Experts Work to Keep Weapons Out of Space – Congressional Leaders Join Dialogue in Philadelphia

 GSI Report
December 4, 2001

PHILADELPHIA: On the eve of the Bush Administration’s December 3 test of an anti-ballistic missile interceptor, a group of experts gathered in Philadelphia’s Friends Conference Center for a conference addressing the implications of missile defense on the development and deployment of offensive weapons in space.

The aim of the conference, entitled “The Future of Space: Weaponization or Cooperation,” was to consider alternative scenarios for international space policy. While there are currently no weapons in space, satellites play an increasingly important role in managing and coordinating terrestrial military forces, and elements of the US military have become increasingly vocal in advocating the integration of space weaponry into the US military. General Richard Meyers, recently appointed to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was formerly the head of the US Space Command, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, implementing policies he helped to draft as head of the Space Commission, has elevated the importance of US military space activities, and has ordered that responsibility for military satellites and other military space programs be consolidated under the command of a four-star Air Force general.The final statement of the conference [full text below] called for “the formation of an international coalition to develop an international cooperative regime to protect outer space from unconstrained weaponization.” The aim of this regime would be to create “a new multilateral treaty or amendments to the existing [1967] Outer Space Treaty” as well as “the introduction and passage of domestic legislation in key countries to prevent testing and deployment of space-based weapons.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, conference Co-Chair Jonathan Granoff (President of the Global Security Institute) expressed grave concern regarding the US push for space weaponization under the cover of national missile defense. “Testing and anticipated deployment of space-based weapons such as.kinetic kill vehicles and laser weapons under the missile defense program will begin an arms race in space,” Mr Granoff said. “It is ironic that America, which began as a response to an overreaching empire, should pursue what the U.S. Space Command calls ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’-unilateral dominance and control of space, earth, sea, land and. Do we want to become the cosmic cop?”

Ambassador Jonathan Dean of the Union of Concerned Scientists also stressed that “a paper issued by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization of the Department of Defense on the (FY) 2002 defense budget makes explicit that funds for a space-based kinetic kill vehicle (Brilliant Pebbles) as well as for a space-based laser have already been included in the Aerospace segment of the FY 2001 budget for ballistic missile defense.”

Several conference participants argued that aside from providing a platform for space weaponization, missile defense will have little utility, and will not succeed in protecting the United States.

“It’s difficult to conceive of a country like North Korea sending a missile against the US, even if it could, which it can’t,” Craig Eisendrath, one of the drafters of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, told the AP. “Every missile sent to the United States has a return address on it, and their country would be wiped out, and they know that.”

Furthermore, missile defense and the weaponization of space fails to “square with our recognized need for multilateral cooperation in the campaign to end terrorism,” Mr. Granoff said. “Missile defense as proposed will waste billions of needed dollars on a uncertain system certain to exacerbate tensions in an unstable world. This is why our allies do not support it.”

Canadian Senator Douglas Roche, presenting the keynote address, said that Canadians, among others, “are extremely worried that the present U.S. Administration does not seek cooperation in determining the ‘rules of the road’ for security but is instead determined to go its own way in determining what will constitute peace.”

The conference took place two days before the December 3 test of a missile interceptor, a test which several experts at the conference argued was not meaningful because it basically duplicated a previous test.

“The administration needs to show the country some successes in order to maintain support for the system,” said Michael Levi, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists . Mr. Levi noted that test conditions were unrealistically favorable and the entire system’s technical feasibility is still questionable. A better use of the money, Mr. Levi said, would be supporting diplomatic efforts to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpile.

Additional distinguished conference participants included Congressman Joe Hoeffel of Pennsylvania, Ambassador Jonathan Dean of the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Ambassador Thomas Graham, President of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, and others.

Prior to the conference, Senator Joeseph Biden of Delaware addressed a pre-conference gala dinner gathering of Philadelphia business leaders. He made a strong case that the terrorist attacks of September 11 presents an opportunity for the US and Russia, “like two brothers at their father’s wake” to finally take meaningful steps toward repairing a relationship that has been strained for decades.

A Conference In Philadelphia
December 1, 2001


The future of global peace and security, as well as international commercial interests, would be severely undermined by the unfettered weaponization of outer space. The testing of space-based missile defense components, currently within existing funding allocations, may represent a first step toward breaking the threshold of outer space’s sanctuary from weaponization. We strongly urge the formation of an international coalition to develop an international cooperative regime to protect outer space from unconstrained weaponization. Such a regime should result in a new multilateral treaty or amendments to the existing Outer Space Treaty to accomplish this goal. It should also include the introduction and passage of domestic legislation in key countries to prevent testing and deployment of space-based weapons*. In the short term attention must be paid to maintaining existing restrictions on the use of space and the strong international norm against its weaponization. Future deliberations must be focused on strategic steps to accomplish this goal.

*US examples of this effort include the Space Preservation Act of 2001 and the Outer Space Protection Act of 1989.

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