The U.S. Defense Department’s National Security Space Institute (NSSI) is opening its doors this summer to non-American military candidates for the first time as part of an effort to widen the space-policy communications channels between the United States and its allies, Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz said.
Klotz, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, said the first foreign candidates would be from Britain and Australia. He said the decision to open NSSI to allied military personnel is occurring despite the technology-transfer regulations that sharply limit the amount of information that can be shared between U.S. and non-U.S. personnel on space-technology subjects.
Klotz, a Rhodes scholar with a
in political philosophy from Oxford University, is a former defense attache at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and at NATO headquarters in Belgium. He is one of several high-ranking U.S. Air Force officers who regularly debate U.S. military-space policy abroad – occasionally before audiences that are not fully supportive of that policy.
That was the case here June 5 during a conference on “Space: A Conceptual Challenge for Defense,” organized by CESA, the French Center for Strategic Aerospace Studies. The conference attracted about 450 attendees, most of them French military officials or military students.
In a sign of the tensions that surround the topic, Klotz addressed a panel that was scheduled to feature Russian and Chinese government officials who cancel
at the last minute. The panel’s moderator said Klotz’s presence was a likely factor in the cancellation.
Several speakers expressed concerns that current U.S. policy appears to leave the door open for what they termed “space weaponization.” There is no commonly accepted definition of this term, but speakers agreed that China’s January anti-satellite (A-Sat
) experiment is an example of it. China fired a missile from a mobile platform, destroying a retired Chinese weather satellite orbiting the Earth at an altitude of
Adopting a characterization that other U.S. Defense Department officials have used, Klotz said the Chinese test was “a strategically destabilizing event.”
Indian President A.R.J. Abdul Kalam, addressing the meeting by videoconference from New Delhi, said China’s A-Sat
test should prompt the world’s space powers to create an international body to govern the uses of space beyond what exists in current United Nations resolutions. But Kalam, an aerospace engineer who helped design India’s first missiles and rockets, declined to directly criticize the Chinese action.
The French government
also has been muted in its criticism of the Chinese action, although the 27-nation European Commission has formally protested.
Francois Bujon de l’Estaing, a former French ambassador to the United States and co-author of a military space policy report for the French Defense Ministry, said the Chinese A-Sat
test is an example of an “asymmetric strategy. One is able to neutralize an adversary’s ability to use space without matching that ability.”
de l’Estaing said China and the United States, alone among the world’s nations, both “are animated by real strategic visions” of space as a necessary component of national force projection. He said India and Russia may be heading in the same direction, but that Europe remains an undecided spectator.
Francis Gutmann, president of the French Defense Science Council, said current U.S. policy has other nations worried that the U.S. Defense Department has gone too far in bringing space into a national-security context.
“For the United States, the world has always been a strange, dangerous place, and I think we can all agree on that up to a point,” Gutmann said. “But while I can understand the motives behind the idea of ‘space domination,’ it worries me and others who are friends of the United States. The U.S. temptation, and perhaps the tendency toward space weaponization, is a consequence of U.S. history. People say we are in a post-Cold War era. I hope we are not also in a pre-Cold War period.”
Klotz said U.S. policy seeks to master space for national security in the same way as was the case in earlier periods with respect to air or naval power. It is not an attempt to deprive anyone of the use of space for peaceful purposes.
“But we cannot assume that every nation will always pursue space for peaceful purposes and we need to protect our space assets.” He did not specify the limits on active or passive space-defense measures the U.S. deemed fit to use – a debate that continues in the United States and that has not been clearly settled by U.S. policymakers.