WASHINGTON and BOSTON —
concern over U.S. satellite
recently by a report on Chinese space warfare plans
and a U.S. lawmaker’s call
open hearings on space security.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and Space Warfare,” a report released Oct. 17 by the American Enterprise Institute here,
is preparing for war in space and considers the United States a likely adversary.
“They’re very serious about developing means to attack targets in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface from space,” Larry Wortzel, the report’s author, said at a press conference Oct. 17. Wortzel, a retired U.S. Army colonel and China specialist, said his findings were based on analysis of Chinese military literature.
the event of a conflict with China, the United States can expect to see military operations carried out across the domains of land, sea, air, the electromagnetic spectrum and space, the report states. It goes on to say there will probably be
strategic warning of any Chinese use of military force in space, as Beijing likely would telegraph such action with political or legal justifications, the report said.
said he expects that the Chinese will respect the internationally recognized boundary of space around 100 kilometers
above Earth in times of peace and times of tension, but
space assets in the event of conflict.
While cautioning that
Beijing’s intentions can never be truly known, Wortzel said
they can be inferred from
military literature and
Jan. 11 anti-satellite weapon test and its
illumination of an American satellite with a ground-based laser. Pentagon officials disclosed the latter incident last year.
“There are thus sound reasons to defend American interests in space, engage in mutual threat reduction measures, and to pursue programs that will ensure that the U.S. military will have access to space – and space-based logistical support – in any future conflict,” the report concludes.
Regarding war in space, Wortzel said, “the Chinese know it’s inevitable –
They don’t think it.”
Chinese Embassy spokesman
Wang Baodong said he had not yet seen the report
and could not comment on it by
Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a think tank here, said the report
researched, but he took issue with some of its conclusions.
“I think [Wortzel]
was not trying to be an alarmist and looking at things very objectively, but his language is occasionally sensationalist and overly negative,” Kulacki said.
Kulacki said he disagrees with Wortzel’s contention
that space warfare is inevitable.
That, he said, hinges on whether the United States and China are willing to conduct serious discussions on
“rules of the road” for space activity
. Kulacki said the first priority
in that discussion
agreement banning destructive anti-satellite weapons.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has urged
colleagues on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee to hold
hearings on the vulnerability of U.S. military and intelligence satellites. In
an Oct. 4 letter
to Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.),
chairman and ranking member of the panel, respectively,
Franks said that vulnerability was highlighted by China’s
“It is vital that we understand this vulnerability better so that we may provide our warfighters with the tools they need to mitigate the related threats,” Franks said in the letter.
In a written statement
to Space News, Franks said
too much of the discussion about China’s
demonstration has occurred
in the classified realm. Open
hearings, he said, are needed
for Congress to “truly analyze the issues objectively and be held accountable by the American people.”
In a written response to questions, Tauscher said her current focus is
protecting House priorities in the
Defense Authorization Act, whose final provisions are now being negotiated with the Senate.
“At the end of this process we will assess where we are and decide how to move forward with hearings that address all aspects of our portfolio including the vulnerability of satellites and the administration’s space policy,” she said.
In an Oct. 17 interview, Everett said
he had been publicly warning of the growing threats to U.S. space systems
. He said
he appreciated Franks’ interest in the topic
the subcommittee to hold
open as well as classified hearings on space security.
Everett noted that the panel held
open hearings on space security in 2005 and 2006,
and since May 2005 had received at least seven classified briefings on the subject
The strategic forces subcommittee
also has recommended increased funding for U.S. space surveillance programs and backed
the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space effort, which could yield systems able to reconstitute U.S. space
capabilities quickly following an attack, Everett said.
Many of the details regarding discussion of threats, vulnerabilities, operations and specific protection measures
must remain classified, Everett said.