Space: The Next Battlefield?
August 30, 2018
Alice Slater / The Hill & Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters & Mia Gandenberger / Reaching Critical Will & Lawrence J. Korb / The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists & Tom Z. Collina and Zack Brown / DefenseOne
The Trump administration has called for the creation of a new military command, the US Space Force, emphasizing President Donald Trump's urging that "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space: we must have American dominance in space." The rationale for militarizing the heavens is that Russia and China "have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself." In fact, Russia and China have been arguing for years for a UN treaty to prevent stationing weapons in outer space.
Space: The Next Battlefield?
Alice Slater / The Hill
(August 20, 2018) -- Last week, Vice-President Mike Pence announced the Trump administration's plan for a new military command, the US Space Force, emphasizing President Donald Trump's urging that "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space: we must have American dominance in space." Pence's announcement was greeted by Trump, tweeting in response, "Space Force all the way!"
Pence's rationale for this disturbing expansion of US militarization to the heavens is that "our adversaries", Russia and China, "have been working to bring new weapons of war into space itself" that pose a threat to American satellites.
But despite a virtual blackout in the mainstream media, Russia and China have been arguing for years in the halls of the United Nations that the world needs a treaty to prevent stationing such weapons in outer space in order to maintain global "strategic stability" among the major powers and enable nuclear disarmament.
Although the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prevented the placement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, it never prohibited conventional weapons in space.
In 2008 and again in 2014, Russia and China introduced a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space in the UN forum that negotiates disarmament agreements, the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva.
The US has blocked any discussion of the space weapons ban treaty in the consensus-bound forum, where all talks are stalled because of US repeated vetoes. After years of inaction, we now learn that Russia and China are believed to be developing the ability to shoot down satellites in space.
We reach this point after a sad history of missed opportunities for peace in space and nuclear disarmament. It began with President Truman's rejection of Stalin's proposal to place the bomb under international control at the United Nations in 1946.
Then-President Reagan rejected former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's offer to eliminate nuclear weapons, provided the US didn't proceed with his plan for Star Wars, a space-based military system, later described in 1997 under the Clinton administration, as the US Space Command's Vision 2020, proclaiming its mission to "dominate and control the military use of space to protect US interests and investments."
Clinton rejected Putin's offer to reduce our massive nuclear arsenals of some 15,000 bombs each to 1,000 and then call on all the other nuclear weapons states to negotiate for their abolition, conditioned on the US halting its plans to put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe.
President George W. Bush, relying on his policy to include missile defense and space-based weapons to destroy targets anywhere in the world swiftly for "full spectrum dominance," walked out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that the US had negotiated with the Soviet Union and now there are US missiles in Romania and others planned for installation in Poland.
Further, President Obama rejected Putin's offer in 2006, in light of a new kind of arms race with potentially dangerous consequences, to negotiate an international treaty to ban cyber attacks.
Last March, President Putin, in his State of the Nation Address, said he would speak about "the newest systems of Russian strategic weapons that we are creating in response to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States of America from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the practical deployment of their missile defence systems both in the US and beyond their national borders."
He went on to say:
Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system . . . . Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.
We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. [emphasis added]. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust . . .
All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security.
There has been a shocking failure to report on the repeated proposals from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to prevent the terrible possibility that the United States is stirring up an arms race that could destroy our extended use of global positioning satellites to gather critical information for both peaceful and military purposes.
A careful and honest examination of the historical record can only lead to the conclusion of Walt Kelly's Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"
Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War, is a CODEPINK affiliate, and represents the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation at the United Nations.
China, Russia to Offer Treaty to Ban Arms in Space
Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters
GENEVA (January 25, 2006) - China and Russia will submit a joint proposal next month for an international treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in outer space, a senior Russian arms negotiator said on Friday.
Valery Loshchinin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, said the draft treaty would be presented to the 65-member forum on February 12. . . .
Russia and China Table New
Draft Treaty to Prevent Weapons in Space
Mia Gandenberger | Reaching Critical Will
(June 10, 2014) -- The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 where the Russian Federation and China introduced a new draft of their joint treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT). The United States delivered a statement on its space policy and responded to the new draft with a preliminary assessment.
In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, Mr. Mankeur Ndiaye, delivered a statement and the Acting Secretary General of the CD, Mr. Michael Møller, who provided some clarifications to his proposals from 20 May 2014.
New Draft PPWT Text
Ambassador Borodavkin of the Russian Federation introduced the new draft of the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT), which it first submitted together with China in 2008.
He noted that this new draft was drafted in light of comments and suggestions received from the previous version. The second draft of the PPWT sees quite a lot of changes from the first version presented six years ago.
All articles, as well as the preamble, have been amended and the order of the provisions has been rearranged. However, at a first glance, it does not appear that the new draft include any new elements missing in the first draft, for example prohibiting the testing of anti-satellite weapons.
The most notable changes are that the definition of "outer space" has been removed from Article I, while other definitions like "use of force" or "weapon in space" have been slightly amended. Slight modifications to Article IV, the right to self-defense, have also been made.
Space Force: Lost in Space?
Lawrence J. Korb / The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(August 24, 2018) -- President Trump's directive to the Defense Department to do more to deal with military threats in space should not come as a surprise. For those of us who missed it among the usual rush of news emanating from the White House, this directive -- whose plans were unveiled by Vice President Mike Pence on August 9 during a speech at the Pentagon -- concerns the creation of a $8 billion proposed "Space Force" which would be a entirely new branch of the military.
It is not clear what, exactly, the new force would do, nor even where he would get the authority to establish it; as Jonathan Turley, a professor at Georgetown University's law school, told Defense News: "Congress alone has the power to establish a new branch of the military and to establish the positions of senior executive officials to lead such a department."
To be sure, the idea has been around for a while. Even though President Trump garnered a lot of attention with his call for a separate space force, this issue has been on the table since at least the beginning of this century.
In 2000, Donald Rumsfeld chaired a congressionally mandated commission that recommended consolidating the space-related activities of the Defense Department under the Undersecretary of the Air Force. (The reforms were not implemented by Rumsfeld when he became Secretary of Defense because of the 9/11 attacks.)
Since 2007, when the Chinese shot down one of their satellites, there has been more emphasis on making our space forces more resilient. And the House Armed Services Committee included language in the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would have created a Space Corps as part of the Air Force, much like the Marines are part of the Navy. This provision was dropped from the bill because of opposition from the Trump administration.
But let us assume that the president can get the approval and the funding. What are the merits of the proposal? We need to examine whether it is desirable (or even feasible), and think about what would be involved in starting a new branch of the armed services from scratch; how we would we avoid duplication of effort; and whether we really need it.
There is no doubt that the United States needs to insure that it has unfettered access and freedom to operate in space; to do so, it needs to protect our thousands of satellites from potential attacks by our strategic competitors, especially Russia and China. And that our space-related functions are addressed in a more centralized manner.
The problem with the president's directive lies in how he wants to do it. Trump argues that the challenges cannot be met effectively without the creation of an entirely separate Space Force. Which is where it is instructive to look at the history of previous new military programs.
Since the creation of the US Defense Department in 1947, the missions and the threats that our military must meet have constantly evolved. Each time a new capability was deemed necessary to protect our security, our civilian and military leaders eventually made the proper organizational and financial changes necessary to deal with these new challenges. But these changes did not come without some resistance from those who were profiting from the status quo or wanted more dramatic changes.
For example, Admiral Rickover, the father of the "Nuclear Navy," initially resisted the idea of developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile program, because he feared it might not work and would therefore undermine his own nuclear attack submarine program. But Admiral Arleigh Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations from 1955 to 1961, decided to risk some of his service's own scarce resources on the Polaris missile program.
As he told me when I interviewed him back on September 6, 1968, he did this because the potential payoff was so great. However, when the Polaris program proved successful, Burke wanted the Navy to select its own targets because he did not want to place his submarines under the control of the Air Force. It took the direct intervention of President Eisenhower to make the Navy's Polaris program part of the Strategic Command.
Similarly, after the experience of the Vietnam War, the military -- not wanting to fight another insurgency -- slashed funding for the Special Operations Forces in each of the services. By the mid-1980's Congress became so concerned about this that it created a new assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) and a Special Operations Command, both of which continue to play a critical role in fighting today's wars. Some segments of the military even resisted the creation of the Unified Transportation Command.
In fact, the Navy went behind the back of the secretary of defense in 1982 to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to squash the proposal, even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued that the Command was necessary to prevent another Desert One. ("Desert One" was the code name for the ill-fated Delta Force mission to bring back 53 US citizens being held hostage in Iran; it came to a fiery end when the helicopters involved crashed in the desert south of Tehran.) The Transportation Command was created in 1987.
But the resistance to President Trump's proposal is based not on the creation of a new separate unified command, but on resistance to the idea of creating an entirely new military service. In fact, virtually all the supporters of creating the new command believe that creating a new service is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. Their arguments fall into three categories:
First, the Defense Department is already setting up a separate Space Command, one which would continue to oversee all military space operations. And while our space programs could use more funding than the $17 billion they currently receive, this is a problem that can be handled by the secretary of defense and the thousands of people in his office.
The other joint commands, like the Strategic and Special Operations Commands, not only receive adequate funding to carry out their missions but carry them out efficiently and effectively -- despite having members from all the existing military services in their organizations.
Second, creating a new separate military department would likely create an expensive and inefficient organization that would undermine the Pentagon's ability to carry out the space mission. Creating the new department would raise several issues. For example, would the department need a Secretary of the Space Force? And would she or he need large staffs like the other military departments? How would the new department recruit, retain, and promote the new members of the space force?
When the Air Force was established as a separate service in 1947, its top-ranked military person was already a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and it had 80,000 planes and 2.4 million people in its force, including officers and administrative personnel. Would the Space Force eventually need to establish its own military academy to train its new generation of leaders?
Third, it would cost much more to establish a separate military department, over and above what it would cost to increase funding for a space command. The best estimate is that a Space Force as a separate branch of the military would cost about $8 billion a year, about the cost of buying 80 new fighter planes or adding 1,000 women and men to the active force. And in addition to the cost of setting up a new service, there is also the cost of developing space weapons.
The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contained language calling for the development of space-based missile interceptors by 2022, which the National Research Council says will cost at least $300 billion. A separate military to operate them is much more likely to increase its share of the overall defense budget than a unified command.
It is not clear whether Congress will go along with the president's plan to create a separate service. The Trump administration plans to make the proposal part of its fiscal year 2020 NDAA, which will be submitted in January of 2019. But even if it does create a new service or only a new command, it will most likely increase funding for space, though the result may be of questionable utility.
As an article in Defense One on August 3 put it: "Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly, and more likely to foster war than prevent it."
But there is another approach.
To really deal with the threat from space, the administration and Congress should go back to the Cold War playbook. Five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviets agreed on a treaty to ban atomic weapons in space, and within a decade after the development of all three legs of the triad, we began arms control negotiations with the Soviets to limit and eventually reduce the strategic arsenals.
With this in mind, as it creates its space command or space force, the Trump Administration should begin negotiations on a treaty to demilitarize space -- something that President Putin suggested to President Trump at the Helsinki Summit.
This, rather than simply creating a separate and costly new service that could lead to an international arms race in space, would really increase security.
Lawrence J. Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He is also an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University.
Congress Rushes to Spend Billions on
Space Weapons -- Even if They Don't Work
Tom Z. Collina and Zack Brown / DefenseOne
WASHINGTON (August 3, 2018) -- Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly, and more likely to foster war than prevent it.
Before the GOP-controlled Congress spends billions of your tax dollars on new, highly controversial weapons in space, you might think it would seek the opinion of the Defense Department. But no. Strange as it may seem, Republicans are rushing ahead with space-based missile interceptors over the objections of the White House and before a Pentagon review on the subject has been completed.
It's almost as if congressional leaders want to spend money on space weapons no matter whether the military wants them or if they even work.
This week Congress approved the development of missile interceptors in space as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a working prototype by 2022. Last year's defense bill contained similar language, but specified that the project would only move ahead if endorsed by the Defense Department's ongoing Missile Defense Review, which has yet to see the light of day.
Rather than wait for the Pentagon review, this year Congress acted without it. An amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, struck out the Pentagon review in the name of removing "the legal hurdle" to developing space weapons. The effect was to order up missile interceptors in space whether or not the Pentagon thinks it's a good idea.
This gift from Congress has not been well-received. In June, the White House released a statement saying it "strongly objects" to the Cruz amendment as an "unfunded mandate," and urged Congress to wait for the results of the ongoing review, calling any decision on development "premature at this point."
Over at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, who leads the Missile Defense Agency, warned that space-based interceptors would "require a significant change in national policy" and would be expensive. His predecessor, then-Vice Adm. James Syring, said in 2016, "I have serious concerns about the technical feasibility of interceptors in space, and I have serious concerns about the long-term affordability of a program like that."
As futuristic as they may sound, spaced-based weapons are an old -- and bad -- idea. The Reagan administration tried and failed to develop a space-based laser as part of its Strategic Defense Initiative. Then the George H. W. Bush administration switched from lasers to kinetic kill vehicles with Brilliant Pebbles and, when that failed, came up with Global Protection Against Limited Strikes, or GPALS. Eerily similar to Congress's current iteration, GPALS called for a scaled-down system to protect against limited ballistic missile threats from regional powers like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
But the false allure of space weapons only hides its immense technical and financial hurdles, not to mention its hugely destabilizing effects.
A 2003 American Physical Society study showed that in order to have just one satellite-based interceptor on station above a launch site at any given time would require a network of at least 1,600 satellites (with a corresponding five- to ten-fold increase in American space-launch capacity). That number nearly matches all the active satellites in orbit today. And yet the system could easily be overwhelmed by an adversary launching multiple, inexpensive missiles at once.
Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly. A 2012 National Research Council report determined that the total life-cycle cost of developing, building, launching, and maintaining an "austere and limited-capability network" of 650 satellites would be $300 billion.
In addition to spending hundreds of billions for a paper-thin system, Congress could also spook Russia and China into a dangerous arms race. Since the 1960s, rival powers have maintained a fragile norm against placing weapons in space. The deployment of space-based interceptors would irreparably destroy that precedent. Moreover, any interceptor that is able to target an enemy missile can also knock an enemy satellite out of the sky.
Against this capability, the claim that space-based interceptors have a purely defensive mission would ring hollow in Moscow and Beijing, who would be forced to deploy anti-satellite weapons of their own. This would greatly increase the likelihood of a shooting war in space, posing a grave risk to the satellites upon which the US military (and civil society) depends. As the nation that is most dependent on satellites for military and civil communications, we have the most to lose from a space war.
None of this is inevitable, but the development of space weapons greases the skids for this dangerous outcome. The United States should recognize space-based interceptors for what they really are: infeasible, unaffordable, and utterly destabilizing. Congress should reject space weapons and save our money -- and our satellites – instead.
At a minimum, Congress might want to check in with the Pentagon.
Tom Z. Collina is the policy director for Ploughshares Fund.
Zack Brown is a research assistant at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation that supports initiatives to reduce and eventually eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.