The dangerous business of making the heavens
a war zone
by Karl Grossman
CovertAction Quarterly, April / June 2001
The Bush-Cheney White House has close links to the corporate
Star Warriors-and an arms race in space could be the costly consequence.
The blueprint for the U.S. space military program is revealed
in the report of the Commission to Assess United States National
Security Space Management and Organization. The "Space Commission"
was chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, now installed as the Bush-Cheney
administration's Secretary of Defense.
"In the coming period," states the report issued
January 11, 2001, "the U.S. will conduct operations to, from,
in and through space in support of its national interests both
on the earth and in space.''
The report urges that the U.S. president "have the option
to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary,
defend against attacks on U.S. interests."
"We know from history that every medium-air, land and
sea-has seen conflict," declares the report. "Reality
indicates that space will be no different. Given this virtual
certainty, the U.S. must develop the means both to deter and to
defend against hostile acts in and from space. This will require
superior space capabilities."
The report continues a PR spin o f citing a need for a "National
Missile Defense" as a pretext for space military expansion
-indeed it warns several times of a "Space Pearl Harbor."
Media accounts of the report went along with this spin. But, in
fact, the report reflects a far wider program of space warfare.
It is "possible to project power through and from space
in response to events anywhere in the world," it stresses.
"Unlike weapons from aircraft, land forces or ships, space
missions initiated from earth or space could be carried out with
little transit, information or weather delay. Having this capability
would give the U.S. a much stronger deterrent and, in a conflict,
an extraordinary military advantage.''
The Commission recommends a transition of the U.S. Space Command,
established by the Pentagon in 1985 to coordinate Air Force, Army
and Navy space forces, to a "Space Corps."
This Space Corps would function as a quasi-independent military
arm Like the Marine Corps, and possibly "transition"
to a fully separate "Space Department"-on par with the
Army, Navy and Air Force-several years hence.
The 13-member Rumsfeld "Space Commission" included
two former commanders in chief of the U.S. Space Command and an
ex-commander of the Air Force Space Command, along with retired
U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop (R.-Wyo.). The report's thumbnail
biography of Wallop notes he is now with the Heritage Foundation,
an arch-conservative think tank with close White House ties, adding
"in 1977 he was the first elected official to propose a space-based
missile defense system."'
The report has a section addressing the U.S. maneuvers around
international laws on space military activities such as the Outer
Space Treaty of 1967. Enacted in an effort to keep war out of
space, the treaty has been ratified by 111 nations. The Space
Commission emphasizes: "There is no blanket prohibition in
international law on placing or using weapons in space.''
The legislation that got the Space Commission established
in 2000 was authored by Senator Bob Smith (R. New Hamp.), who
is thrilled with the panel's report. "It is our manifest
destiny," said the member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
in an interview. "You know we went from the East Coast to
the West Coast of the United States of America settling the continent
and they call[ed] that manifest destiny and the next continent
if you will, the next frontier, is space and it goes on forever.''
The report is being applauded by the U.S. military, too. "The
Air Force welcomes the Space Commission's report and is enthusiastic
about the observations and recommendations that determined a realigned
and rechartered Air Force is best suited to organize, train and
equip space forces," said a dispatch on the U.S. Air Force
It quoted Brigadier General Michael A. Hamel, space operations
and integration director, as saying: "This is a golden opportunity
for the Air Force to create a strong center of advocacy and commitment
to national security space efforts.''
On the other hand, Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global
Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, declares:
"If the House and the Senate allow Bush to carry out this
space weaponization plan they will have all created the conditions
that will surely move the arms race into the heavens. The aerospace
industry will get rich from it and the taxpayers will get a more
unstable world. The people of the world must speak out loudly
and clearly if we are to stop this new insanity!''
The report follows up a series of U.S. military reports in
recent years that call for the U.S. to "control space"
and from space "dominate" the Earth below.
The U.S. plans are laid out in documents including the Vision
for 2020 report of the U.S. Space Command. The multi-colored cover
of Vision for 2020 depicts a laser weapon shooting a beam down
from space zapping a target below. Vision for 2020 then proclaims
the U.S. Space Command's mission-"dominating the space dimension
of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment.
Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across
the full spectrum of conflict.''
Vision for 2020, issued in 1996, compares the U.S. effort
to control space and the Earth below to how centuries ago, "nations
built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests,"
how the great empires of Europe ruled the waves and thus the world.
Vision for 2020 stresses the role of space in managing the
global economy. "The globalization of the world economy will
also continue, with a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots,"
says the U.S. Space Command. The view is that by controlling space
and the Earth below, the U.S. will be able to keep those "have-nots"
The U.S. Space Command is readying itself to be "the
enforcement arm for the global economy," says Bill Sulzman,
director of Citizens for Peace in Space, the group challenging
U.S. space military activities, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
where the U.S. Space Command is headquartered.
The U.S. Space Command points to U.S. corporate interests
being involved in helping set U.S. space military doctrine. President
Dwight Eisenhower warned in his "farewell address" to
the nation in 1961 of the "military-industrial complex."
The U.S. Space Command's Long Range Plan begins by stressing that
"The Long Range Plan has been U.S. Space Command's #1
priority for the past 11 months, investing nearly 20 man-years
to make it a reality," it starts out. "The development
and production process, by design, involved hundreds of people
including about 75 corporations."
The Long Range Plan subsequently provides a list of these
corporations -beginning with Aerojet and Boeing and going through
Lockheed Martin, Rand Corp., Raytheon, Sparta Corp., and TRW to
"Now is the time," says the Long Range Plan, issued
in 1998, "to begin developing space capabilities, innovative
concepts of operations for war fighting, and organizations that
can meet the challenges of the 2lst Century... Even as military
forces have become more downsized in the 1990s, their commitments
have steadily increased. As military operations become more lethal,
space power enables our streamlined forces to minimize the loss
of blood and national treasure... Space power in the 2lst Century
looks similar to previous military revolutions, such as aircraft-carrier
warfare and Blitzkrieg."
"The time has come to address, among war fighters and
national policy makers," the Long Range Plan goes on, "the
emergence of space as a center of gravity for DoD [Department
of Defense] and the nation. We must commit enough planning and
resources to protect and enhance our access to, and use of, space.
Although international treaties and legalities constrain some
of the LRP's [Long Range Plan's] initiatives and concepts, our
abilities in space will keep evolving as we address these legal,
political, and international concerns."
The Long Range Plan states: "The United States will remain
a global power and exert global leadership... It is unlikely that
the United States will face a global military peer competitor
through 2020... The United States won't always be able to forward
base its forces... Widespread communications will highlight disparities
in resources and quality of life-contributing to unrest in developing
"The global economy will continue to become more interdependent.
Economic alliances, as well as the growth and influence of multinational
corporations, will blur security agreements... The gap between
'have' and 'have-not' nations will widen-creating regional unrest...
The United States will remain the only nation able to project
power globally... One of the long acknowledged and commonly understood
advantages of space-based platforms is no restriction or country
clearances to overly a nation from space. We expect this advantage
to endure... Achieving space superiority during conflicts will
be critical to the U.S. success on the battlefield."
The Long Range Plan then continues on for more than 100 pages
detailing U.S. plans for "Control of Space," "FullSpectrum
Dominance," "FullForce Integration," "Global
"Space is the ultimate 'high ground"' says Guardians
of the High Frontier, a 1997 U.S. Air Force Space Command report.
The Air Force Space Command is committed to "the control
and exploitation of space," it says.
"Master of Space" is a motto of the Air Force Space
Command. "Master of Space" appears as a Space Command
uniform patch displayed in Guardians of the High Frontier and
is emblazoned in jumbo letters on the front entrance of a major
Space Command element, the 50th Space Wing in Colorado.
Almanac 2000 is a recent Air Force Space Command report that
flatly declares: "The future of the Air Force is space."
"Into the 21st Century," it says, the U.S. Air Force
needs to be: "Globally dominant-Tomorrow's Air Force will
likely dominate the air and space around the world... Selectively
lethal -- The Air Force may fight intense, decisive wars with
great precision hitting hard while avoiding collateral damage
in both 'real' space and in computer cyberspace. Virtually present-
Space forces compliment [sic] the physical presence of terrestrial
forces. Although they are not visible from the ground, space forces
provide virtual presence through their ability to supply global
mobility, control the high ground, support versatile combat capability,
ensure information dominance and sustain deterrence. The future
Air Force will be better able to monitor and shape world events
U.S. military leaders have been blunt in describing U.S. plans
to make war in, from and into space, as General Joseph Ashy, then
commander in chief of the U.S. Space Command, put it in 1996.
"It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen.
Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue,
but-absolutely-we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight
from space and we're going to fight into space," Ashy told
Aviation Week & Space Technology.
"That's why the U.S. has development programs in directed
energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms."
In the article, headlined "USSC [U.S. Space Command]
Prepares for Future Combat Missions in Space," Ashy spoke
of "space control," the U.S. military's term for controlling
space, and "space force application," its definition
for dominating Earth from space. Said General Ashy: "We'll
expand into these two missions because they will become increasingly
important. We will engage terrestrial targets someday- ships,
airplanes, Land targets-from space. We will engage targets in
space, from space."
SPIES IN THE SKIES
Created in 1960, the U.S. government denied for 32 years the
existence of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). With a
budget roughly matching the combined budgets of the Central Intelligence
Agency and the National Security Agency, NRO oversees the nation's
array of spy satellites.
Keith R. Hall, confirmed as Assistant Secretary of the Air
Force (Space) on March 18, 1997, was appointed Director of NRO
just 10 days Later.
He told the National Space Club in 1997: "With regard
to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we're going to
keep it. Hall, responsible for keeping the spies in the skies
flying, served under Clinton and has been retained by Bush, a
distinction few appointees at this level can claim.
Far more than reports and rhetoric have been involved. Some
$6 billion-a-year - plus funds in the "black" or secret
budget-has in recent years been going into U.S. space military
One project underway is the "Space-Based Laser Readiness
Demonstrator." The promotional poster for this laser shows
it firing its ray in space while a U.S. flag somehow manages to
wave in space above it.
A joint project of TRW, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the military,
it "follows more than 15 years of TRW work developing technologies"
for U.S. military-"sponsored space-based initiatives,"
declared a 1998 press release announcing the project.
In November 2000, the Clinton administration's Defense Department
began to "finalize details" on a development of this
laser. The cost of its development program "is estimated
at $20-$30 billion," said the Public Affairs Office at the
Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. In December, the
Pentagon chose the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi as the
"Located in a swamp in southwest Mississippi, the Stennis
Space Center is one more indication of the power Trent Lott wields
as the Senate majority leader," comments Bruce Gagnon. "The
space-based laser program is the real Reagan Star Wars-and one
of George W. Bush's preferred technologies. A constellation of
20-30 SBL satellites would orbit the Earth."
A second space-based laser project underway and already in
testing is the Alpha high-energy laser. Built by TRW, it conducted
its 22nd successful test firing on April 26, 2000. "In addition
to producing about 25 percent more power than previous tests,
Alpha generated an output beam that was almost perfectly round
and more uniform in energy density," proclaimed a happy Dan
Novoseller, TRW's Alpha Laser Optimization program manager, after
"Megawatt Laser Test Brings Space Based Lasers One Step
Closer," exclaimed Space Daily, the internet space website,
about the test in the article which included a drawing of the
Alpha laser with the caption: "Turning swords into lasers."
Star Wars proponents regard missile defense-and have through
the years-as a "layer" of a broad U.S. program for space
warfare. The program is to be "multi-layered" and to
include "theatre defense"-weaponry used in or in close
proximity to an area of conflict-space-based weaponry and missile
WEAPONS OUTTA SPACE
Although U.S. citizens may not be familiar with the full sweep
of the U.S. space military plans, because of a media lazy or worse,
other nations are.
On November 20, 2000, because of the U.S. plans, a resolution
on "Prevention of An Arms Race In Outer Space" was voted
on before the UN General Assembly. The resolution sought to reaffirm
the Outer Space Treaty and specifically, its provision that space
be set aside for "peaceful purposes." Some 163 nations
voted in favor. Abstaining were the U.S., Israel and Micronesia,
a cluster of Pacific islands dependent on U.S. aid, Canada, certainly
in no way a potential foe, has been highly active at the UN in
seeking to strengthen the Outer Space Treaty with an agreement
to ban all weapons in space.
In a UN presentation in October, 1999, Marc Vidricaire, counselor
of the Permanent Mission of Canada, noted that "Canada first
formally proposed... a legally binding instrument" for a
"ban of the weaponization of space" in January 1997
and "renewed our proposal" earlier in 1999. He cited
the U.S. Space Command's Long Range Plan "including its recommendation
to 'shape [the] international community to accept space-based
The Canadian diplomat said: "Our objective is to ensure
that pursuing the concepts of space control and force application
are not extended by any state to include actual deployment of
weapons in outer space."
On October 19, 2000, Vidricaire was again sounding the alarm
on behalf of Canada at the UN. "Outer space has not yet witnessed
the introduction of space-based weapons. This could change if
the international community does not first prevent this destabilizing
development through the timely negotiation of measures banning
the introduction of weapons into outer space," he said.
"It has been suggested that our proposal is not relevant
because the assessment on which it rests is either premature or
alarmist. In our view, it is neither. One need only look at what
is happening right now to realize that it is not premature..."
Vidricaire said: "There is no question that the technology
can be developed to place weapons in outer space. There is also
no question that no state can expect to maintain a monopoly on
such knowledge-or such capabilities-for all time. If one state
actively pursues the weaponization of space, we can be sure others
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first address at
the UN, to the "Millennium Summit" on September 6, 2000,
stated that "particularly alarming are the plans for the
militarization of outer space." In Canada in December 2000,
he and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a joint statement
announcing that "Canada and the Russian Federation will continue
close cooperation in preventing an arms race in outer space."
Interestingly, it was the U.S. that was deeply involved in
initiating the Outer Space Treaty, according to Craig Eisendrath,
a former U.S. State Department officer who helped in its creation.
The Soviet Union had launched its Sputnik satellite in 1957 and
"we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized."
A model the State Department used for its draft of the Outer
Space Treaty, says Eisendrath, was the Antarctic Treaty, barring
weapons from that continent. The Soviet Union and the United Kingdom
joined the U.S. in presenting the treaty, adopted by the UN General
Assembly in 1966. It entered into force in October 1967.
The intent of the Outer Space Treaty is "to keep war
out of space," said Eisendrath, who went from the State Department
to becoming an educator and is now a senior fellow at the Center
for International Policy in Washington, `, D.C. He is a co-author
of the forthcoming book, The Phantom Defense: America's Pursuit
of the Star Wars Illusion.
Eisendrath views as "a violation" of the Outer Space
Treaty the deployment in space of weapons such as the lasers that
the U.S. military has been and is pursuing.
The final wording of the treaty provides for a ban on "nuclear
weapons or other kinds of weapons of mass destruction."
Endeavoring to clear up any confusion and specifically bar
all weapons in space have been Canada and China. But the U.S.
has successfully fought back those efforts-and this was before
George W. Bush and Richard Cheney took office.
With the assumption of power by Bush and Cheney and a U.S.
administration intimately linked to corporate and right-wing interests
committed to expanding space military activities, Star Wars has
received a huge boost. The corporate links include Cheney himself,
a former member of the TRW board. His wife, Lynne Cheney, was
until January a member of the board of Lockheed Martin.
There is no subtlety. "I wrote the Republican Party's
foreign policy platform," Bruce Jackson, vice president of
corporate strategy and development of Lockheed Martin, proudly
told me. Jackson was selected as chairman of the Foreign Policy
Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention, at which
he was a delegate.
Thus the Bush-Cheney administration is using a foreign policy
platform written by a top executive of Lockheed Martin, the world's
biggest weapons manufacturer and a kingpin in U.S. space warfare
Jackson said that during the campaign, advocacy on space military
activities was done by Stephen J. Hadley, an assistant secretary
of defense for international security policy and member of the
National Security Council in the administration of Bush's father
and partner in the law firm of Shea & Gardner-which represents
Lockheed Martin in Washington.
"Space is going to be important. It has a great future
in the military," Hadley, speaking as "an adviser"
to Bush, told the Air Force Association in an address at its national
convention September 11, 2000. He became deputy director of the
National Security Council in the Bush II administration.
Jackson and Hadley worked closely on an entity called the
Committee to Expand NATO. Jackson was president, based in the
Washington office of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute;
Hadley was secretary. Cheney, before becoming vice president of
the U.S., was a Distinguished Fellow of the American Enterprise
In the Bush choice of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense,
the U.S. got a man whom the pro-Star Wars ultra right-wing Center
for Security Policy describes as a "trusted adviser"
and a financial supporter and who in 1998 was awarded its "Keeper
of the Flame" award.
The Center's advisory board includes such Star Wars promoters
as "the father of the H-bomb" Edward Teller and Lockheed
Martin executives including Bruce Jackson.
Says Gagnon of the Bush-Cheney administration, "This
so-called election is a major victory for those who intend to
put weapons into space at an enormous cost to the U.S. taxpayer
and to world stability."
START OF A SPACE RACE
The book The Future of War: Power, Technology & American
World Dominance in the 2lst Century by George and Meredith Friedman
concludes: "Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that
the European experience of power would be its domination of the
global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience
of power will rest on the domination of space... Just as Europe
expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States
is expanding war and its power into space... Just as Europe shaped
the world for half a millennium, so too the United States will
shape the world for at Least that Length of time. For better or
worse, America has seized hold of the future of war..."
For the Friedmans, Like the U.S. military and the Star Warriors
of the Bush administration, the view is that the rest of the world
will somehow Let the U.S. achieve "world dominance"
from space. In an interview, defense expert Friedman declared
that other nations "lack the money and/ or technology to
compete with us in the development of space-age weapons."
He described China and Russia as "passing blips."
This is a tragic miscalculation, for if the U.S. moves to
"control" space and from it "dominate" the
world below, other nations will respond in kind-China and Russia
right off - and there will be an arms race and inevitably war
Kofi Annan, in opening the July 1999 Third United Nations
Conference on Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, held
in Vienna, declared: "Above all, we must guard against the
misuse of outer space. We recognized early on that a Legal regime
was needed to prevent it from being another arena of military
confrontation. The international community has acted jointly,
through the United Nations, to ensure that outer space will be
"But there is much more to be done. We must not allow
this century, so plagued with war and suffering, to pass on its
legacy, when the technology at our disposal will be even more
awesome. We cannot view the expanse of space as another battleground
for our earthly conflicts."
"If the U.S. is allowed to move the arms race into space,
there will be no return," says Gagnon. "We have this
one chance, this one moment in history, to stop the weaponization
of space from happening.''
There is a narrow window to keep space for peace, to strengthen
the Outer Space Treaty and ban all weapons in space. We must join
with peoples from around the world and stop this move by the U.S.
to turn the heavens into a war zone.
Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University
of New York/ College at Old Westbury.