October 25th, 2006 10:40 EST
Freedom of Action Centerpiece of New U.S. Space Policy
Washington -- Freedom of action in space is the centerpiece of a new U.S. National Space Policy, the first update in nearly 10 years, that accounts for technology advances and the growing importance of space to international commerce, science, peace and security.
New elements include using space support for homeland security, emphasizing and strengthening interagency partnerships, and renewing the emphasis on the value of mission success in the U.S. government’s space acquisition programs.
“With the amount of time that has passed,” a senior administration official told the Washington File October 20, “there have been changes in challenges, threats and opportunities, and there’s a need to reflect new government organizations, like the Department of Homeland Security.”
The policy also puts new emphasis on strengthening the space science and technology base, enhancing U.S. industrial competitiveness, developing a new cadre of space professionals and encouraging U.S. government use of commercial space capabilities.
“The United States recognizes the critical importance of space access and use for our economy and our national security,” Robert Luaces, U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, said in an October 11 statement.
The committee meets every October; representatives of all 191 U.N. member states can attend.
“We all should be committed to this right,” Luaces added, “because to lose access to space would have profound consequences for the global economy and our everyday lives.”
Space and satellite technologies have increased the value and use of space on Earth. Today, people around the world depend on space capabilities for radio services, disaster mitigation and management, emergency services, personal navigation, automated bank teller machines, package tracking and cell-phone use.
NO SPACE ARMS RACE
At the UNGA First Committee meeting, Luaces also said the United States opposes proposed negotiations on the prevention of an arms race in space.
According to the U.S. space policy, “The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limited U.S. access to or use of space. 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 danger against which we all must be vigilant,” Luaces said, “is not some theoretical arms race in space, but threats that would deny peaceful access to and use of space -- especially ground-based space denial capabilities intended to impede the free access to and use of space systems and services.”
The new policy makes clear, a senior administration official said, that the United States remains “completely committed” to the peaceful use of outer space, and that such use includes defense-related activities.
“We also believe other nations have the right to be in space as well,” he said, “and that those nations who have space systems, services and capabilities in space have the right of free passage; that is, their satellites should be able to go wherever they go unimpeded.”
The United States retains the right to protect its space assets, he added, but “protection doesn’t necessarily mean anything forceful.”
Such protection includes a range of diplomatic actions and non-military technical actions such as moving or “hardening” satellite systems.
U.S. SPACE POLICIES
The new space policy, said National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones in a statement, “completes a presidential task to review all U.S. space policies.” The following five space policies have been updated since 2003:
• U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Policy, April 2003, provides guidance for, among other things, licensing and operating commercial remote sensing space systems, and foreign access to such systems. (More information is available on the U.S. Geological Survey Web site.)
• Vision for Space Exploration, January 2004, advances scientific, security and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. (More information is available on the NASA Web site.)
• U.S. Space Transportation Policy, December 2004, establishes national policy, guidelines, and implementation actions for space transportation programs. (See fact sheet (PDF, 8 pages) on the NASA Web site.)
• U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy, December 2004, establishes guidance and actions for space-based positioning, navigation and timing programs. (See fact sheet on the Web site of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee.)
Some aspects of the space policy are classified, but a fact sheet about the U.S. National Space Policy is available on the Web site of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
For more information on U.S. policies, see Science and Technology.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)