- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SPACE CODE PUSH BACK

A senior House Republican is questioning the Obama administration’s plan to seek an arms agreement for space based on concerns that the pact could restrict U.S. military and intelligence operations.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday announced plans to join the European Union and other space-faring nations in seeking a rules-of-the-road agreement for space designed to increase transparency for operations and to avoid damaging collisions between satellites and debris.

The initiative was first reported by The Washington Times.


Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio Republican, said in response to the announcement that the EU-based code-of-conduct could have far-reaching consequences and that the end goals are “murky.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool) more >

“I’m deeply concerned that while the administration claims the code is nonbinding, analysis provided to the [House Armed Services Committee] by the Joint [Chiefs of] Staff makes clear that impacts on military operations in space will be anything but,” he said in a statement.

“The same impacts could very well apply to our intelligence community. In addition, American commercial space superiority along with billions of dollars in investments and thousands of jobs could be at risk under the draft code.”

Mr. Turner said the potential limits on U.S. space operations call into question whether President Obama has the authority to circumvent the congressional treaty-making approval process through a “code-of-conduct-type arms-control arrangement.”

“If the president thinks an arrangement like the code of conduct is in the interest of the United States, I urge him to work with the Congress to determine what it is he’s trying to accomplish and then seek congressional approval on the merits,” Mr. Turner said.

Mrs. Clinton, in the announcement, said the space environment is “at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors.”

“Ensuring the stability, safety, and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community,” she said.

“Unless the international community addresses these challenges, the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to human spaceflight and satellite systems, which would create damaging consequences for all of us.”

To try to deal with the problem, the U.S. government will join the EU and others in seeking an “International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities,” she said. The goal will be to maintain safety, stability and security in space through guidelines on “the responsible use of space.”

She said the U.S. government would not join a code that “in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies.”

“We are, however, committed to working together to reverse the troubling trends that are damaging our space environment and to preserve the limitless benefits and promise of space for future generations,” Mrs. Clinton said.

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