COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. On the eve of a strategic space conference, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has released a long-delayed report on the military uses of space.
The report had been held up for more than 15 months, after press reports in May 2005 generated controversy over whether the U.S. is seeking "space dominance."
The report, authorized by President Bush, commits the U.S. to "the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity." It nevertheless asserts that U.S. use of space for intelligence and military purposes is consistent with this principle.
The policy commits the U.S. to granting the right of passage to other nations' vehicles for the peaceful use of space, adding that U.S. rights to use space will be preserved as a vital national interest. At the same time, the document states that the U.S. "will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space." Some analysts have interpreted this as signaling opposition to a proposed U.N. ban on weapons in space.
The report lists four basic goals: develop space professionals; improve space system development and procurement; increase and strengthen interagency partnerships; and strengthen and maintain the U.S. space-relate science, technology and industrial base.
In the national security subsection, the document spells out the right to use space to support forward-based military missions, calling on the U.S. to "develop and deploy space capabilities that sustain U.S. advantage and support defense and intelligence transformation."
An unclassified 10-page summary of the report also lists goals for commercial space, civilian space, RF spectrum management, space nuclear power, international cooperation and space security classification.
The new U.S. space policy is expected to get a thorough hearing during a conference this week at U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb.