Report's cover art credit: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, ca. June 1889.

Report’s cover art credit: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, ca. June 1889.

A new alternative approach to a national security space strategy has been authored by two leading experts in the field.

Their report — Toward a New National Security Space Strategy: Time for a Strategic Rebalancing has been written by Theresa Hitchens and Joan Johnson-Freese.

The report notes that “the United States has the most to gain from a stable and secure space environment, and the most to lose if space becomes a battlefield.”

Grounded discussions for space

In this Atlantic Council Strategy Paper, the authors offer an approach they dub as “proactive prevention”, one that is based on goal achievement and viability.

The just-issued paper is intended to offer a catalyst and starting point for grounded discussions on space security policy for the next administration.

“As technologies further improve the world’s ability to access and operate in space, the new administration will need to rethink how the United States wants to act alongside its fellow nations…This Atlantic Council Strategy Paper does a great job initiating this important conversation at a very important time,” notes James E. Cartwright, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the foreword to the paper.

RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is launched on Feb. 21, 2008 to destroy the failed National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) L-21 satellite – also known as USA-193. While nations argue anti-satellite strikes are necessary to reduce the danger to humans from falling debris or hazardous materials, many fear this technology can be used against strategic satellites as an offensive capability to disable forces operating on Earth. Photo credit: US Navy

RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is launched on Feb. 21, 2008 to destroy the failed National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) L-21 satellite – also known as USA-193. While nations argue anti-satellite strikes are necessary to reduce the danger to humans from falling debris or hazardous materials, many fear this technology can be used against strategic satellites as an offensive capability to disable forces operating on Earth.
Photo credit: US Navy

Strategic advantages

As detailed in the paper, a focus on “proactive prevention” would gain the United States several strategic advantages.

According to the authors, this approach would:

  • Provide a chance to stop activities and actions that would degrade the space environment, and consequently impair the beneficial uses of space by all, through development of norms and rules that establish the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors;
  • Create space to establish better dialogue, with Russia and China in particular, about U.S. “bright lines” in space, and mutual assurance measures that would reduce risks of misconception and conflict, as well as establish “breakers” to dangerous conflict escalation;
  • Avoid the opportunity costs that an arms race in space would engender;
  • Buy time (and resources, per avoiding opportunity costs) for private industry, which is in the middle of a renaissance, to develop low-cost solutions to space resiliency that can help the US national security space community get out of the situation of having space be a potential single-point failure in a conflict, as well as complicate an attacker’s abilities to degrade or defeat the advantages provided to the US military by space assets;
  • Allow the US Air Force and intelligence community to figure out protection strategies and technologies for those space assets that will be more difficult to commercialize, otherwise disaggregate, or offload missions from; and,
  • Allow the US government and industry the time and budgetary leeway to develop next-generation technologies that might keep a leading edge in space, both for commercial benefits and military hedging or advantage.

 

Theresa Hitchens and Joan Johnson-Freese. Courtesy: Atlantic Council

Theresa Hitchens and
Joan Johnson-Freese.
Courtesy: Atlantic Council

 

 

Scholarly look

Theresa Hitchens is a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM).

Joan Johnson-Freese is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

The views presented in this paper are those of the authors alone, and do not represent those of the US government, the Naval War College, or the University of Maryland.

The Atlantic Council, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonpartisan organization that promotes constructive US leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting today’s global challenges.

 

 

 

 

Resources:

To read this informative, wide-ranging and thought provoking report, go to:

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/AC_StrategyPapers_No5_Space_WEB6.17.pdf

Issued by the Atlantic Council, a video detailing the report is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc0tq3V0kNs

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