Dual Use Challenge and Response:
Commercial and Military Uses
of Space Communications
Robert J. Oslund
The George Washington University
Let no one think that the expenditure of vast sums for weapons and advanced technological systems of defense can guarantee absolute safety. …
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
Different adjectives have been used to describe three wars in the Middle East within a 12-year span. The Persian Gulf War in 1991 was a Space War, indeed the first Space War. The Afghanistan War in 2001 was an Information War. The Iraqi War in 2003 was a Digital War. This is because a full complement of global commercial and military space communications systems—communications satellites, remote sensing satellites, and position locating satellites—were utilized with increasing effectiveness in each armed conflict. This progression of leveraging information technology is further evidence of the ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA; see Berkowitz, 2003; Owen, 2000). What is striking is that, although the primary use of this troika of space-borne technology systems was for military purposes in the three theaters of military operations, these same facilities were used simultaneously for nonmilitary purposes within these regions and throughout the rest of the world. Hence, the notion of dual use.
In the case of commercial communications satellite systems, Intelsat and Inmarsat were most frequently mentioned in the Persian Gulf War. PanAmSat and Iridium were added to the list in Afghanistan, and Eutelsat was added in Iraq. In the case of commercial worldwide remote sensing satellites, the Department of Defense (DOD) was the exclusive wartime customer of the French “Spot” and
The views expressed herein, unless indicated otherwise, are solely the views of the author.