Space Power and Deterrence: Are We Serious?

It is commonplace, if not universal, for defense officials and punditry to acknowledge the vital role of satellites in the maintenance and execution of U.S. national security across the entire spectrum of war. Certainly, very few would argue — and argue plausibly — that the plethora of satellites at the disposal of the U.S. government is of marginal importance. Given this widespread acknowledgement of the vital role of U.S. national security space systems, it might be thought that the assurance of the U.S. national security space mission, such as measures to defend vulnerable satellite systems, would not only be a priority of the national security community, but would in fact be well under way.

Alas, talk is cheap. Despite the continuing integration of space throughout the U.S. military, as well as the recognition abroad of the vital strategic utility of space for a growing number of countries, U.S. national security space systems remain vulnerable to disruption and attack.

More recently, however, policy makers have been considering the possibility of deterring attacks against U.S. satellites, a development that would be encouraging except for the yawning gap between the intention to deter and the continuing vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems. Deterring attacks against U.S. satellite systems is a perfectly good idea, but the intention lacks credibility so long as key vulner- abilities remain unaddressed.

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