White House Wants Space Weapons Ban

Jan 27, 2009
By Frank Morring, Jr.

The new White House Web site puts the administration of President Barack Obama on record as favoring a "worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites."

But the wording on the site raises questions about exactly what it means.

"Does that really run counter to some of the major programs, and what's important?" asked Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), during a Jan. 26 roundtable at Aviation Week's offices in Washington. "I don't know that it does, because the terminology to my mind argues toward weapons, and not toward communication and surveillance."

Under the heading "ensure freedom of space," the defense section of the new White House portal states that "the Obama-Biden Administration will restore American leadership on space issues" and pursue the anti-satellite weapon ban.

But the language also calls for continued research on protecting space assets, including "the best options, military and diplomatic, for countering them, establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack."

Detailed space policy remains a work in progress in the Obama White House, according to one source in the new administration, and specific guidance is sparse even among experts beginning to take their places in the executive branch.

The White House site also includes a position on missile defense, declaring the administration will support it, "but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public."

The Bush administration, the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon and some conservative lawmakers had pushed to study a concept for a space-based test bed of missile interceptors in recent years, but Congress - including most Democratic members - repeatedly rejected the request (Aerospace DAILY, Sept. 15, 2008).

SM-3 launch photo: U.S. Defense Department

AVIATION WEEK Copyright 2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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