State Department: The U.S. National Space Policy, International Cooperation and the Pursuit of TCBMs

October 18, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J.Blount with the blog faculty

Source – Department of State:

The U.S. National Space Policy, International Cooperation and the Pursuit of TCBMs

Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Remarks at the Secure World Foundation and UNIDIR Conference, Space Security: Next Steps in TCBMs
New York City
October 14, 2010

Thank you for your kind introduction. I am pleased to be able to join you here today to offer some remarks on the U.S. National Space Policy and our expanded efforts in international cooperation in space activities. As you all know, the policy was released in late June, and we are now actively engaged in its implementation. The policy states that the United States will pursue transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs), so I’d like to share what we are doing. Discussion of international space cooperation and TCBMs needs to be placed within a broader context of the challenges that we all face in space. Furthermore, and here I quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “solving foreign policy problems today requires us to think both regionally and globally, to see the intersections and connections linking nations and regions and interests.” TCBMs are one pragmatic approach to solving foreign policy problems through partnership and shared responsibility and offer an opportunity to promote the peaceful and responsible use of space.

Much of my time at the U.S. State Department is focused on the national security aspects of international space cooperation, particularly in working with our traditional space-faring allies and partners but also in exploring potential opportunities for cooperation with emerging space powers. As directed by the President, our goals include expanded international cooperation to strengthen stability in space and to help assure the use of space for all responsible parties.

In implementing the National Space Policy, State leads diplomatic efforts to ensure U.S. leadership at the United Nations and other space-related fora. State also coordinates U.S. Government efforts to reassure allies of U.S. commitments to collective self-defense and to identify areas for mutually beneficial cooperation. These efforts complement the Administration’s efforts to augment U.S. capabilities by leveraging existing and planned space capabilities of allies and space partners.

Overall, we are pleased with the positive response to the policy, especially regarding the policy’s emphasis on expanded international cooperation in space. Since early July my interagency colleagues and I have traveled extensively to meet with our allies, friends, and space partners to explain the President’s new policy and to discuss opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.

The Obama Administration’s expanded efforts in international space cooperation in space reflect our view and that of other space-faring nations that all of us face several critical challenges to our ability to operate safely and responsibly in space. As more nations and non-state organizations are using space for a wide variety of activities, congestion in space is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge. This Administration is focused on developing and implementing approaches to mitigate orbital debris by promoting “best practices” for the sustainable use of space. We are continuing to lead the development and adoption of international standards to minimize debris, and we are pursuing research and development of technologies and techniques to mitigate on-orbit debris, reduce hazards, and increase our understanding of the current and future debris environment. These activities provide valuable opportunities for expanded and beneficial international cooperation with the global space-faring community and the private sector.

Another challenge is that of ensuring that we have situational awareness of the space environment. Strengthening stability in space depends fundamentally in having awareness and understanding as to who is using the space environment, for what purposes, and under what environmental conditions. To that end, we are seeking to collaborate with other nations, the private sector, and intergovernmental organizations to improve our space situational awareness.

Having information that enables us to achieve space situational awareness and understanding is necessary but insufficient unless we know what to do with that information. The challenges of increasing congestion in space and the growing complexities of operating there safely and responsibly lead to another challenge, that of collision avoidance. The new policy calls for collaboration on the dissemination of orbital tracking information, including predictions of potentially hazardous conjunctions between orbiting objects. The U.S. Government is working closely with the commercial space industry to determine the kinds of satellite data and other information that can be shared within appropriate national security and proprietary bounds. Working together at the operator level to share collision warning information will have the added benefit of improving spaceflight safety and communication among governmental and commercial operators, users, and decision-makers.

Finally, a fourth challenge we all face is promoting responsible and peaceful behavior in space. Meeting this challenge depends not only on taking positive steps, both unilaterally and multilaterally, to enhance the sustainability of space activities, but also conducting those activities in an open and transparent manner.

Part of our international cooperation activities in this area includes developing pragmatic transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) to strengthen space stability and to mitigate the risk of mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust. We will only pursue those TCBMs that not only enhance U.S. security, but also the security of our allies, friends, and space partners. Examples of bilateral space-related TCBMs include dialogues on national security space policies and strategies, expert visits to military satellite flight control centers, and discussions on mechanisms for information exchanges on natural and debris hazards. Joint resolutions on space security, and the adoption of international norms or “codes of conduct” are also examples of TCBMs.

Promptly following the February 2009 collision between the Iridium and Russian satellites, the United States and Russia were in communication to discuss the incident; this experience is contributing to the on-going dialogue with Russia on developing additional concrete and pragmatic bilateral TCBMs that will enhance mutual trust and confidence.

In the area of multilateral TCBMs, the United States is completing an extensive and lengthy review of the European Union’s initiative to develop a comprehensive set of multilateral TCBMs, also known as the “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.” Over the past 18 months, the United States has been actively consulting with the EU on the Code. It is our hope to make a decision as to whether the United States can sign on to the Code in the coming months, pending a determination of its implications for our national security and foreign policy interests. We also believe it is time to consider how space relates to the challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance, and how to strengthen alliance partnerships to reflect the globalized, networked world that we live in today. The upcoming release of the NATO Strategic Concept offers an opportunity to develop a stronger consensus across NATO member states about the Alliance’s role and contributions to space security.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to offer some thoughts. Partnership implies shared responsibility – while all nations have the right to use and explore space, this right also entails responsibility. Furthermore, it cannot be the responsibility of the United States alone. Solving challenges of orbital congestion, situational awareness, collision avoidance, and responsible and peaceful behavior in space are the responsibilities of all those who are engaged in space activities – not only established space-faring nations, but also those countries just beginning to explore and use space. While we are on our way technologically to solving some of these challenges, issues of attribution, accountability, and transparency remain. Furthermore, we need to link these issues to addressing broader foreign policy and national security concerns. I challenge us all to think through these issues in the months and years ahead – again, to quote Secretary Clinton, “We cannot turn away from that responsibility.”

Thank you.

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