively win one major war—in which it might have to topple a government and occupy the country—while retaining the capability to defend the US against multiple, overlapping threats in other regions. The report puts special emphasis on homeland security and the need to adopt “transformational” technologies in information warfare and intelligence. It also speaks of the need to further militarize space in order to “ensure the freedom of action in space for the United States and its allies and ... [the capability] to deny such freedom of action to adversaries.” [Baltimore Sun, 10/2/2001; The Washington Post, 10/5/2001; Space [.com], 10/8/2001 Sources: Quadrennial Defense Review Report, 9/31/2001]
          

(May 2002)

       The Rand Institute publishes a report reviewing the potential to weaponize space. The authors identify four main classes of space weapons that could be developed in the future. The study does not argue in favor of or against the development of these weapons, nor does it address any other issues related to US space policy. Directed-energy weapons, one type of weapon profiled in the report, could destroy targets in space or on the ground. An example of this type of weapon would be a laser. A major hindrance to the development direct-energy weapons is that they would require millions of watts of power. Kinetic-energy weapons could be used against missile targets in space or high up in the Earth's atmosphere. Its destructive force would come solely from the combination of mass and velocity. Space-based kinetic energy weapons would be launched from space against targets the Earth's surface, such as large ships, tall buildings, and fuel tanks. The last type of weapons reviewed in the study is space-based conventional weapons that would also be used to attack land targets. The weapons could use radio-frequency or high-power-microwave munitions to destroy their targets. [Space [.com], 5/15/2002 Sources: Space Weapons Earth Wars, 9/31/2002]
          

January 22, 2003

       Arthur Cebrowski, Director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, gives a speech to the Network Centric Warfare 2003 conference. He talks about the US military's efforts to transform itself from a military focused on state vs. state wars to one that can deal with the new realities of the 21st century where power exists at the “larger system level” and violence has moved “downwards to the individual level.” Central to the process of transformation, Cebrowski explains, is the need to move from a static platform-based hierarchical structure into a dynamic network-based peer-to-peer structure. This approach, known as “Network Centric Warfare,” amounts to an entirely “new theory of warfare,” he says. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004 Sources: Speech by Arthur Cebrowski to the Network Centric Warfare 2003 conference. 1/22/2003]
People and organizations involved: Art Cebrowski
          

January 29, 2004

       In Stockholm, during the first meeting of a new Swedish-funded international commission on weapons of mass destruction, Therese Delpech, the director for strategic affairs at the Atomic Energy Commission in Paris, tells the Agence-France Presse that the 21st century will see an arms race in space and the further development of biological weapons. “Up until now, space has been militarized in the sense that military operations have made a lot of use of satellites ... either for communications, for navigation, for eavesdropping or for surveillance,” she says. “What is completely new is ... the weaponization of space, which is much more serious, and concerns the possibility in the (near) future of having weapons in space, or developing weapons that can destroy satellites in space. This would add another dimension to warfare. I truly believe that the 20th century was the age of physics, while the 21st century will be the age of information technology and life sciences. And that holds the potential for horrifying military applications. There are much greater possibilities of dissimulating biological activities than nuclear activities. That's a real problem. ... The military applications are absolutely devastating.” [Agence France Presse, 1/29/2004]
          

February 17, 2004

       The US Air Force releases its 2003 Transformation Flight Plan in which it describes an array of new weapons, many offensive, that it intends to develop over the next decade. The planned arsenal would include air-launched missiles designed to destroy low orbiting satellites, ground- and space- based lasers for attacking missiles and satellites, and “hypervelocity rod bundles” (also known as “Rods from God”) that would be launched from space at targets on the ground. [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/15/2004; Center for Defense Information, 2/19/2004; Popular Mechanics, 6/2004; Wired News, 2/20/2004 Sources: US Air Force Transformation Flight Plan]
          

February 25, 2004

       Undersecretary of the Air Force Peter Teets reports to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on the Air Force Space Program, summarizing the program's top five priorities for the year. [Government Executive, 7/1/2004 Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]
Achieving mission success in operations and acquisition - Teets emphasizes the importance that the space program's satellites have played in achieving “success” with regard to intelligence, surveillance and missile guidance in the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres. He stresses that the program will continue to need ample funds so it can continue its work unimpeded. “To maintain our asymmetric advantages in space, we must continue to provide our warfighters with the most capable and reliable systems possible,” he says. “Mission Success should be the primary driver of a program, not cost and schedule.” [Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]

Developing and maintaining a team of space professionals - Teets tells the committee that the Defense Department needs to maintain a highly skilled cadre of “space professionals” who “must be able to develop new technologies, systems, training methods, concepts of operations and organizations that will continue to sustain the US as a world leader in space.” [Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]

Integrating space capabilities for national intelligence and warfighting - The undersecretary explains the importance of integrating the military's new and existing capabilities into a seamless and interconnected system. This will greatly enhance the military's surveillance, intelligence collection, and warfighting capabilities, he says. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004; Government Executive, 7/1/2004 Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]

Produce innovative solutions for the most challenging national security problems - Teets explains what new technologies the space program is developing and applying in order to achieve “transparency.” “[W]e want the ability to see everything and know everything, while simultaneously denying our adversaries both the ability to do the same, and the knowledge that such capabilities are being used against them.” He surveys a number of projects that are being developed by the space program. GPS III satellites, he says, will have “high-powered, anti-jam military-code, along with other accuracy, reliability, and data integrity improvements.” The Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) System, to be implemented in 2012, will enable high speed transmission of data over the Pentagon's Global Information Grid (GIG).“Our goal is to create an ‘internet in the sky’—making it possible for US Marines in a Humvee, in a faraway land, in the middle of a rainstorm, to open up their laptops, request imagery, and get it downloaded within seconds. TSAT is an enabler of horizontal integration—allowing our fighting forces to have near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at their fingertips. TSAT will provide an unprecedented connectivity with Internet-like capability that extends the Global Information Grid to deployed and mobile users worldwide, and will deliver an order of magnitude increase in capacity.” Space Based Radar (SBR) will enhance target tracking capability and provide “day/night, all weather, worldwide, multi-theater surveillance on-demand.” [The New York Times, 11/13/2004; Government Executive, 7/1/2004 Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]

Ensuring freedom of action in space - Teets describes the space program's efforts to “ensure [that] the United States, its allies, and coalition partners will be able to make use of space, while denying that use of space to adversaries.” These efforts, he says, fall into three categories: Space Situational Awareness (SSA), Defensive Counter Space (DCS), and Offensive Counter Space (OCS). SSA includes “traditional space surveillance, detailed reconnaissance of specific space assets, collection and processing of space intelligence data, and analysis of the space environment.” The purpose of DCS is to provide the US with the “capability to identify and locate attacks on US space systems.” Finally, OCS “is intended to develop systems to deny adversary use of space and assure US space superiority.” [The New York Times, 11/13/2004; Government Executive, 7/1/2004 Sources: Congressional Hearing Testimony for the Undersecretary of the Air Force. 2/25/2004]

People and organizations involved: Peter Teets
          

April 7, 2004

       A little more than a year after the creation of his office, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven A. Cambone appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide a description of his office's role and mission and how the military's intelligence capabilities will be transformed from a cold war era model to one that can respond quickly to the wide variety of non-state asymmetrical threats to US interests that it expects to encounter in the 21st century. He says the military needs to acquire the capability to competently detect threats; develop a “network-centric environment” in which data can be transferred at very high speeds to all levels of the military; achieve maximum interoperability between its network systems through the adoption of common standards (see August 1999); improve the acquisition and sharing of human intelligence; gain the ability to quickly relay actionable intelligence to soldiers in the field; and achieve the capability of persistent surveillance (“the ability to monitor, track, characterize, report and update at short intervals on specific activities at a fixed location, moving objects such as trains, convoys or military movements, as well as changes occurring to the surface of the earth”). He says that the Pentagon's Space Based Radar (SBR) “in combination with other complementary space and airborne systems” could bring the US “much closer to realizing persistent surveillance.” The military wants to know “something of intelligence value about everything of interest to us, all the time,” he says. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004 Sources: Statement of Dr. Stephen A. Cambone before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 4/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Cambone
          

(June 2004)

       In an interview with Government Executive magazine, Brig. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, says the military wants to make its communication system fully integrated and mobile. “The Army's vision is one seamless battlefield, which is linked without the bounds of time or space, to knowledge centers, and deployment bases throughout the world. [We seek] capability to command on the move, so you're not stopping and having to set up a satellite receiver in order to be successful, and [to] fight at a tempo that now today we can only imagine.” [Government Executive, 7/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Robert Lennox
          

July 2004

       The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports to Congress on the challenges facing the development of the Global Information Grid (GIG). GIG, sometimes referred to as the “war net,” is the military's “Internet in the sky” (see February 25, 2004) that will give soldiers in the field unprecedented access to data, such as images, maps, and other types of actionable intelligence, via a very high-speed satellite link in real-time. In addition to a variety of management and operational challenges, GAO reports that most of the technologies needed to develop GIG are immature and that the Defense Department “is at risk of not delivering required capabilities within budgeted resources.” For example, “two key GIG related programs—JTRS and TSAT—are facing schedule and performance risks, ... largely rooted in attempts to move these programs into product development without sufficient knowledge that their technologies can work as intended.” Additionally, reports GAO, the Pentagon's Future Combat Systems program “is at significant risk, in part because more than 75 percent of its critical technologies were immature at the start and many will not be sufficiently mature until the production decision.” [The New York Times, 11/13/2004 Sources: The Global Information Grid and Challenges Facing Its Implementation, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: General Accounting Office (GAO)
          

September 28, 2004

       A group of 28 US companies, including Boeing; Cisco Systems; Factiva, a joint venture of Dow Jones and Reuters; General Dynamics; Hewlett-Packard; Honeywell; I.B.M.; Lockheed Martin; Microsoft; Northrop Grumman; Oracle; Raytheon; and Sun Microsystems announce the formation of the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC). [Business Wire, 9/28/2004; NCOIC website] The consortium's vision is: “Industry working together with our customers to provide a Network Centric environment where all classes of information systems interoperate by integrating existing and emerging open standards into a common evolving global framework that employs a common set of principles and processes.” [NCOIC website] The NCOIC's work will help the military achieve its goal (see August 1999) (see April 7, 2004) to create a “network-centric environment” comprised of integrated network systems that will allow data to be transferred at very high speeds to all levels of the military. [NCOIC website]
          

(Early October 2004)

       The first connections for the Global Information Grid (GIG) are laid. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004]
          

November 13, 2004

       The New York Times reports on the Pentagon's efforts to develop its own internet, or “war net”, which the Pentagon calls the Global Information Grid (GIG). The GIG would, among other things, allow soldiers to download high-resolution imagery of the places where they are fighting. The “essence of net-centric warfare is [the]... ability to deploy a war-fighting force anywhere, anytime,” says John Garing, strategic planning director at the Defense Information Security Agency, who is quoted in the article. The newspaper reports that “[a]dvocates say networked computers will be the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal” and that “fusing weapons, secret intelligence and soldiers in a global network ... will .... change the military in the way the Internet has changed business and culture.” The article quotes several officials and people in private industry who are involved in GIG. For example, Robert J. Stevens, chief executive of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, says that the DoD's objective is to provide troops in the field with a “a picture of the battle space, a God's-eye view” which he says will give the military “real power.” Linton Wells II, director of the Office of Networks and Information Integration, says that net-centric principles (see August 1999) are becoming “the center of gravity” for war planners and that the “tenets are broadly accepted throughout the Defense Department.” The article also reports that skeptics of the program doubt that the Pentagon will succeed in its project because it will require excessive amounts of bandwidth—enough to download “three feature-length movies a second.” The Times reports that the program has a projected cost of $120 billion—roughly 5 times the total cost, in today's dollars, of the Manhattan project to build the atomic bomb. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: John Garing, Robert J. Stevens, Linton Wells II
          


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