From American Progress Report:
SPACEStar Wars, Episode Bush
In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy set forth his ambitious goal to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade, he declared that "[The] eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge." Today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration continues that tradition of space exploration and is set to launch space shuttle Discovery. While the public has focused its attention on civil uses of space, President Bush has "scarcely mentioned his moon-Mars plan" and "two influential experts [say] current US space policy 'presents a paradoxical picture of high ambition and diminishing commitment.'" Instead, led by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush administration has been working to militarize space with devices that have nicknames like "Rods from God" and "whose powers could range 'from tap on the shoulder to toast.'" In the next few weeks the president will release a new National Space Policy, replacing the 1996 policy of the Clinton administration. Everyone is waiting to see if this plan will finally give a green light to Rumsfeld's strategy of fighting "in, from, and through space." Scientists, top weapons experts, and the United Nations have all warned against it. But is President Bush ready to "[turn] upside down 40 years of U.S. policy and practice that put a priority on the peaceful uses of space" and set off the next generation of the arms race?
THE SEEDS OF THE POLICY: In 2001, before he was elevated to defense secretary, "long-time space weapons advocate" Donald Rumsfeld headed a commission intended to assess the United States' national security space management and organization. "Warning that the United States could face a 'space Pearl Harbor,'" Rumsfeld's commission "recommended that the Pentagon 'ensure that the President will have the option to deploy weapons in space.'" But the commission did more than just "[advocate] for tighter security for American space systems." In fact, the commission's report "[made] clear that it does foresee US offensive uses of space. It [argued] that space is another medium -- like land, sea, and air -- that will be used for war, and that the United States must dominate the medium." "Not so coincidentally, seven of the 13 members of the Rumsfeld space commission had ties to aerospace companies that could stand to gain from the launching of a major space weapons program."
CLEARING THE HURDLES: With this blessing from the commission, President Bush began to remove obstacles that stood in the way of weaponizing space. In December 2001, President Bush announced that the United States would be unilaterally withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Dating back to the Cold War, the pact "specifically [forbade] testing and deployment of a ballistic missile defense system." Additionally, President Bush has "refused to sign on to a new space treaty" to replace the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which "merely forbids weapons of mass destruction in outer space and the creation of military bases on celestial bodies." The new version, "proposed and initiated by Russia and China would ban all weapons in orbit and has been supported by virtually every country in the world except the United States."
THE MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM THAT MISSES: The first step in militarizing space was beginning the development of a missile defense system. The United States has spent "approximately $130 billion researching a missile-defense program and has recently deployed a token program in California and Alaska. The program simply doesn't work. It fails test after test -- even when the tests are dumbed down so that they are not even close to battlefield conditions -- and it is totally inadequate to deal with decoy defenses." Yet the missile defense system continues to be "the largest single weapons program in the Defense Department budget, and it is the first program that has ever reached deployment while not passing minimum tests of dependability." Besides not working, the term "missile defense system" is misleading. Before President Bush tried (and ultimately failed) to convince Canada to support the missile defense systems, Canadian newspaper The Hamilton Spectator reported that the Canadian military "advised (in papers that were leaked) that the purpose of the missile 'defence' system is precisely to create a cover for offensive military operations."
BLACK BUDGETS FOR THE WRONG FOCUS...: At this point "it is impossible to say how much money is being targeted at space weapons-related research and development." Indeed, "no one can be sure since much of it is financed out of a classified black budget. Some specific programs are said to have been canceled. Equally likely, they may merely have been renamed." But "published studies by leading weapons scientists, physicists and engineers say the cost of a space-based system that could defend the nation against an attack by a handful of missiles could be anywhere from $220 billion to $1 trillion." This spending would come "at a time when US counter-terrorism officials admit that the real threat is not a nuclear attack from the heavens, with missiles fired by a rogue state, but by a device brought into the country in a suitcase or cargo container."
...AND WHEN STAYING ON EARTH WOULD BE MORE EFFECTIVE: Analysts from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences have concluded that deploying a space-based system would be "tens of times more expensive than deploying a comparable system using" land-based weapons. Richard Garwin, "widely regarded as a dean of American weapons science," estimates that "a laser strike from space would cost $100 million per target, compared with $600,000 for a Tomahawk cruise missile." But space-based weapons are more than just costly. Inherently vulnerable and difficult to protect, "space-based weapons would be less reliable and an attacker would have less confidence in using them for an attack than ground-based missiles."
WHAT IT'S REALLY ABOUT: One expert recently stated, "The fact that it's still being considered I think suggests that there's some sort of emotional attachment to it for putting weapons in space rather than a hard-nosed analysis." There is merit to this belief. In its publication "Visions for 2020," the U.S. Space Command "announced the new doctrine of 'Full Spectrum Dominance,' maintaining that 'the nation which dominates outer space will dominate the Earth.'" As recently as last September, the leader of the Air Force Space Command General Lance Lord declared that "Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny. Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future." Lord "defines space superiority as 'freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack' in space." And in the introduction to a progress report, Lord refers to the Air Force Space Command as the "guardian of the High Frontier" and promises that "a new space corps will fight from and in space."