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Rumsfeld Announces Revamping of U.S. Space Program

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld unveiled a major reorganization of the nation's space program May 8 aimed at protecting U.S. satellites from enemy attack.

The plan would transform the management and organization of America's defense and intelligence space program. It calls for consolidating military space programs under the Air Force and creating a new four-star general position as the chief advocate for space programs.

Air Force headquarters and field commands will be realigned to more effectively organize train and equip for space operations, Rumsfeld told reporters during a Pentagon press conference. Changes involve the office of the secretary, the military departments, National Reconnaissance Office and the U.S. Space Command.

"A more comprehensive management and organizational approach is necessary to assign clear responsibilities and accountability for national security space programs," said Rumsfeld, who led a congressional commission on space programs before being tapped for the defense secretary job. The commission recommended that DoD enhance military space technology and study ways to project power from space.

Rumsfeld told reporters that the changes "will help the U.S. to focus on meeting the national security space needs of the 21st century."

He said DoD will be looking at about a dozen different things recommended by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. "We'll then try to demonstrate them. To the extent they work, terrific, we'll put more money behind them. To the extent they don't, we'll try to find a better way to do these things," he said.

The proposals have nothing to do with militarizing space with such things as satellite-killers and lasers, the secretary emphasized. "These proposals have to do with organizational arrangements with the Department of Defense that put a focus on the important issues relating to space," he added. "A big change here is making the Air Force executive agent for space. It doesn't deny the other services their proper roles."

Reading an excerpt from the Sept. 19, 1996, National Space Policy, still in effect, Rumsfeld said DoD is authorized to develop, operate and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space and to deny freedom of action to adversaries, in accordance to treaty obligations.

U.S. policy has always been to use diplomatic, legal and military measures to prevent adversaries from using space systems and services, the secretary noted.

The United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humanity and rejects any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space, Rumsfeld said. However, he noted that peaceful purposes allow defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national security and other goals.

Pointing out that the ABM Treaty prohibits countries from creating missile defense capabilities, Rumsfeld said President Bush wants to hold discussions on the treaty with the Russians and later with China.

Rumsfeld said space merits a renewed focus because "more than any other country, the United States relies on space for its security and well-being." The nation, he said, needs to ensure that the management and the organization of its national security space program reflect the importance of space today.

"Our daily lives are increasingly tied to space," Rumsfeld noted He then pointed out that the nation depends on satellite services to homes, schools, businesses and hospitals. Satellites enable global communications, television broadcasts, weather forecasting, navigation of ships, planes, trucks, cars, synchronizing computers, communications and electric power grids.

"Satellites are also our worldwide eyes and ears," because, Rumsfeld said, "they collect information on capabilities and intentions of potential adversaries, monitor treaties and agreements and support military operations worldwide.

"Our dependence on operations in space, however, makes us somewhat vulnerable to new challenges," Rumsfeld noted. Consequently, he said, the United States must be attentive to these vulnerabilities and pay careful attention to protecting and promoting its interest in space.

Instead of gearing up to prevail in a conflict, the United States is beefing up its space program to deter conflict by dissuading others from engaging in acts hostile to the nation's national security interests, Rumsfeld said.

"People think, 'My goodness, they obviously have something in their heads that's all firm and all fixed, and they're going to suddenly pull open the curtain and there it is.' Not true," Rumsfeld said. "These consultations are serious. This is a big, important issue for people to discuss. It's going to take some relearning; it's going to take a willingness on the part of people to recognize the difference in our circumstance today from what the circumstance was in the Cold War, and we're going to do that, and we're going to do it well."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Briefing, May 8, 2001: Secretary Rumsfeld Outlines Space Initiatives

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