- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

With globalization in the ascendant, the 21st century space- technology rivalry between the United States and the new united Europe is heating up. Before the decade is over, India and China will be part of the technology battle. In fact, China successfully launched its third unmanned spacecraft on March 25 with the hope of sending a manned craft in 2005.
In the meantime, the EU countries are challenging what has been a virtual U.S. monopoly: space positioning. Until now, the remarkable military-controlled U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) has held a dominant position, simply because there was nothing else in scope or accuracy like the U.S. creation available worldwide and free to anyone. Now there is a rival to GPS Galileo a satellite navigation system nearing takeoff under the aegis of Western Europe civilian authority (and not to be confused with NASA's Galileo journey to planet Jupiter). Russia has a satellite navigation system called GLONASS, which is not much used in the West, if anywhere.
More significantly, the U.S.-EU rivalry has created a national-security concern for the Defense Department. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Navy Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, have told Congress of those concerns. Mr. Wolfowitz has written to EU officials asking them to consider the "security ramifications for future NATO operations." His concern? Once Galileo's 30 satellites go to work they could, unwittingly, degrade GPS signals intended for use in military emergencies. His letter, the Associated Press reported, argued that Galileo "will significantly complicate our ability to ensure availability of critical military GPS services in a time of crisis or conflict and at the same time assure that adversary forces are denied similar capabilities."
Ralph Brabanti, a State Department official who has been meeting with EU executives about the project, has said bluntly that "the United States sees no compelling need for Galileo." French President Jacques Chirac responded that if Europe did not become independent in space, it would achieve "vassal status." Antonio Rodata, head of the European Space Agency, asked a rhetorical question: "Is it essential for Europe that we have our strategic independence or not?" His unspoken answer was in the affirmative.
Adm. Wilson has told Congress that "by 2015, future adversaries will be able to employ a wide variety of means to disrupt, degrade, or defeat portions of the U.S. space support system." A chilling prospect.
What some observers hope is that GPS and Galileo-to-be, operated after all by allied nations, will be able to make both systems interoperable and able to support joint military ventures. An interoperable system could be an additional weapon in the NATO armory and tactically useful in military emergencies in the Terror Age. It will be several years before Galileo will be online, so there is time for the United States and European Union to work something out. One question that the Pentagon is asking concerns an important military attribut. The United States can selectively turn off civilian access to GPS as it did in Afghanistan; will Galileo be similarly designed so it can be turned off in a time of crisis?
The European Space Agency (ESA) has already taken a big bite out of what was once U.S. domination of advanced air and space technology. Ariane, the 20-year-old European launch vehicle system, already has half the world market of commercial space launches. Eutelstat produces communications satellites. Airbus Industrie has cut into Boeing sales and won half the commercial airliner market.
This U.S.-EU rivalry will soon have more participants. According to Central Intelligence Director George Tenet, India and China are building sophisticated reconnaissance satellites. Aerospace Daily is reporting that foreign military, intelligence and terrorist organizations are exploiting an expanding commercial supply of communications and high-resolution satellite imagery.
Adm. Wilson has told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the country's present or potential adversaries are looking for ways to disrupt space object tracking systems and satellite ground stations, the capabilities of directed energy weapons like lasers, jamming of radio and other signals. These methods are all within reach of friend or foe.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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