Conference on Securing Space Assets for Peace and Future Conflict
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Thank you for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to attend this conference. The State Department is extremely supportive of the work done here at NDU, and I am particularly pleased that the university is taking a hard look at what can be done to create a stable, secure, and sustainable space environment.
Much of my time at the State Department is focused on the national security aspects of international space cooperation, particularly working with traditional space-faring allies and partners, but also in exploring potential opportunities for cooperation with emerging space powers. My colleagues at State and I also continue to work closely with the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Transportation as well as with NASA and the Intelligence Community to implement this new policy and to preserve the long-term sustainability of our space activities.
As all of you know, the U.S. National Space Policy was released in late June of this year. This policy is a statement of the Administration’s highest priorities for space, and reflects our principles and goals to be used in shaping the conduct of our space programs and activities.
In the four years since the issuance of the previous U.S. National Space Policy, a number of developments have changed the opportunities, challenges, and threats facing the international space community. This new policy both accounts for those changes, and reflects the fact that space has become an even more important component of our collective economic and international security.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has talked about building a “global architecture of cooperation” to deal with today’s challenges. In fact, a key component of the new National Space Policy is its increased emphasis on expanding international cooperation and collaboration. Such opportunities include cooperation to mitigate orbital debris, share space situational awareness information, improve information sharing for collision avoidance, and develop transparency and confidence building measures. Collaboration in each of these areas has the potential of enhancing stability in space. I will discuss these opportunities for cooperation now and then close with some of our views on how all countries can contribute to preserving the space environment for future generations.
Cooperation to Mitigate Orbital Debris
One issue that underlines the need for cooperation is the growing presence of debris in space. There are now around 21,000 pieces of space debris in various Earth orbits – in other words, about 6,000 metric tons of debris orbiting the Earth. Some of this debris was created accidentally through collisions or routine space launches, some was intentional such as the Chinese ASAT test in 2007. Experts warn that the quantity and density of man-made debris significantly increases the odds of dangerous and damaging collisions. This debris also adds to the overall magnitude of hazards in critical orbits, such as those used by the space shuttle and the International Space Station. For example, the space shuttle is impacted by debris repeatedly on every mission. In fact, debris poses the single largest threat to the shuttle and to the astronauts onboard during these missions. The typical risk of the space shuttle being critically impacted by debris is about one in 250.
To address the growing problem of orbital debris, the United States plans to expand its engagement within the United Nations and with other governments and non-governmental organizations. We are continuing to lead the development and adoption of international standards to minimize debris, building upon the foundation of the U.N. Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines. The United States is also engaged with our European allies and partners and other like-minded nations on a multi-year study of “long-term sustainability” within the Scientific and Technical Committee of the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, or COPUOS. This effort will provide a valuable opportunity for cooperation with established and emerging space actors and with the private sector to establish a set of “best practice” guidelines that will enhance space-flight safety.
In collaboration with other space-faring nations, the United States is also pursuing research and development of technologies and techniques to mitigate on-orbit debris and increase our understanding of the current and future debris environment. We are also working to develop international and industry standards to slow down the accumulation of debris in space to put ourselves on a more sustainable path. These activities provide valuable opportunities for expanded international cooperation with the global space-faring community and the private sector, and also contribute to preserving the space environment for future generations.
Cooperation in Space Situational Awareness
International cooperation is also necessary to ensure that we have robust situational awareness of the space environment. No one nation has the resources or geography necessary to precisely track every space object. The National Space Policy implicitly recognizes this fact and thus directs us to collaborate with other nations, the private sector, and intergovernmental organizations to improve our space situational awareness – specifically, to improve our shared ability to rapidly detect, warn of, characterize, and attribute natural and man-made disturbances to space systems.
An example of our efforts to cooperate in the area of space situational awareness is our collaboration with Europe as they develop their own space situational awareness, or SSA system. The State Department, in collaboration with Department of Defense, is currently engaged in technical exchanges with experts from the European Space Agency, European Union, and individual ESA and EU Member States to ensure interoperability between our two SSA systems. Looking ahead, State and DoD also see opportunities for cooperation on SSA with our allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific and other regions.
Cooperation to Prevent Collision Avoidance
International cooperation is also essential to enable satellite owners and operators to have the information necessary to prevent future collisions. As a result, we are seeking to improve our ability to share information with other space-faring nations as well as with our industry partners. Such cooperation enables us to improve our space object databases as well as pursue common international data standards and data integrity measures.
The National Space Policy calls for collaboration on the dissemination of orbital tracking information, including predictions of potentially hazardous conjunctions between orbiting objects. In addition to improving our own capabilities to conduct expanded space object detection, characterization, and tracking and maintaining the space object catalogue, the United States also provides notifications to other governments and commercial satellite operators of potential conjunctions. Currently, U.S. Strategic Command is working in coordination with the State Department as well as with experts from NASA and the Department of Commerce to improve the accuracy of our conjunction analyses and to facilitate rapid notifications of space hazards. To ensure timely notifications, the Department of State is reaching out to all space-faring nations to ensure that the Joint Space Operations Center has current contact information for both government and private sector satellite operations centers.
We hope that as our space surveillance capabilities improve, we will be able to notify satellite operators earlier and with greater accuracy in order to prevent collisions in space. The U.S. Government is currently working closely with the commercial space industry to determine the kinds of satellite data and other information that can be shared within appropriate national security and proprietary bounds. Working together at the operator level to share collision warning information will have the added benefit of improving spaceflight safety and communication among governmental and commercial operators, users, and decision-makers.
Cooperation in Developing TCBMs
Finally, the United States is working with the international community to develop transparency and confidence building measures, or TCBMs. The National Space policy clearly states that the United States will continue to work with other space actors to pursue pragmatic bilateral and multilateral TCBMs to mitigate the risk of mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust. It also affirms that we are open to considering space-related arms control concepts and proposals, provided they meet the rigorous criteria of equitability, effective verifiability, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.
The United States will pursue pragmatic, near-term TCBMs to enhance U.S. security as well as the security of our allies, friends, and space partners. Examples of bilateral space-related TCBMs include dialogues on space policies and strategies, expert visits to military satellite flight control centers, and discussions on mechanisms for information exchanges on natural and debris hazards. Space security dialogues are another important example of TCBMs. To date, the State Department has conducted these dialogues with a number of key allies and partners including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and we expect to engage other nations in the coming months.
Additionally, following the February 2009 collision between a commercial Iridium spacecraft and an inactive Russian military satellite, the United States and Russia were in direct communication to discuss the incident. This experience is contributing to the ongoing dialogue with Russia on developing additional concrete and pragmatic bilateral TCBMs that will enhance spaceflight safety. This past August 24, I led a U.S. interagency delegation to Moscow for a bilateral space security dialogue between experts. There we reviewed national space policy developments and opportunities for reciprocal site visits and collaboration in multilateral fora.
In addition to these exchanges, the United States looks forward to implementing a range of reciprocal military-to-military exchanges, including many of the specific measures noted by Russia in its past submissions to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The United States has invited Russian military space officials to participate in events such the STRATCOM Space Symposium, which occurred earlier this month. We have also invited them to visit STRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Additionally, the United States stands ready to discuss space security with China as part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the U.S.-China Security Dialogue, and through military-to-military exchanges. Such exchanges fulfill the call of President Obama and President Hu in the joint statement of November 17, 2009, to take steps to enhance security in outer space.
The adoption of international norms or multilateral “codes of conduct” are also examples of TCBMs. The United States is currently completing an extensive review of the European Union’s initiative to develop a comprehensive set of multilateral TCBMs, also known as the “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.” Over the past three years, the United States has been actively consulting with the EU on the Code. It is our hope to make a decision in the coming months as to whether the United States can sign on to such a Code, pending our ongoing review and the results of further consultations with the EU and other like-minded nations.
The United States looks forward to continued and substantive discussions on pragmatic and voluntary TCBMs within multilateral fora. During last month’s meeting of the UN General Assembly First Committee, we sought to collaborate with Russia on a resolution establishing a group of government experts to assess options for TCBMs. The United States offered the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China a constructive text for co-sponsorship. Ultimately, we could not support this resolution’s linkage with the “Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space Treaty” (PPWT).
That said, while we had some concerns about the resolution text, we nonetheless appreciate the efforts of the Russia Federation to advance our shared goals of developing TCBMs. In particular, we are supportive of the resolution’s establishment of a Group of Government Experts (GGE) to examine TCBMs in space. Any GGE report, which would be adopted only upon consensus, should focus on pragmatic and voluntary TCBMs that solve concrete problems. We look forward to working with our colleagues, on this effort in such a GGE. Additionally, the United States continues to support the inclusion of a non-negotiating, or discussion, mandate in any CD program of work under the agenda item, “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space,” known as PAROS.
We also believe it is time to consider how space relates to the challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance, and how to strengthen Alliance partnerships to reflect the globalized, interconnected world that we live in today. Less than two weeks ago, during their Summit meeting in Lisbon, NATO leaders adopted a new Strategic Concept. This document will serve as the Alliance's roadmap for the next ten years and re-confirms the commitment to indivisibility, that is, to defend one another against attack, including against new threats.
The new Strategic Concept paves the way for the Alliance to modernize its ability to carry out its core mission of collective defense as well as trans-Atlantic consultations on all matters that affect the territorial integrity, political independence, and security of its members. The Concept also commits the Alliance to prevent crises, manage conflicts and stabilize post-conflict situations, including by working more closely with our international partners, most importantly the United Nations and the European Union.
Of particular interest to this group is the fact that the Strategic Concept urges Allies to invest in key capabilities to meet emerging security challenges.
The Concept’s discussion of the global security environment notes while the threat of a conventional attack against NATO territory is low, many other regions and countries around the world are witnessing the acquisition of substantial, modern military capabilities with consequences for international stability and Euro-Atlantic security that are difficult to predict.
Specifically, the Concept notes that “[a] number of significant technology-related trends – including the development of laser weapons, electronic warfare and technologies that impede access to space – appear poised to have major global effects that will impact on NATO military planning and operations.”
In the coming months, the United States intends to consult with our Allies at NATO on the implications of these trends, as well as efforts to carry out the necessary training, exercises, contingency planning and information exchange for assuring our collective self-defense against emerging security challenges in space. We will also consult with them regarding associated measures to provide appropriate visible assurance and reinforcement for all Allies who benefit from the free use of outer space.
In closing, I’d like to mention that all countries can contribute to preserving the space environment for future generations. As the first principle of our National Space Policy affirms, “[i]t is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.” The United States calls on governments around the world to work together to adopt approaches for responsible activities in space in order to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations. As a result, the United States is seeking to cooperate in the areas of debris mitigation, situational awareness, collision avoidance, and responsible and peaceful behavior in space. This will require the assistance from all space actors – not only established space-faring nations, but also those countries just beginning to explore, and use, space.
President Obama’s National Space Policy renews America’s pledge of cooperation in the belief that, with re-invigorated U.S. leadership and strengthened international collaboration, all nations and peoples—space-faring and space-benefiting—will find their horizons broadened, their knowledge enhanced, and their lives greatly improved. The United States looks forward to our future work with all responsible space actors to create a more secure, stable, and safe space environment for the benefit of all nations