Space Security: Core Issues and Questions

Event Report by John Koogler, GSI & Sarah Estabrooks, Project Plougshares
United Nations, New York
October 11, 2005

United Nations, New York – On October 11, 2005, The Global Security Institute and the (Space Security Index (SSI)) co-hosted an event at the United Nations, entitled Space Security: Core Issues and Questions. Intended to explore core issues to the ongoing debate, the panel discussion examined both technical and policy relevant issues. The event was co-chaired by Ambassador Thomas Graham on behalf of the SSI, and Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute. Panelists included: Phil Coyle of the Center for Defense Information; former Canadian Ambassador on Disarmament and Chair of the Group of 78, Peggy Mason; Dr. Lucy Stojak of the Institute for Air and Space Law at McGill University; and Mr. Detlev Wolter, Vice-Chairman of the First Committee and Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations.

The event focused on space security concerns, in particular the growing threat of space weaponization. Included in the panel discussion were analyses of the current legal and technical environment pertaining to space weaponization, and the political options for moving away from this dangerous trend. The panel was made up of four experts on different parts of the space security debate: the space legal regime; current US space policy and programs; multilateral approaches to space security; and strategies to engage civil society in making progress on this issue. The panel was designed to engage key diplomats in discussion around current obstacles in the space security debate, all highlighted in Space Security 2004. There were approximately 40 people in attendance at the seminar, including both government officials and civil society representatives.

Dr. Lucy Stojak presented an overview of the legal framework governing activity in outer space. She described the historical evolution of the legal regime from the establishment of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, to the negotiation of the Outer Space Treaty, the ITU, the sub-committee of the Conference on Disarmament on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, and bilateral agreements between Russia and the US with implications for space, namely the principle of non-interference with national technical means of verification. Dr. Stojak identified some of the lacunae in the regime, including the question of jurisdiction as new entities are acting in space; the definition of outer space itself; and the question of space debris, which has a dual nature.

To deal with these gaps, she suggested several steps:

·the definition of outer space could be taken to the First Committee or the CD
·COPUOS should set up a body on PAROS
·The links between the First and Fourth Committees of the UN General Assembly should be strengthened
·Coordination and transfer of knowledge between all of the international organizations and bodies dealing with space debris – including the WTO, WMO and MTCR – should be strengthened.

Phillip Coyle examined the dual-use nature of many space systems, particularly the technologies for ballistic missile defense. He argued that the budgets for both military space and missile defense activities represent the beginning stages of a new arms race in space, and that the international community has reason to be concerned that other states will be driven to respond.

While space has already been ‘militarized’ through the placement of intelligence gathering and military communications satellites, Coyle stated, the placement of offensive military platforms in space represented an easy and logical limit for permissible activity. He questioned the logic of this US drive for space weapons considering the technical difficulty, the immense cost of strike weapons, the lack of a justifiable threat, and particularly, the risk such weapons would pose to their own existing peaceful space presence.

Detlev Wolter outlined a proposal to apply a ‘common security’ mindset to the question of the future security of outer space. He advocated that the international community build on the existing cooperative endeavors in space, and take an approach to space security presupposing that:

·’peaceful uses’ of outer space applies to uses in the common interest of humankind and to mutual benefit;
·space security is not a question of ‘national security’; and
·a multilateral treaty addressing all issues is required.

Mr. Wolter called for a treaty that banned all space weapons including anti-satellite weapons and ballistic missile defense. He proceeded to outline some of the questions that would need to be addressed in negotiating such a multilateral instrument, including:

·definitions of non-dedicated space systems
·what about a case of conflict?
·how to deal with earth-based ASATs
·verifying such a treaty
·the immunity of civilian space assets

A treaty that incorporated these elements and addressed these questions would require an elaborate mechanism of verification and implementation under multilateral control. Negotiations of such an instrument could proceed as an Additional Protocol to the Outer Space Treaty outlining an explicit and comprehensive space weapons ban.

Ambassador Peggy Mason examined the experience of the ballistic missile defense debate in Canada and the factors that led to Canada’s refusing participation in the US program, to suggest a way forward on space security. She reaffirmed that there is a need to ban space weapons, and to that end, a need to overcome the institutional deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Following up, she asked if consensus in the CD is even necessary to begin discussions, and what would occur if negotiations commenced without complete support. The inability of current international regimes to address the threat of space weapons necessitates action in forums like the First Committee and CD.

Ambassador Mason noted that there is an urgent need to fill out an international regime with guidelines for the peaceful uses for space. A process of multilateral discussions or negotiations would build expertise in the international community and help make links between key concepts. Further, it would provide a powerful rallying point for civil society (like the BMD discussions did in Canada) to focus its efforts in influencing national governments. She concluded by questioning whether the First Committee proceedings, possibly some form of ad hoc committee process as was proposed by a group of countries but never tabled as a resolution , could provide a means to overcome the CD blockage.

The question period raised several addition questions and suggestions for moving the space security issue forward in spite of the current state of affairs.

·Ambassador Paul Meyer of Canada asked if the argument that the US has the most to lose in weaponizing space is part of an ongoing debate inside the US establishment, to which the panelists responded that it is not a serious debate but one couched in rhetoric. Ambassador Johannes Landman of the Netherlands asked if galvanizing public opinion internationally would affect the US debate. The panelist responded that the public opinion of American citizens would have an impact on the debate, but the views of the administration would also be important. They recognized that governments cannot be coerced in areas of national security, but resistance by one or a few states should not block all discussion.

·The non-interference with national technical means of verification principle found in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty was raised and the participants asked whether this principle has become customary international law or is applied only within certain treaty contexts. The response stated that this principle is limited to non-appropriation and freedom of use, and covers only states signed on to the specific treaties.

·The importance of no-first-use declarations, as demonstrated by Russia at the CD, was highlighted.

·Another participant compared the space case with the developments in the nuclear field in the 40’s and argued that it is important to establish an international forum to deal with space security if only to hold a place for the issue in the short term, as an arms race is imminent unless the mentality changes.

·Considering Mr. Wolter’s proposal for a treaty, there was a question about how transparency would be applied – to both commercial and government assets and actions? The response looked to the current legal regime and argued that the space registration process needs to be better applied and the licensing system enforced to better apply the law as it exists even in advance of another treaty.


Remarks by Dr. Philip Coyle

International Space Programs and Dual Use Technologies for Space Weapons

Philip E. Coyle
Senior Advisor
Center for Defense Information

October 11, 2005

The United Nations

I want to thank Foreign Affairs Canada, Project Ploughshares, and the Space Security Index for helping to sponsor this event, and Ambassador Thomas Graham for inviting me to speak here today. The Space Security Index team does a great job, balanced and fair, and their annual reports provide a prodigious amount of information about space activities.

From the outset I want to say that our son has been serving in the U.S. military in Iraq, that I support our military, and that I have worked in defense research for most of my professional life, and in the Pentagon for many years also. But the current debate is about weapons in space, even nuclear weapons in space.

Last February, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced that Canada would NOT participate in the U.S. missile defense program. While expressing its continuing commitment to NORAD, the Canadian government said it would not join the Pentagon’s missile defense program.

Why? Why did one of our closest partners, and neighbors, take this strong step?

In part it was because Canadian citizens are justifiably skeptical of U.S. missile defense plans. Canadian citizens question that the United States can develop missile defenses that will be effective against enemy missiles under realistic operational conditions. And Canadians also question the costs, both the money and the consequences.

But that was only part of their concern. Canada also did not want to be part of creating a new arms race in space. They understood correctly that U.S. missile defense is the first wave in which the United States could introduce attack weapons into space, that is, weapons with strike capability – shooters, if you will – and many Canadians did not want to contribute to that.

The Pentagon wants a layered missile defense system, with interceptors launched from land, sea, from aircraft, and from space – all capable of shooting down enemy missiles in all phases of their flight: In the boost-phase ascending, in the mid-course of flight, and in the terminal phase, coming back down. The idea is that if one layer misses, the next layer won’t, and so forth. Pentagon briefings picture giant glass domes covering the United States, and we are to imagine that enemy missiles will bounce off these glass domes like hail off a windshield. And one of those glass domes is to be in space.

Thus, the technologies for defensive systems in space can be dual use technologies for offensive systems in space. Once you’ve got space-based interceptors up there, they can just as well be used for offense as for defense. In fact, offense is actually easier than defense if your targets are the space-based assets of other countries in highly predictable orbits.

In August 1998 when North Korea launched a Taepo-dong-1 missile in what North Korea described as a peaceful attempt to orbit a small satellite in space, Members of Congress here in the United States seized on this as proof that North Korea was developing long-range missiles capable of attacking the United States. Ever since, this test has been used to justify development of U.S., Japanese, and Australian missile defenses.

Taepo-dong technology was viewed by many as dual use. It could be used for peaceful purposes, launching weather and communications satellites into space, or it could be used for ICBM attack.

The point is that the purpose of missile and space technology can be interpreted in different ways. If one wants to assert that a country has aggressive military purposes in mind for its technology – technology that also can have peaceful purposes – one can do that almost without limitation.

With respect to that 1998 North Korean test, some in the United States even argued that this test showed North Korea preparing to place spy satellites or weapons in space.

A satellite with infrared sensors can be used to scan rice fields and plan successful crop growing strategies. Or it can be used to look for military targets. A space-based radar satellite can be used to track the weather, or it can be used to track military troop movements.

The range of space faring efforts by various nations, and the technologies they employ, are well described in the Space Security Index, especially in their latest report. This report provides a baseline, year by year, to gauge the changes in space security and the factors driving those changes.

For example, China, the European Union, India, Israel, Japan, Russia and the U.S. all possess the enabling capabilities of large acceleration thrusters, accurate global positioning, micro-satellite construction, large deployable optics, and precision attitude control. Each of these technologies is as important for peaceful space endeavors as for military space pursuits.

But, China, the European Union, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, the U.S., and the Ukraine all possess land-based anti-satellite capabilities and don’t need space weapons to defend their space assets.

So this debate is not just about missile defenses in space, or the availability of dual-use space technology, it is also about deploying, for their own sake, new strike weapons in space to attack the space assets of other countries. The terms the Pentagon and the U.S. Air Force use for this are space control and counter space – that is, like “Star Wars”, the movie.

Some of you may wish that space was pure and pristine with no military systems poised there for war – like Antarctica. But the militarization of space is already a fact of life. The U.S. military relies on space satellites for military communications, for reconnaissance and sensing, for weather, and for targeting. And the concept of “net centric” warfare means that these capabilities will be advanced and will become more important than ever to American troops and military strategies.

However, the weaponization of space hasn’t happened. There are no strike weapons deployed in space. So deciding not to deploy strike weapons in space is a practical place to draw the line, exactly what Canada did.

In the United Nations, Russia and China have been urging this also for years. But the United States has blocked these efforts.

According to Frank Sietzen, president of the Space Transport Association, who represented President Bush during the campaign in a space weapons debate, President Bush was considering whether or not the US should continue to participate in the 1967 United Nations Treaty on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – the Outer Space Treaty. That treaty bans nuclear weapons from space, stating that space should be maintained for peaceful purposes.

(Click here to read article by Beth Dickey on 10/25/04)

Why is the United States resisting arms control in space? And why would the President consider abandoning an existing space treaty? The United States has much more to lose from war in space than any other country. We depend on space for both military and civil commercial applications. For commerce, for communications, for weather, for banking, for global positioning and mapping, for scores of uses, commercial satellites in space now effect our daily lives.

Not since the development of the atomic bomb has the United States had an equivalent opportunity and incentive to show leadership for restraint in the development of a new class of weapons, namely weapons in space.

The Threat or Lack Thereof
The path to devoting significant U.S. military resources to space control was established in early 2001 by the first Rumsfeld Commission Report with its apocalyptic warnings of a “Space Pearl Harbor.”

Kahlil Gibran said that the fear of need is greater than the need itself, and today, Pentagon planners take this type of hand-waving threat for granted, as though it already exists, and that war in space is just as “inevitable” as war on land, sea, and in the skies.

Here’s what Robert Dickman, Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Military Space said, “If we are attacked in space, and if it turns out that we don’t have space superiority, the American public is going to have every right to be very upset,”

Never mind that no other country is threatening to deploy attack weapons in space. And never mind that missile defense and space weapons don’t work against car bombs, improvised explosive devices, and rocket-propelled grenades, the tragically real threats in the hands of terrorists today.

Nevertheless, the Air Force has requested hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years to develop a new satellite constellation to look for enemy attack satellites in space. Called the Space-Based Surveillance System (SBSS), the constellation is to consist of four to eight satellites to search deep space as well as Low Earth Orbits for enemy attackers.

Where exactly from deep space we expect a threat to develop is not explained, unless Martians would become annoyed with our Rovers crawling across their landscape.

Again to quote the Air Force’s Dickman, “We want to know where everything in space is, where it’s going, what it’s doing, and whether it’s doing anything different from what it was doing before,” “We’ve got to have the surveillance to know if something is coming to attack us, so we can defend. Or if the time comes when we’re going to attack somebody else from space, from the ground or anywhere else, we’ve got to know exactly where they are.”

We don’t own space
We don’t own space. It’s not ours. But when the U.S. military talks about space dominance, space superiority, and space control, as they do regularly, they are behaving as if they think we do own space, and that we don’t need to consult with anyone else about how space should be used.

Emerging Future Threats
There is no threat in space to justify a new arms race in space. And exaggerated future threats are being hyped all out of proportion.

For example, referring to Iraqi attempts to jam U.S. GPS satellites during the early portions of the war in Iraq, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche stated, “The war in space has begun.” (AFRL Technology Horizons, December 2004.)

Or to take a different example, a year ago last July a Commission largely appointed by Secretary Rumsfeld warned of another threat, the threat from high altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP), saying that rogue nations and terrorists could threaten “the continued existence of today’s U.S. civil society”, and “our ability to project military power,” and further puffing up rogue nations and terrorists with the capabilities of giants.

There are no “states of concern” to the United States with both the capability and the need to deploy attack weapons in space. While the Pentagon seems to be thoroughly committed to both the weaponization of space and missile defense, there simply is not the threat required to justify the current rate of expenditure – and planned deployments – for either one. If the United States deploys attack weapons in space first, it would be doing so on the basis of a hypothetical threat that does not exist today and for which there are better solutions, if it did.

A year ago the Federation of American Scientists put out a report, Ensuring America’s Space Security, which described more effective ways of dealing with potential threats to U.S. space assets, more effective than space strike weapons. This study showed that even if new threats emerge, for the foreseeable future those threats are better dealt with from land than from space.

What has been surprising to me is that U.S. defense policy makers have not challenged the justification for space strike weapons with other options and alternatives, alternatives such as the relatively simple and conventional options described in the FAS report.

Yet the United States is spending millions of dollars on space attack weapons, money that would be better spent on other higher priorities, such as body armor and armored Humvees for our soldiers in Iraq, for lowering the deficit, for health and education, for Homeland Security and Social Security, not to mention relief for poor and distressed people in Louisiana and around the world.

Cost Overruns in U.S. Military Space Programs
The management of U.S. military space programs has become an embarrassment to the Pentagon. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported time and again multi-billion-dollar cost overruns in DOD military space programs, and at a time when the United States is experiencing record budget deficits that threaten the American economy in the eyes of the international marketplace.

For example, last Spring, a missile-defense satellite program called SBIRS-High released a new cost estimate for its cost-to-complete Engineering Manufacturing Development of $31.4 billion – about eight times what it was when I was in the Pentagon just a few years ago – with no satellites as yet launched!

Together the massive budgets for U.S. military space and missile defense activities represent the beginning stages of a new arms race in space, even though there is no threat in space to justify it.

And this spending shows the commitment of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Command, and the Pentagon to prepare space as the next strategic battleground.

The international community has every reason to be concerned that this spending will drive other nations to respond, to try to keep up with U.S. military space efforts, with military space efforts of their own. And with record spending

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States is much more dependent on space – for commerce, for banking, for civil communications – than any other country and accordingly has much more to lose from war in space. Much, much more to lose. We don’t need strike weapons in space, we have better things on which to spend our money, and at this time in our economy we certainly don’t need billions of dollars of cost overruns for military systems in space that aren’t effective. And neither does the international community.

New funding and priority for space weapons and for missile defense in the United States is creating a pressing need for arms control in space.

Considering the lack of a justifying threat, the technical difficulty and the cost of placing strike weapons in space, and considering the growing dependence of society on space, all nations could ask, “Where do we want to go in space?”

Just because we have military reconnaissance and other military needs for space does not mean that we need attack weapons, strike weapons in space.

Even if new threats emerge, for the foreseeable future those threat are better dealt with from land than from space.

War in space is NOT inevitable. War in space is only inevitable if the U.S. puts nearly all its focus on preparing for war in space, and virtually none into preventing war in space. Potential enemies of the United Sates have legitimate peaceful, civil, reasons to want space capabilities, for weather and environmental monitoring, for communications, and for commerce, just as we do.

Space is militarized to be sure, but it is NOT yet weaponized. We can draw the line at putting strike weapons in space. War in space has NOT begun, and attributing feeble efforts by Iraqi soldiers to jam our GPS satellites from the ground does not constitute war in space.

The cost of U.S. space weapons is too high, has not been shown to be effective anyway, and for the foreseeable future any threat that may emerge is better and more effectively dealt with from the ground, not from space.

Arms Control can be remarkably effective, and can have enduring benefits for decades, and during those decades the basic relationships between the United States and other countries can change for the better.

With the United States facing record budget deficits and record defense spending, and with our international friends and partners expressing increasing concerns about the weaponization of space, this is a time for all nations to examine their priorities and ask whether they want to go down a path towards war in space.

And the international NGO community can make a real difference by devoting significant efforts to arms control in space.

We’ve seen the progress Prime Minister Tony Blair, the G-8 nations, and many NGOs are making in Global Climate Change. An analogous effort to make space policy a priority could be equally effective.

Thank you.

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