Space Corps

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 website.

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" in Line.

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 involvement. ~

"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 Vista Technologies.

"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 countries...

"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 Engagement."

"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."


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 activities.

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 development site.

"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 the firing.

"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 defense.


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 weapons"'

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 will follow."

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 preparations.

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 Institute.

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."


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 in space.

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 developed peacefully...

"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.

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