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And the arms race in space is officially underway.  The recently unclassified document titled “U. S. National Space Policy” is a ten page declaration of how the U. S. intends to define its space activities, and to coincide with recent US policy trends, is incredibly unilateral.  

Buried beneath other news stories and released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, this statement can be read in full at  Herein I will attempt to outline what I feel are the policies that warrant further discussion, and that will hopefully see future public debate.  

“The United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity. Consistent with this principle, ‘peaceful purposes’ allow U.S. defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests.” Shortly after this sentence the document declares “Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for U.S. national interests.”  

The obvious conflict with the aforementioned statements is their contradicting nature.  How can one commit to exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, while simultaneously declaring that arms control agreements shall not obstruct “development” or “testing” of such related activities? I began to assume that my skeptical nature regarding military issues was clouding my judgment of this policy, that is, until I stumbled across a document released by the United States Space Command (comprised of the United States Army and Naval Space Command, and the Fourteenth Air Force) titled “Vision For 2020.”  


From a quote expanded to half the size of an 8 x 10 page (not buried deep within the document), it reads “US Space Command – dominating the space dimension of military operation to protect US interests and investment.  Integrating space forces into war fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.” In addition, the USSC proclaims that space “will be increasingly leveraged to close the ever-widening gap between diminishing resources and increasing military commitments.” So on one hand, the current Administration’s document stresses the use of space for peaceful U. S. interests, while alternatively the military clearly states their goal of “Full Spectrum Dominance,” as highlighted by a colorfully graphic diagram within the document.  This diagram emphasizes the “Joint Vision 2010 Operational Concepts” that include “Peacetime Engagement,” “Deterrence and Conflict Prevention,” and most notably, “Fight and Win.” 

In basic terms, this is what I have been able to gather: 1) From the perspective of the current and most likely past Administrations, in fear of future militarization of space, it is best to be the first atop the hill rather than the second or third; 2) From the perspective of the USSC, we must develop crippling weapons technologies in order to defend U. S. interests and investment, for one day resources will run dry and it is better to be in possession of the weapons than to be at the other end of them (or even worse let them fall into extra-terrestrial terrorist hands).

Both of these assumptions make logical sense, though the latter is clearly more brutal and is deficient in a sense that we, as subjects of the world under whatever collective power you may believe to exist, are in fact one, differing only in height, weight, and shade of skin.  Realistically though, the world’s occupants have seldom accepted such compromising unification.  


So I will offer my point through a bit of foresight.  We have once again declared ourselves the undisputed moral authority, a reoccurring problem in our inner-atmosphere foreign policy.  In a similar scenario two decades ago, the Cold War arms race proved only to enhance the danger, not the security, of our global neighborhood. Though we lay claim to crumbling communism and saving our way of life, when the dust from the fallout settled all that remained were two nuclear arsenals with the potential to destroy that very life as we know it.  One of the stabilizing factors of this explosive situation was the cooperation of the two superpowers in agreeing to peace and eventual disarmament.    

So in regard to the current topic of militarizing space, my problem lies not with our military’s focus on developing state of the art missile defense systems, rather with our lack of regard to the input of any other nation, eight of which are now nuclear powers.  

In an arms race that has barely begun, we are already dictating the terms for others to follow.  And since those terms proclaim us as king of the hill and leave little room for others to negotiate, the path to space settlement will inevitably lead to noncompliance of such policies.  It would be beneficial for all this time around to begin with cooperation, rather than act out the charade of a race toward outer-space dominance, come to a tactical battle for territory and leverage, and at the eleventh hour rely on the leadership of few to realize that at the push of a button their reign of power may come to an end.      

And in case the prior sentence was too long or even a bit dramatic, I will try to emphasize my point again.  Instead of another failed exercise in unilateralism, let us this time around begin with cooperation, not end with it.

Published by the Collegiate Times on 10/31/2006

By Brian T. Murphy

The next great international arms race is officially underway, as the United States adds to its rich history of declarations a unilateral document that solidifies our right to peaceful military actions in all space.  This essay discusses official U.S. space policy as described in the recently unclassified “U.S. National Space Policy.” 

Manifest Galaxy

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