Magazine article National Defense

Boost Needed

Magazine article National Defense

Boost Needed

Article excerpt

Competitiveness, innovation lacking in the space industry

BY ALAN L. GROPMAN

The nation's space policy generally seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in technology, ensure self-defense and the exploitation of space for national security and economic prosperity. But there is still no cohesive or specific plan to invigorate the commercial space market.

These and other challenges that confront the space industry - such as declining innovation and competitiveness - were the subject of a study by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

One of the most significant policy issues that affect this industry are the export control rules, said the ICAF study. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) has been the source of ongoing debate among the State Department, Congress and the space industry. The State Department contends ITAR has had limited negative effects and has provided essential security benefits. Congress concedes diere may be room for improvement but has consistently failed to act.

U.S. companies view ITAR as a significant barrier that stifles trade and weakens the ability of domestic companies to compete in the global market. The government must re-examine current export control policies to seek a better balance between assuring national security and fostering an innovative space industrial base, the study said.

Acquisition policies also are cause for concern. Poor acquisition decisions in past space programs have led to unrealistic cost forecasts and rampant requirements growth, said the ICAF study. Budget and schedule overruns in strategic military space programs continue to generate high political and financial costs.

The space industry today evidences little innovation, litde competition, low capacity and high costs. As U.S. reliance on space continues to increase, diese industry conditions become growing concerns, the study said. Why haven't newer technologies emerged in the last 40 years? Until new technologies are developed, which is not likely to occur without increased investment by government, the current decline will continue.

The Chinese test of a direct-ascent, kinetic kill anti-satellite weapon in 2007 raised legal, ethical and policy questions regarding the "weaponization" of space. This test forces the United States to confront the possibility of a challenge to its use of space. The 2006 U.S. space policy announces the government will take "actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to national interests. …

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