|San Diego Union-Tribune
May 9, 2001
Rumsfeld is coy on weapons in space
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's reorganization of the Pentagon's space programs is more significant for what it portends than for what it actually does.
On the surface, the plan merely rearranges the boxes on Pentagon
But Rumsfeld's reorganization clearly sets the stage for major increases
in the military use of space, including his call for "prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations."
Yesterday, the defense secretary ordered the Pentagon to review missile
defense options and consider outer space as a potential battlefield of the future, although he repeatedly refused to say whether the plan included the development of space weapons.
"These proposals have nothing to do with that," Rumsfeld insisted at a
Pentagon news conference. He said the proposals dealt only with reorganizing space programs within the Department of Defense.
But Rumsfeld's skirting of questions about space-based weapons seemed puzzling because the proposals came from a commission he headed. In January, the commission urged the U.S. government
to "vigorously pursue" the ability to deploy weapons in space to avoid a
"space Pearl Harbor."
Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who sponsored the legislation that created the
commission, said after Rumsfeld's news conference that "down the road, of course" the United States would deploy space weapons to defend its satellites and destroy those of its foes.
Rumsfeld's efforts to sidestep the issue appeared intended to avoid
feeding the fears of Democrats, U.S. allies, Russia, China and other countries that the Bush administration is prepared to ignore treaties,
international organizations and the views of allies in the pursuit of
its defense agenda. Administration policies on missile defense, arms control accords and arms sales to Taiwan already have stoked such
Top administration officials began talks yesterday in Europe and Asia
with allies and other governments to explain Bush's plan to accelerate U.S. missile defense development programs and abandon the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow.
European governments, Russia and China are deeply concerned that those policies signal the administration's determination to assert U.S. military and technological superiority, triggering a new arms race.
Those apprehensions and rising anti-U.S. sentiment abroad would grow
dramatically if the Bush administration were to begin pumping billions of dollars into developing space-based weapons.
Putting weapons in space would be "the single dumbest thing I have heard so far from this administration," Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told reporters. "It would be a disaster for us to put weapons in space of any kind under any circumstances. It only invites other countries to do the same thing."
Rumsfeld, however, said yesterday that the United States needed to take
steps to protect its growing dependence on satellites for military, intelligence and commercial and other purposes.
Defense analyst Andrew Krepinevich called Rumsfeld's announcement "the coming attraction to what they are going to do about the budget on space."
Krepinevich, director of the Center for Defense and Budgetary
Assessment, explained Rumsfeld's denial concerning space weapons.
"Even if you are going to move aggressively at developing space
capabilities . . . you want to avoid mobilizing the opposition," he said.
By talking about reorganization, "he sends a message to supporters of
space without triggering the reaction of those opposed to weapons in space."
Nonetheless, Rumsfeld's remarks alarmed arms-control advocates who have fought for decades against the militarization of the last frontier.
Daniel Smith, an analyst for the Center for Defense Information, said
Rumsfeld's announcement, while "an ambiguous statement," opened the door to the effort "to put weapons in space."
Karl Grossman, a journalism professor at the State University of New
York and producer of a documentary against the national missile defense program, said: "Today's announcement is a major step by the U.S. government in turning the heavens into a war zone."
The intended thrust of Rumsfeld's announcement yesterday was to focus
attention on concentrating the major elements of the defense space programs under the Air Force Space Command, which would be
separated from the U.S. Space Command. The two commands have been run by the same four-star Air Force general, who also is commander of the North American Air Defense command.
The new command will have responsibility for virtually all military
space programs, including the spy satellites run by the National Reconnaissance Office.
But the move stops short of the creation of an independent space corps,
which some space war champions have advocated.