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Analysis: Toward American 'Space Dominance'

Council on Foreign Relations

December 5, 2006
Prepared by: Michael Moran

Fateful decisions over Iraq dominate the American foreign policy and national security debate at the moment, yet at least part of the Pentagon is focused like a laser beam on the cosmos. A report in October alleged China had “dazzled” (Defense News) a U.S. satellite with a ground based laser—that is, painted the satellite with the laser in a test of its ability to blind the U.S. military in times of crisis. The Pentagon has avoided specifics about the report, but soon afterward the Bush administration released an unclassified version of its new U.S. National Space Policy, which goes far beyond previous policies in asserting America’s right to respond forcefully to such threats. Bill Martel, a space policy expert at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy, tells in this podcast that the new space policy “sounds like a precursor to the weaponization of space.” Supporters readily concede the point. “Space supremacy is now the official policy of the U.S. government,” writes Michael Goldfarb in the Weekly Standard.

Space policy traditionally applied primarily to the science and economics of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s efforts to send satellites aloft or to mount ambitious exploration programs. Even today, the public associates “space policy” more with things like NASA’s December 4 decision to work toward establishment of a Lunar Base Camp (National Geographic) by 2020 than with military affairs. Yet for years now, national security issues have driven space policy, and claim a larger share of funding for space programs than purely scientific pursuits. Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s 1983 proposal for space-based missile defense, the military’s share of U.S. space spending has quadrupled.

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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