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Breaking the Deadlock on Space Arms Control
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James Clay Moltz

The Bush administration’s consideration of space weapons for both missile defense and anti-satellite (ASAT) purposes has reopened a domestic and international debate that was conducted in the late 1950s and early 1960s regarding military uses of space. At the dawn of the space age, controversy over placing weapons in space was settled by a temporary compromise: an international decision to ban some of the most harmful weapons-related activities (especially nuclear) but to leave the door open for more limited military programs.

Today, the arms control community and advocates of missile defense are renewing this debate in the face of emerging challenges, and the gap between their two positions seems insurmountable. Weapons supporters argue that U.S. vulnerability to ballistic missile attack and dependence on space for various military operations makes defensive measures necessary, particularly in the face of the growing number of states able to launch missiles and payloads (possibly including weapons of mass destruction) through space or into low-Earth orbit (60-500 miles above the planet). Meanwhile, members of the U.S. arms control community, supported by much of the rest of the world, argue that weaponizing space will be an unmitigated disaster, raising the chances of war, jeopardizing space commerce, and stimulating a costly and destabilizing arms race in an environment currently without weaponry.

Although the positions of some individuals are more nuanced, it is fair to say that, in general, the two sides in the U.S. debate are not speaking to one another. At the international level, there is a “dialogue of the deaf” between Washington and foreign capitals (even within NATO), combined with a deep freeze in negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva due to China’s opposition to U.S. views on space weapons. In the face of this stalemate, it is important to explore whether there is some workable solution that might bring both sides to the table and allow each to come away satisfied.

This article attempts to identify such a “middle ground” between the administration and the arms control community in the belief that the alternative to compromise is likely to be no agreement whatsoever. The current situation works to the ultimate detriment of both sides’ interests, as well as the interests of the much broader spectrum of space users (including the $125-billion-a-year space industry1 ) currently stuck in between them. Although the Bush administration is not ready for space arms control talks at present, the failure of the arms control community to develop alternative means of addressing military, congressional, and public concerns about possible U.S. vulnerabilities to missile attacks makes it easy for the administration’s most conservative members to paint space-arms-control supporters as out of touch with the national mood and as critics of all missile defenses. In this context, a cooperative effort to address future U.S. space security needs—perhaps including certain forms of missile defense in combination with strengthened treaties to protect safe access to space—could provide a very attractive solution to the U.S. public and a large portion of the U.S. Congress.

Such an approach need not force arms controllers to “give away the store.” As one Air Force space expert has pointed out, the weaponization of space “is not an ‘all-or-nothing’ affair.”2 For the arms control community, therefore, holding out for a “great” treaty banning all weapons in space may be preventing progress toward a “good” treaty banning the most threatening future systems. Given political realities and practical issues regarding existing weapons systems, an approach that includes limited weaponization while simultaneously closing loopholes in existing space treaties could be the most workable and the most politically sustainable means of moving forward with arms control for space.

The Early Debate Over Space

During the late 1950s, it seemed inevitable that the two superpowers would extend their arms race on Earth into outer space in very short order. To counter the expected Soviet threat in space, the U.S. military had initiated research into an ambitious array of weapons programs, ranging from nuclear-tipped ballistic missile defenses for use in low-Earth orbit (Nike Zeus and Nike X) to orbital satellites capable of dispensing 400-foot wire webs to “catch” rising ballistic missiles (part of the Ballistic Missile Boost Intercept system) to manned space bombers (the X-20 or Dyna-Soar project) to military space stations (Gemini Blue).

But it was the conduct of nuclear tests in space that proved most destabilizing. From 1958 to 1962, the United States carried out seven nuclear weapons tests in space, while the Soviet Union tested four weapons in space and one in the upper atmosphere. The second U.S. test series—Operation Fishbowl in the summer and fall of 1962—exploded nuclear weapons with yields up to 1.5 megatons to determine their ability to destroy ballistic missiles passing through space. Soviet tests mirrored these experiments. As U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk commented at the time, “There is an increasing danger that outer space will become man’s newest battlefield.”3

But the effects of these experiments gave pause even to space weapons enthusiasts. The explosions caused considerable damage to the Earth’s electromagnetic fields. In the United States, tests launched from Johnston Island in the South Pacific blacked out civilian radio and television communications throughout the West Coast and Pacific region for several hours following each test. One test unexpectedly shorted out the power grid on Hawaii. But even more sobering for the military was the disabling of several recently launched military reconnaissance and communications satellites. The Pentagon had, in effect, “blinded itself” and had to scramble to replace the precious assets it had destroyed.

Nevertheless, both countries tested nuclear weapons in space during the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis to show their mettle and to prepare for possible anti-ballistic missile warfare, flirting dangerously with the possibility that one of these experiments could have been misinterpreted as a nuclear attack.

Fortunately, following the Cuban missile crisis, the two sides took the opportunity to step back and take stock of their emerging competition in space. They faced a number of unsavory trade-offs if unrestricted military competition in space continued, as many officials felt was inevitable. The radiation from further testing in low-Earth orbit would cripple ambitious manned space programs on both sides, likely dooming President John F. Kennedy’s plan to go to the moon. Electromagnetic pulse radiation would put at risk further development of satellite-based communications for military and civilian purposes. Finally, the virtual treasure-trove of intelligence data on each side’s nuclear arsenal just beginning to come in from photoreconnaissance satellites would be taken away. Instead, space would likely become a surrogate battlefield, involving direct attacks of rival spacecraft and possible efforts by each side to claim the moon. With their emerging nuclear weapons programs, Britain, France, and China would likely follow the superpowers into space, exacerbating radiation and debris threats in low-Earth orbit.

Overcoming opposition and mistrust in both countries, President Kennedy and Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev opted instead to restrict military competition in space by including space in the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and reaching agreement that fall at the United Nations on a resolution on legal principles governing space, including national liability for damage caused by spacecraft and stipulations that the moon and other celestial bodies should not be subject to national claims.

The two sides soon began negotiations via the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on a formal treaty for space. The adoption of the Outer Space Treaty in 1967 codified in a legally binding agreement some of the earlier UN resolutions, while adding new protections against the use or deployment of any weapons of mass destruction in orbit and the development of military bases on the moon or celestial bodies. These restrictions halted harmful space activities before they could be engaged in by competing states, thus making subsequent arms control in these areas unnecessary.

Other bilateral agreements, including the SALT I Interim Agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, contained passages that prohibited interference with national technical means of verification (i.e., satellites) and banned development, testing, and deployment of space-based missile defenses.

This strategy allowed both sides to concentrate on civilian and commercial space achievements. Such an emphasis facilitated the moon landing, Skylab, and a tremendous revolution in space communications (greatly benefiting the U.S. military), while serving broader U.S. political interests. At the same time, this compromise strategy allowed the development of a reliable space-tracking and early-warning network, while creating protected conditions in which the U.S. intelligence community could quietly achieve dominance in electronic, signals, and photographic reconnaissance from space.

Despite some challenges in the late 1970s from Soviet ASAT weapons testing and in the 1980s from similar U.S. tests and laboratory research on a wide range of technologies associated with the Strategic Defense Initiative, this fledgling space regime remained intact through the 1990s.

The Debate Re-Emerges

With the increasing importance of space to the U.S. military and the U.S. economy, however, as well as the growing number of states that are capable of launching weapons into space, Pentagon planners have again begun to look at space as a possible environment of confrontation. This renewed interest in space coincides with the current push for missiles defenses, which may require certain space components.

Recent policy is being driven in part by policies enacted by hard-line conservatives in the Congress during the late 1990s (the Defend America Act of 1996 and the National Missile Defense Act of 1999), as well as the issuance of three major reports (two of them by Republican-controlled congressional committees). The first, the Rumsfeld Commission report in July 1998 on missile proliferation, supported conservative congressional claims about the severity of the rogue state missile threat and was bolstered by North Korea’s test of the Taepo-Dong 1 one month later. The second, the Air Force’s “Vision 2020” report, outlined Air Force expectations about the opening of a new theater of military operations and discussed an assumed future challenge to U.S. military space security. The third, the Rumsfeld Commission report of January 2001 on the management of U.S. space assets, spoke of serious vulnerabilities to U.S. military and commercial space systems and the likely need to deploy space weapons to counter this presumed threat.

Despite criticism of these reports from the arms control community for their exaggeration of foreign capabilities and their assumption of hostile intentions among other states, there are two undeniable truths in these documents: one, there is currently no means of stopping a ballistic missile traveling through space; and two, the United States lacks effective military means of protecting itself against a number of feasible threats to U.S. space-based assets, including co-orbital weapons and direct-ascent ASAT weapons. Current treaties (after the June 2002 expiration of the ABM Treaty) allow unlimited testing of conventional weapons and lasers in space, the stationing of such systems in space, and the use of space for the interception of ballistic missiles or satellites by a variety of ground-, sea-, air-, and space-based systems.

Thus, as capabilities to deploy these systems increase, either weapons will be needed or treaties will need to be expanded and strengthened. To date, the Bush administration has been effective in pushing the weapons option as the best means of overcoming these threats, even to the point of withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Meanwhile, arms control supporters have failed to communicate an effective alternative strategy to the Congress and the American people. Most importantly, they have failed to open a dialogue with moderate Republicans to consider possible “mixed” strategies that might involve some weapons options but also strengthened treaties.

Fortunately, time is still on the side of a deal. Current funding requests from the administration show continued interest in two weapons for national missile defense that would be space based: the Space-Based Laser and a kinetic kill interceptor similar to the original Brilliant Pebbles concept. Both systems would be deployed in low-Earth orbit. Pentagon officials at the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) indicate that deployment of these technologies is at least a decade off. However, testing of the Army’s Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite (KEASAT) interceptor may begin much sooner. In addition, a considerable number of other missile defense technologies—the ground-based interceptor, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, and some of the sea-based interceptors—attack their targets and destroy them in low-Earth orbital space. These systems play a central role in the theater missile defense programs that have gained considerable bipartisan support in Congress. Some of these systems have been extensively tested and have developed some limited missile interception capabilities. Work on them will be accelerated and ramped up to faster missiles and more complex tests after June 2002.

Moderate Voices Within the Pentagon

Yet, support for space weapons is not the only view of what is best for U.S. security, even within the administration. Indeed, supporters of space weapons may actually represent a minority perspective within the Pentagon, where there are serious concerns about the long-run implications of weaponizing space. U.S. testing and deployment of orbital weapons could make using space for other military and commercial purposes more difficult, promote a false sense of security in expensive and hard-to-maintain space assets, and stimulate military responses by adversaries not currently interested in placing weapons in space. In fact, some senior officials within the MDA bristle at the aggressiveness of the new political appointees’ interest in space weapons, seeing this as distracting attention from near-term national missile defense technologies. One senior official derisively refers to the administration’s space weapons hard-liners as “ideologues” and implies that they have not done their homework in asserting that such systems would work.4

Representatives of such skeptical views within the military can also be found in the pages of the hardly dovish Aerospace Power Journal. A recent article by Major Howard D. Belote, for example, argues that “[pro-weapons] zealots tend to miss the big contextual picture” of U.S. space interests. He reminds readers of the sagacity of Eisenhower’s decision in the 1950s to emphasize civilian and commercial aspects of space and concludes that “the nonweaponization of space may be even more in the national interest [now] than in Eisenhower’s day.”5 Another article by Lieutenant Colonel Bruce M. DeBlois describes a range of technical reasons why space weapons are not likely to work as intended, including lack of “survivability” due to possible damage and the near impossibility of in-service repairs. Yet, DeBlois ultimately turns to core political factors such as international “reputation” in arguing against U.S. space-based weapons, stating, “The idea of putting weapons in space to dominate the globe is simply not compatible with who we are and what we represent as Americans.”6

Debris issues are another concern within the military. Although today’s tests of the ground-based interceptor against strategic ballistic missiles passing through space create debris fields that fall from orbit in a matter of minutes, testing of ASAT weapons against space-based targets would create orbital debris that would persist in space for months, creating serious navigational hazards for U.S. spacecraft and satellites.

Cost is an equally serious issue in Pentagon debates. Although September 11 boosted funding for anti-terrorism, missile defense supporters may soon have to choose among technologies that may be more or less effective in protecting troops engaged in the field. Putting too much of an investment on costly space defenses may sap other missions. Despite the best-laid plans of Pentagon planners, hostile countries could disable sophisticated defenses remotely by using electronic means to jam their signals or avoid space altogether by using alternate delivery systems. Alternatively, states could launch countermeasures, such as satellites that disperse sand into low-Earth orbit, destroying U.S. missile defense support satellites by high-speed collisions in space.7 In this context, treaties to prevent testing and use of such ASAT systems may be more effective deterrents than costly investments in ineffectual weapons. Even during the Reagan administration, the deputy head of NORAD’s Space Command, Vice Admiral William E. Ramsey, observed, “If we could outlaw weapons in space, it would be a damn worthy goal.”8 Such sentiments ring true among many military officers today.

Where Does Congress Stand?

The same Congress that boosted funding for missile defenses by 57 percent to $8.3 billion last year also cut significant chunks out of Bush proposals for space-based elements of national missile defense. Indeed, the final House-Senate conference committee eliminated $120 million from the president’s proposed $170 million appropriation for the Space-Based Laser. It also eliminated funds entirely for the Space Based Infrared System-low (SBIRS-low), a satellite-based early-warning system. These actions suggest that space weapons are vulnerable to congressional challenges.

Also, the full impact of the change in the Senate’s leadership has not yet been felt. Key Democrats have come out in strong opposition to space weapons, including Senators Tom Daschle (SD), Joseph Biden (DE), and Carl Levin (MI). Except for the unprecedented budget unity brought on by the September 11 events, cuts would likely have been made in the missile defense budget for fiscal year 2002,9 forcing even harder choices regarding space defenses. Such debates are beginning for fiscal year 2003. Conservative Democrat Robert Byrd (WV) warned on the Senate floor against “a headlong and fiscally spendthrift rush” to deploy space weapons, concluding, “That heavy foot on the accelerator is merely the stamp and roar of rhetoric.”

In addition, a strong contingent within Congress still supports NASA and the International Space Station, which, despite problems, continues to resonate as a worthwhile endeavor with the American public. Introducing weapons into space is abhorrent to many Americans, raised to view space as the realm of the Apollo astronauts, the moon landing, and the shuttle missions. Even conservatives such as Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) have emphasized the continued importance of manned space research to the nation’s economy and the development of spin-offs for furthering our technological base. Despite Weldon’s support for missile defense, he and other NASA supporters may modify their stances when they recognize that aggressive deployment of space weapons could jeopardize other U.S. space priorities. Tests of ASAT weapons, for example, could create debris that might threaten astronauts on the International Space Station. They might also cause costly litigation in which commercial providers seek restitution from the U.S. military for damage caused to their satellites. Foreign claims could create international incidents harmful to U.S. foreign and defense policies, as well as commercial interests. Ten to 20 years down the line, multiple states responding to U.S. weapons in orbit could create an unlimited test range in low-Earth orbit, to the great harm of U.S. space interests, including for military assets.

It is not surprising, therefore, that risks associated with weaponizing low-Earth orbit do not sit well with many members of Congress, who want to see U.S. military, scientific, and commercial leadership in space protected. According to defense analyst Theresa Hitchens, U.S. satellite providers are already nervous about possible future U.S. government decisions to try to shut off foreign access to U.S. communications satellites in times of crisis and to shoot down U.S. and foreign satellites providing such access.10 They fear that this may lead foreign customers to develop their own satellite industries to ensure the availability of spares, thus stimulating competition and cutting into existing U.S. market share.

A liberal House Democrat introduced H.R. 2977 in fall 2001 and a revised bill (H.R. 3616) in January entitled the “Space Preservation Act of 2002.” This legislation would prohibit U.S. funds from being spent on space-based weapons, terminate all research associated with such systems, and instruct the president to participate in international negotiations toward completion of a treaty banning such weapons worldwide. Although the bill is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House, it does set down a marker of opposition to current administration policies.

More indicative of chances for creating a bipartisan consensus on limiting space weapons was a speech in late September 2001 by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), a highly respected Republican foreign policy beacon. In an address to the National Press Club, Lugar rejected the idea of moving forward with a multitiered national missile defense and instead called upon the Bush administration to reorient missile defense programs to focus on the existing, short-range missile threat and to redouble efforts to fight terrorism and provide for homeland security. He argued that longer-range missile defenses and space systems should be put off indefinitely, suggesting a significant difference of opinion with the Bush administration. Other concerned Republicans are echoing such thoughts in this spring’s congressional budget debates, particularly as politically risky deficit spending looms.

Thus, although arms controllers may despair about current plans, there are good reasons to think that cooler heads can still prevail in the space weapons debate. Although missile defense of some sort may be inevitable, those who doubt the utility of space weapons represent a majority in Congress. This middle constituency is the one with whom the arms control community must open a dialogue. The problem today in trying to identify a defensible middle ground for space arms control is the lack of a formula to draw in these moderates, who do not want to be painted as “anti-missile defense.” Thus, a search to create new alternatives to the existing options and arguments must be undertaken.

Crafting a Compromise Proposal

The way to an agreement clearly lies in some sort of compromise, but what kind? Writing in the 1980s, nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty negotiator and arms control analyst George Bunn came up with the innovative idea of a possible split regime for space in which weapons might be allowed in lower regions of space (up to 2,500 miles above the Earth) but be banned from higher orbits in order to protect critical early-warning and communications satellites in geostationary orbit.11 Although today’s politics have changed, such a “mixed” approach may be worth exploring, although (for various reasons) with somewhat different parameters. Today, the importance of low-Earth orbital space has grown, due to the development of cellular networks, which use this region, and increasing U.S. military dependence on reconnaissance, tracking, queuing, weather, and communications satellites in the same area of space. Thus, any proposal for securing space would need to include protections for various activities in low-Earth orbit as well.

For good reasons, there are very few calls today for weapons above orbits of about 500 miles, even within the Pentagon. Indeed, there would likely be widespread U.S. and international support for a ban on all weapons above low-Earth orbit because higher-orbit satellites are harder to attack and also tend to serve less controversial civilian communications and military early-warning missions. Moreover, this region, especially out toward geostationary orbit (22,300 miles above the Earth), is poorly suited for the stationing of missile defenses because of its great distance from the flight paths of ballistic missiles. Thus, ruling out weapons entirely from higher orbits would be a useful starting point. But because low-Earth orbit is where most of the action is, it is the crucial area in which negotiation is needed.

Careful study of the various positions in the debate over national missile defense and space weapons suggests that there is room for a compromise on low-Earth orbit, at least among key constituencies such as the U.S. Congress, industry, and the Russian government, as well as the U.S. electorate, which, in the end, is going to pay for any of the near-term space systems being proposed. In practical terms, the core elements of Bush’s national and theater missile defense programs remain the direct-ascent systems, which use low-Earth orbital space as a point of interception but which do not require space-basing. Granting states the right to attack missiles traveling through space (as well as to deploy boost-phase missiles defenses that do not require space-based elements) but forbidding them from shooting from space or attacking permanent objects in space could provide a meaningful compromise approach. The core elements of such a compromise proposal on space weapons might look like this:

  • No use, testing, or deployment of weapons or interceptors of any sort in regions of space above 500 miles;
  • Permitted testing of ground-based, sea-based, and air-based interceptors in low-Earth orbit (60-500 miles) against ballistic missiles passing through space (although with frequency limitations per year/per state and possible restrictions on altitude and debris generation, which do not exist today);
  • No stationing of weapons of any sort in low-Earth orbit, including kinetic-kill vehicles, lasers, or any other weapons for use against space-, ground-, sea-, or air-based targets (to prevent destabilizing aspects of short warning times in space and to alleviate public fears of use of weapons from space against cities);
  • No testing or use of lasers from ground-, sea-, or air-based platforms against any space-based, orbital objects; and
  • No testing or use of other ground-, sea-, or air-based weapons against satellites or other space-based objects (chiefly a confidence-building and debris-reduction measure, because direct-ascent missile defenses would have some residual ASAT capabilities).

Although each of these provisions could be subject to further negotiation, the core elements could provide meaningful protections for parties desiring to preserve safe access to space while also allowing missile defenses to move forward.

Would such a treaty be perfect? It would not be when viewed from the perspective of both extremes in the debate. But, for the larger group of moderates—both domestically and internationally—this option could be very attractive. It would offer significant protections from weapons systems that are allowed under the current loophole-filled treaty regime, while also grandfathering a variety of missile defense technologies that are already fairly far advanced and whose development would be difficult to stop.

For the Pentagon, such a regime would entail some limitations in terms of ASAT weapons, but it would also create an environment in which other states would find development of hostile systems extremely difficult without detection. For Congress, space would be protected for high-profile, civilian manned missions and lucrative commercial applications. For the arms control community, this regime would set the world a short distance down the “slope” of weaponizing space by allowing the use of low-Earth orbit for missile defense purposes from the Earth, sea, and air. However, the slope would no longer be “slippery,” as it is today, but would instead be marked with clear barriers against further descent. Detailed negotiations would be needed on how many tests to allow each state per year in low-Earth orbit and what debris mitigation techniques to require. Although this would affect mainly the United States in the short run, it would create a powerful set of restrictions for future space-faring states as well, thus protecting U.S. commercial and passive military interests in debris-free low-Earth orbit. In sum, a number of key players would come away from the table with tangible benefits.

How to Get There From Here

Overall, the need for some settlement on the space weapons issue is clear. The decisions taken today will affect the future of international space activities not only in the military realm, but also in the scientific and commercial sectors, which are having a growing impact on the economies of leading developed and developing countries. The issue is particularly important when one considers the possible impact of multiple states conducting unlimited space-based weapons testing and deployments in the increasingly crowded realm of low-Earth orbit, where debris and the relative proximity of spacecraft and weapons suggest the need for at least some rules of the road. Given these factors, the issue of future space security is too important to be bottled up any longer within the stalemate at the Conference on Disarmament, where no action is likely under current conditions.

The background to today’s impasse at the international level can be traced to the fall of 1999, when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution unanimously calling for the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Only the United States and Israel abstained, seeing the resolution as an effort to limit missile defenses.

Subsequently, China sought to insert space arms control into the debate at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva as a condition for further disarmament talks. In June 2001, it offered a draft treaty on preventing the weaponization of outer space. The treaty would ban the testing and deployment of weapons based in space, as well as any weapon that could be used from the Earth, sea, or air for “war-fighting in outer space.” The United States opposed this effort, and talks have ground to a halt.

Could the proposal outlined in this article offer a face-saving way out for both sides? It could if the Chinese proposal’s definition of “war-fighting” does not include destroying ballistic missiles passing through space—a possible interpretation of the current wording. Moreover, Chinese officials might welcome the opportunity to begin some forward movement to stop the most threatening aspects of ballistic missile defenses: the look-down, shoot-down Space-Based Laser and the space-based, kinetic-kill interceptor. Thus, the new proposal might provide at least a starting point for discussions.

Russia is another critical player, given its extensive space program and military space capabilities. In a speech outlining his government’s priorities in space at the United Nations in September 2001, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov noted several key provisions central to his government for any new treaty on space security: (1) no placement by states of weapons in orbit; (2) no use or threat of use of weapons against space-based targets; and (3) establishment of a verification mechanism adequate to implement the new agreement. Notably, the speech did not specifically call for a ban on missile defenses or the use of low-Earth orbit for missile interception. Thus, there are firm grounds for believing that Moscow would be receptive to this initiative.

But a new forum is needed to allow the issues to be presented openly and discussed in the presence of all international parties interested in space. Such a process should begin whether or not all governments choose to participate at the present time. This forum could craft possible compromise proposals for later discussion at the inter-governmental level, when conditions are more favorable.

One analyst, Rebecca Johnson, suggests an “Ottawa process” approach for space, referring to the successful negotiation of the Land Mines Convention by a group of organizations and concerned states working outside typical intergovernmental channels.12 Such an avenue might be fruitful, but it must include key U.S. constituencies—such as commercial space users and representatives from both parties in Congress. It must also not be held hostage to “purist” approaches that rule out all forms of missile defense. Media representatives should be included in order to communicate the importance of these questions to the U.S. and international publics, which are currently virtually unaware of the security debates going on behind the scenes that will affect their futures. An alternative approach might be to let the commercial space community lead the negotiations,13 which could have the advantage of placing greater credibility and clout behind any eventual agreement in the eyes of national legislatures.

In conclusion, the arms control community would benefit from embracing such a process, which would put less emphasis on critiquing Bush policies and more on building a credible alternative. This effort could begin by reaching out to moderate members of Congress, Pentagon personnel, and commercial representatives. Planning with other actors for a secure future in space would require some compromises but need not involve damaging giveaways. Fortunately, the view of congressional moderates on space-based defense is closer to that of the arms control community than is realized. Providing a workable framework to address the key interests of this middle group (and its supporters in parts of the administration and among the broader public) may be the most effective way of uncovering the limited support behind most space weapons scenarios. With such an agenda in hand, the weight of public opinion on the U.S. Congress—supported by influential commercial actors—could eventually lead to changes in Bush administration policy or provide a ready-made space framework for his successor.

The author thanks Phil Saunders and Charles Ferguson for their useful comments and suggestions.
1. Figure cited by Michael Krepon in “Lost in Space: The Misguided Drive Toward Antisatellite Weapons,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2001.
2. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce M. DeBlois, “Space Sanctuary: A Viable National Strategy,” Aerospace Power Journal, Winter 1998, p. 41.
3. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, address of June 16, 1962, U.S. State Department Bulletin, July 2, 1962, p. 5.
4. Interview with MDA official, January 2002.
5. Major Howard D. Belote, “The Weaponization of Space: It Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum,” Aerospace Power Journal, Spring 2000, p. 51.
6. DeBlois, “Space Sanctuary,” p. 46.
7. Ibid., p. 51.
8. Frances Fitzgerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), p. 447.
9. On this issue, see Senator Carl Levin, “A Debate Deferred: Missile Defense After the September 11 Attacks,” Arms Control Today, November 2001.
10. Theresa Hitchens, “Rushing to Weaponize the Final Frontier,” Arms Control Today, September 2001.
11. George Bunn, “Satellites for the Navy: Shielded by Arms Control?” Naval War College Review, September/October 1985.
12. Rebecca Johnson, “Multilateral Approaches to Preventing the Weaponisation of Space,” Disarmament Diplomacy, April 2001.
13. The author thanks Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano for his suggestion of this idea.

James Clay Moltz is research professor and associate director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


Posted: April 1, 2002