Rumsfeld Restructures Operation of US Space Programs

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Rumsfeld Restructures Operation of US Space Programs


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


AIMING TO RAISE the profile of and accountability for U.S. defense and intelligence space-related activities, at the Pentagon on May 8 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced several changes to the way the United States oversees and operates its space programs. Most of the recommendations mirrored those outlined in a January 11 report by a congressionally mandated commission tasked with reviewing U.S. space activities, which Rumsfeld chaired until he was nominated to head the Pentagon. (See ACT, March 2001.)

Describing how reliant the United States is on space assets for both military and civilian purposes-from gathering intelligence on foreign militaries to enabling global communication to providing earlywarning of missile launches-Rumsfeld said the United States needs to match the management and organization of U.S. space-related security programs with the "importance of space to the nation today."

Rumsfeld argued that the heightened U.S. dependency on space makes the United States "somewhat vulnerable to new challenges." He said the question is how to "deter and dissuade" others from attacking or interfering with U.S. space assets in possible times of tension. Approximately half of the roughly 700 operational satellites in orbit are U.S. commercial, civilian, or military satellites, according to U.S. Space Command.

Topping the list of Rumsfeld's changes is the creation of an interagency Policy Coordinating Committee for Space within the National Security Council. The new committee will be charged with developing, coordinating, and monitoring implementation of any presidential policy guidance on space.

Aiming to increase attention devoted to space by senior military officials, as well as accountability, the command of Air Force Space Command will now be independent and headed by a four-star officer. Previously, this command was part of the responsibility of the commander-in-chief of U.S. Space Command, who also serves as commander-in-chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command.

In addition, the Air Force will now be designated the executive agent for space within the Defense Department, putting the service in charge of planning, programming, and acquiring space systems. Rumsfeld also tasked the Air Force with being ready for "prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations. …

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