Space Is Greatest Strategic Venue, Op Ed By Rep. Dave Weldon

It has been said that Operation Desert Storm was the first space war. With Operation Iraqi Freedom, I think we have seen military space operations evolve into the next stage of maturity. Whereas in Desert Storm, everyone heard about and learned about the patriot missile and laser-guided bombs, in Operation Iraqi Freedom I think the "hero" weapon system has been the GPS-guided JDAM (Joint-Direct Attack Munition).

We would not have been able to prosecute this war so quickly and successfully without American space assets. The same has also been said of our routing of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Once again we have showed the world that pre-eminence in space directly translates into pre-eminence elsewhere.

I am happy to say that the Department of Defense space budget has gone from a fiscal 2001 budget of $14.3 billion to a fiscal 2004 request of $20.4 billion and is projected to reach $28.6 billion in 2008. Around 18 months ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld designated the Air Force to be custodian for overall Defense Department space operations and development. I am concerned about a few programs that are under the Air Force not just because they are in Air Force control, but also because they need national attention.

As always, the space launch ranges are being neglected. We have the brand new Atlas 5 and Delta 4 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, yet we will still have an outmoded range to handle them. I am also concerned with the funding problems continuing in the out years. I would like to see the Air Force re-evaluate range modernization and come up with an out-of-the-box solution.

I want to congratulate Boeing and Lockheed Martin on successful missions and inaugurating a new era in American space launch. Sadly, the business model that was the cornerstone of EELV has not materialized. This is resulting in higher costs for the industry. If this burden remains, it could force one of the two providers out of business. We should not have our national space access reliant on only one launch provider. I think EELVs could very well become the backbones of a robust, lower-cost space capability for not just Defense Department but civilian efforts as well. I think EELV can be used in a variety of ways for all kinds of missions.

I would hope we could accelerate the deployment of GPS-3. I am concerned that while we fail to deploy GPS-3, the European and Chinese efforts for their Galileo satellite navigation system will be encouraged and they will field this competing system. GPS is the world standard and provides us a measure of space control and dominance unmatched. To cede this would be tragic.

Space-based radar will enable us to do on a global level what J-STARS does on the tactical level. We will be able to monitor actions by other nations in real time.

The axiom that "motion is the first derivative of the battlefield" is no more appropriate than with this ultimate high-ground viewing post. While this program has also suffered from delays and overruns, we need to remain supportive.

NASA has an innovative in-space nuclear propulsion and power-generation program called Prometheus. I think it can be beneficial to the Defense Department. In-space nuclear power generation and in-space nuclear propulsion are "must have" capabilities we will need to master before anyone else.

Space is the greatest strategic venue of all. The other major powers know it. Each of those powers is setting out to make sure they have total or at least some measure of space control and space power. As recently as April 15, Jacques Chirac stated for Europe, "the domination of space was a strategic challenge."

As of now, no other nation comes close to the level of space operations as the United States or the amount of funds spent on space. We must ensure this.

Those of us who care about retaining and expanding American strategic pre-eminence must start advocating a doctrine of American space power and control.

The easiest thing to do is to communicate an analogy. The analogy is that everyone recognizes the need for air supremacy and having the best navy in the world in order to protect ourselves and our allies, as well as to protect free trade.

No one questions that premise, nor does anyone question that the United States basically controls the airways and seaways. As said earlier, we spend the most on space and do the most in space, but it is no guarantee that we have the same degree of control in space as we do in the air and on the oceans.

Implementing a new doctrine of American space power and control would be the best for obviously our own interests and the interests of the world for freedom and commerce, as opposed to a European, Chinese or Russian space power and control regime. By this I mean having a free democratic, capitalistic society with undisputed movement and ability in space and to be able to deny space access to those who threaten world stability, that would best promote democracy and trade throughout the world. That is a role only America can fill.

This doctrine of American space power and control needs to be articulated often and at all levels of our government; a doctrine that states that we as a nation will vigorously pursue the ability to project power to, through and from space against any aggressor. We need to start making it rank right alongside the universally accepted concepts of air dominance and naval superiority because it plays a roll in making all of those other areas of dominance possible.

We also need to have a serious discussion about the importance of having dedicated, career-minded space professionals at all levels of our national security apparatus. A dedicated national security doctrine of American space power and control and the trained professionals to execute on that doctrine is vitally important to our future economic and strategic power.

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) serves on the Science Committee.

This article originally appeared in Roll Call and is reprinted here with the author's permission


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