Guarding the High Ocean: Towards a New National-Security Space Strategy through an Analysis of US Maritime Strategy
Shaw, John E., Air & Space Power Journal
Editorial Abstract: By and large, the medium of space is still fairly unregulated. China's recent no-notice, unilateral targeting of a low-orbit weather satellite produced space debris that will cause ongoing navigation issues; this action will also redefine space as a contested medium. The author argues that such activity has geopolitical security significance and requires the United States to establish a consistent space strategy. By drawing parallels with and inspiration from US maritime strategy, he postulates a new model for space.
WHAT IS THE nature of the medium of outer space from a geopolitical and "astro ? oliti cal" perspective? Is it a peaceful environment for shared exploration? Is it a free and open fron- tier for pursuit of commercial activities and intelligence collection? Or is it a military me- dium to be mastered in the pursuit of broader national and global-security objectives? The fundamental assertion here holds that space is necessarily all of these and that an effective US national-security space strategy would inte- grate ways, means, and ends to ensure the effective implementation of broader US national space policy that recognizes and supports all in a unified manner.
Unfortunately, no such wide-ranging and inclusive national-security space strategy currently exists.1 This void appeared in sharp relief in January 2007, when China conducted a rather spe eiacular test of an antisatellite (ASAT) capability, destroying - without notice - an old weather satellite in low Earth orbit and producing a significant debris field in the process. In addition to sparking an international firestorm of criticism, this event also exposed the cognitive dissonance pervading the current US (and, to some extent, international) approach to space security. It seemed to highlight the dangers inherent in an unconstrained and uninhibited approach to space, one that could lead to disorder and chaos in the heavens. At the same time, the Chinese action confirmed the view of space as a contested medium, indicating that the concept of space as a sanctuary devoid of competition had become increasingly, perhaps permanently, untenable. Further, the event exposed the lack of established norms that typify the free and open space environment. (Nevertheless, the resultant debris cloud, though a significant hazard to space navigation, likely to remain for dozens of years, did not constitute a violation of any formal norm or existing agreement on space.)2 To resolve these divergent views and circumstances, we need a coherent and integrated national-security space strategy to implement broader US space policy.
The argument here towards such a strategy proceeds in two parts: first, current geopolitical security issues and challenges demand a consistent approach to space and an accompanying national-security space strategy as never before. Second, the most recent US maritime strategy, published in October 2007, addresses many of these very same challenges from the maritime point of view, and its proposed imperatives, implementing actions, and priorities can inform an effective national-security space strategy - one that enables the United States to better ensure security through guarding the high ocean of space.
An Indefinable Ideology of US Space Security?
What, truly, is or has been the United States' ideological position with regard to security challenges in the space arena? Various attempts have sought to provide a useful taxonomy of space-security ideologies, conceptual frameworks, or schools of thought. In 1988 David Lupton defined four doctrines across the spectrum of potential space warfare, stretching from sanctuary to survivability to high ground to control school.3 More recently, Karl Mueller provided six such schools of thought on the narrower topic of space weaponization, ranging from the pure sanctuary idealist to the pro-weaponization space hegemonist.4 Most revealingly, neither analysis (as well as others like them) adequately and unequivocally states which position the United States, as a nation, advocated at any given time in its space history - chiefly because America has never really had a truly all-encompassing implementation strategy for national-security space policy and issues, one that integrates differing, but not necessarily incompatible, approaches. …