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Jewish World Review Jan 9, 2001 / 14 Teves, 5761

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Consumer Reports

Wake-up call on space -- THIS WILL BE a big week for Donald Rumsfeld, President-elect Bush's choice to head the Pentagon. Before it is over, he will have undergone what may be a contentious examination of his record and views by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee charged with considering his nomination.

History will probably assign much greater importance, however, to another date this week on Secretary-designate Rumsfeld's calendar. On Thursday, he will unveil the report of a blue-ribbon, congressionally mandated Commission on National Security Space Management and Organization -- a panel assigned the momentous task of evaluating the need for U.S. space power, and how it can be assured.

It remains to be seen precisely what the latest Rumsfeld Commission will recommend. But its chairman gave an indication of the thrust in his remarks after Mr. Bush announced his nomination on December 28:

"We are in a new national security environment. We do need to be arranged to deal with the new threats, not the old ones...with information warfare, missile defense, terrorism, defense of our space assets and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.

"History teaches us that weakness is provocative. The task you have outlined is to fashion deterrence and defense capabilities, so that our country will be able to successfully contribute to peace and stability in the world."

Just as some -- including, in all likelihood, at least a few Senators -- bridle at the idea of defending the American people against ballistic missile attack, the notion that we should protect our "space assets" is sure to provoke criticism from the usual suspects. After all, they say, space must not be "militarized" and that arms control agreements preventing anti-satellite weapons and other uses of space for military purposes is a far more sure way to safeguard our equities there.

As it happens, the naivete and recklessness of such an approach was made clear last week by a report out of Hong Kong to the effect that Communist China has completed ground tests of "an advanced anti-satellite weapon called 'parasitic satellite' [which] will be deployed on an experimental basis and enter the stage of space test in the near future."

In fact, on January 5, the newspaper Sing Tao Jih Pao revealed that: "According to the well-informed sources, to ensure winning in a future high-tech war, China's military has been quietly working hard to develop asymmetrical combat capability so that it will become capable of completely paralyzing the enemy's fighting system when necessary by 'attacking selected vital points' in the enemy's key areas. The development of the reliable anti-satellite 'parasitic satellite' is an important part of the efforts in this regard.

"It is reported that the 'parasitic satellite' is a micro-satellite which can be launched to stick to an enemy satellite; and in time of war, it will jam or destroy the enemy satellite according to the command it receives. As a new-concept anti-satellite weapon, the 'parasitic satellite' can control or attack many types of satellite, including low-orbit, medium-orbit and high-orbit satellites, both military and civilian satellites, single satellite, and constellated satellites. An enemy satellite, once locked on by 'parasitic satellite,' cannot escape being paralyzed or destroyed instantaneously in time of war, no matter how sophisticated it is, and no matter whether it is a communications satellite, early-warning satellite, navigational satellite, reconnaissance satellite, radar electronics jamming satellite, or even space station or space-based laser gun."

The Rumsfeld Space Commission will doubtless take note of this, and other, ominous developments -- just as did a symposium on space power convened last month by the Center for Security Policy (a summary of whose proceedings is being released today). After all, U.S. intelligence has become increasingly concerned over the fact that, thanks to collaboration between Britain's University of Surrey and the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Beijing has made great strides in the development of micro-satellites capable of performing the sort of space control functions described above.

As the once-and-future Secretary of Defense fully appreciates, given the immense dependence of both the United States' military and economic competitiveness upon unencumbered access to and use of space, the Nation can no longer afford to indulge in wishful thinking that those equities will remain inviolable indefinitely. And inherently unverifiable and unenforceable international agreements cannot be relied upon to protect space assets from "parasite satellites," jamming, lasers and other types of interference and/or attack that may be exceedingly difficult to detect.

The time has come for a concerted national effort to assure that the United States enjoys and can reliably exercise space power. This will require first and foremost an appreciation of what is at stake, as well as a clear program for enhancing the survivability of existing satellites and greatly improving the Nation's ability to get into and exercise power in and through outer space. We can only hope that Don Rumsfeld's latest, immense contribution to the common defense will be the catalyst for such urgently needed activities.

JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2000, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.