Considering the Impact of the EU Code of Conduct on U.S. Security in Space

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Date(s) - 2/4/201112:00 am

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Reportedly, the Obama Administration is nearing or has reached a decision to agree to the European Union’s Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

The EU proposal is a series of statements designed to establish a normative framework defining responsible behavior in outer space. It includes calls for states to take actions to minimize the prospect of collisions on orbit, to avoid purposefully creating space debris, and to agree to registration requirements for space launches and satellite maneuvers.

Questions persist about the need for such a document. For example, as we noted in2007, many of these issues already are being addressed through multilateral and bilateral processes as space-faring nations have found a need for them. How the Code’s requirements will constrain U.S. security also is frequently cited as a reason to critically and thoroughly examine the utility of the Code of Conduct and similar proposals. And the lack of enforcement and verification provisions have led many to conclude that the Code inevitably will give way to more robust forms of arms control.

Still, the Code has useful attributes, too. The Code (or the discussions that take place about a Code) could help further clarify debris mitigation standards and mature manuever and traffic management standards by providing top-level diplomatic cover for the ongoing dialogues.

On Friday, February 4, the George C. Marshall Institute convened a forum to discuss the EU Code and its implications for U.S. national security space activities.

A panel assessed the strengths and limitations of the EU Code, identify areas of concern and areas for improvement, and discuss likely next steps.

The panel included:

  • Peter Marquez, former Director of Space Policy at the National Security Council and a Fellow at the Marshall Institute;
  • Paula DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation; and
  • Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and formerly with NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

A review of the event can be found at Impact of the EU Code of Conduct on US Security

Considering the Impact of the EU Code of Conduct on U.S. Security in Space

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