The new arms
race in space is shaping up to be the largest industrial project in Earth's
history. To pay for this project, the aerospace industry has been lobbying
Washington for a dedicated funding source. Budget allocations for missile
defense — Star Wars — are only part of the huge sums of money redirected
toward preparations for war in space.
Since World War
II, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on Star Wars research
and development. When Bill Clinton first came into office in 1993 he
ceremoniously announced that Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI),
at that time funded at $3.5 billion a year, was dead. Then he quietly
created the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and moved the
$3.5 billion into the new space weapons development organization. George W.
Bush left office having changed the name to Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
with an annual budget of $10 billion per year.
Not counted in
the MDA budget is the money that goes into space technology programs at the
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), National Security Agency (NSA),
Department of Energy, NASA, and others. Conservative numbers indicate that
the total military space technology annual budget runs in the neighborhood
of $75 billion per year.
From Research to
maintains that the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s was the "first
space war" where it was able to field test new technologies and begin
implementing the doctrine of "full spectrum dominance." In the
2003 shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq, 70% of the weapons used in the initial
attack were directed to their targets via military space satellites. Today,
terrestrial warfare is coordinated from space.
But there's a
problem: If the United States can do all of this, so could another nation.
Thus the Pentagon has for years been working to create the ability to
"deny" others the use of space. According to the Air Force Space
Command planning document Strategic Master Plan: FY06 and
ability to gain space superiority (the ability to exploit space while
selectively disallowing it to adversaries) is critically important and
maintaining space superiority is an essential prerequisite for success in
modern warfare...Simply, we must be able to quickly subjugate any space
capability any adversary can field while maintaining our own."
This threat to
take out the space assets of other nations is leading to a new and
dangerous stage in the space arms race. China's 2007 test of a rudimentary
anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon was a warning to the United States that it
won't allow any one country to be "Master of Space," as the Air
Force Space Command logo reads. The United States responded in 2008, using
the excuse of a falling satellite, to show the world it had the capability
to knock out an object in space. In this case, the Navy fired a "missile
defense" system from an Aegis destroyer into space and successfully
hit the doomed satellite. This test also was a clear warning to Russia and
China that the ship-based Aegis "missile defense" system had
offensive capabilities and could be used as part of a growing U.S.
Space Race in
Today, the United
States and its allies Japan and South Korea are deploying Aegis destroyers
to encircle China's coastline and put its small nuclear deterrent
capability at risk. China also knows that the U.S. Space Command has been
annually war-gaming a first-strike attack on its nation. In a computer war
game set in the year 2016, the United States launches the attack, using a
system now under development called the military space plane. This weapon
would have the capability to take off like an airplane, fly through space
to the other side of the world in one hour, drop a devastating attack on
China, and then return to home base. The Pentagon is selling this space
plane to the Congress and the public as the successor to the outdated, and
increasingly expensive, space shuttle.
The International Herald Tribune recently reported that Gen. Valentin Popovkin, former chief of
Russia's space forces, said his country must develop ASAT weapons
technology as well. "We can't sit back and quietly watch others doing
that, such work is being conducted in Russia," Popovkin was quoted as
saying. Russia already has some "basic, key elements" of such
weapons, Popovkin said.
tenures of both Clinton and the second Bush, Russia and China introduced to
the UN General Assembly a resolution calling for a new treaty to ban
weapons in space. The Prevention of an Arms Race in
Space (PAROS) would outlaw all
weapons in and through space, and close the barn door before the horse gets
out. Sadly, the position of the United States has been consistent
throughout both Democrat and Republican administrations: There are no
weapons in space and thus no need for a new treaty. The United States
claims that there is no problem.
The Problem with
NASA was created
as a civilian agency with a mission to do peaceful space exploration. But
the growing influence of the military industrial complex has rubbed out the
line between civilian and military programs.
When George W.
Bush appointed former Secretary of the Navy Sean O'Keefe to head NASA in
late 2001, the new space agency director announced that all NASA missions
in the future would be "dual use." This meant that every NASA
space launch would be both military and civilian at the same time. The
military would ride the NASA Trojan horse and accelerate space weapons
development without the public's knowledge. NASA would expand space nuclear
power systems to help create new designs for weapons propulsion. Permanent,
nuclear-powered bases on the moon and Mars would give the United States a
leg up in the race for control of those planetary bodies. The international
competition for resource extraction in space (helium-3 on the moon) is now full on.
NASA's job is to
do the research and development, and then be ready to turn everything over
to private corporate interests once the technology has been sorted out. The
taxpayers will fund the technology investment program. The military will
create the space weapons systems to ensure free corporate access to the
space highways of the future. The aerospace industry is already making
record profits from the ever-escalating cost of space technology systems.
Virtually every system now under development is well over budget. Just one
illustration is NASA's International Space Station. Originally slated to
cost the taxpayers $10 billion, the project has now grown to $100 billion
and is not yet finished.
High Ground in Space
congressional study from1989 called Military Space Forces: The Next 50 Years spells out much of the Pentagon's plan for
achieving dominance in space. The Air Force Association published the
report in book form, and congressional leaders like Representatives Ike
Skelton (D-MO) and John Spratt (D-SC), Senator John Glenn (D-OH) and
now-Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) signed the forward.
In the book,
congressional staffer John Collins reports: "Military space forces at
the bottom of the Earth's so-called gravity well are poorly positioned to
accomplish offensive/defensive/deterrent missions, because great energy is
needed to overcome gravity during launch. Forces at the top, on a space
counterpart of 'high ground,' could initiate action and detect, identify,
track, intercept, or otherwise respond more rapidly to attacks."
Collins goes on
to propose to Congress that the United States needs bases on the moon, at
the top of the "gravity well," and on armed space stations on
either side of the lunar surface. He writes, "Nature reserves decisive
advantage for L4 and L5, two allegedly stable libration points [on either
side of the moon] that theoretically could dominate Earth and moon, because
they look down both gravity wells. No other location is equally
commanding." Collins then concludes that, "Armed forces might lie
in wait at that location to hijack rival shipments on return." Space
piracy is born.
Pentagon, the defense industries also have a plan for space. They're working 50-75 years ahead of the rest of
us. They understand the enormous costs involved. They are moving to secure
a funding source and working to bring "reliable allies" into the
program to help pay for Star Wars. They've learned to dress up key aspects
of the program as defense, as in "missile defense."
Space is the new
military frontier. It's now up to the peace movement to understand the
issue and help the public do so as well. Unless this costly and
destabilizing new space arms race is stopped, life on Earth will become
much more difficult. We must keep space for peace.
Gagnon is the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear
Power in Space and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011