The United States Post Cold War Military Space Policy

By Mowthorpe, Matthew | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The United States Post Cold War Military Space Policy


Mowthorpe, Matthew, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


This article examines the United States' military space policy since the end of the cold war. It analyses President Clinton's two terms of office and the start of President Bush's administration with respect to missile defence policy and military space policy. The Clinton administration's period in office saw political manoeuvring between Congress and the president over national missile defence plans. A number of congressionally initiated acts instigated a programme towards the building of a national missile defence system, including an exoatmospheric interceptor. It examines the significance and rationale for the United States withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. The Commission to Assess the U.S. National Security Space Management and Organisation reported during the first months of President Bush's administration. The impact this had on military space policy and the organisational changes it had on the space infrastructure are analysed. The space-based weapons that are being considered are outlined, and the impact and contribution military space assets have made to recent conflicts such as the campaign in Yugoslavia and events in Afghanistan are discussed.

Key Words: National Missile Defence, Military Space, Weaponisation of Space, Space Commission.

President Clinton's Missile Defence Policy

Inheriting the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes ballistic missile defence system in 1993, The Clinton administration promptly cancelled the development of the system. The priority was placed on the development of theatre missile defence with national missile defence placed into research and development. This reorientation of missile defence policy was reflected in the name change in May 1993 from the Strategic Defence Initiative Organisation to Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation, indicating the shift from strategic defence to theatre missile defence. The refocus was primarily to concentrate on ground-- based defences with a reduced effort towards national missile defence.

The quest for a national missile defenceof the United States was undertaken by the Republican controlled House of Congress. The Congressional attempts to legislate for a national missile defence gave rise to a number of Missile Defence Acts. The first of these was the Missile Defence Act of 1995. This act called for the deployment of a ground based national missile defencewith multiple sites to be operational by 2003.2 The act envisioned the deployment of up to one hundred ground-based interceptors, supported by space-based sensors. Also, contained with the act was U.S. intent to negotiate treaty changes with Russia, and if those negotiations failed, to withdraw from the treaty. However the Missile Defence Act of 1995 was unacceptable to the Clinton Administration and a bipartisan compromise was achieved. This watered down the previous provision and committed a ballistic missile defence system to be developed for deployment, and deployed only if Russia approves. If no approval was reached, the option of withdrawal from the treaty would be considered. The Secretary of Defence would develop an interim national missile defence plan that would give the United States the ability to field an operational capability by the end of 1999 if required by the threat. This compromise was approved on September 5, 1995.

The following year the Republican controlled Congress initiated the Defend America Act of 1996. The Defend America Act declared that it was the policy of the United States to deploy at the end of 2003 a national missile defencesystem that was capable of providing a highly effective defence against limited, unauthorised, or accidental ballistic missile attacks; and would be augmented over time to provide a layered defence against larger and more sophisticated ballistic missile threats as they emerged.3 Unlike the Missile Defence Act of 1995, this act did not specify or explicitly restrict the United States to ground based systems; yet it did not explicitly challenge the ABM Treaty.

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The United States Post Cold War Military Space Policy
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