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Protecting Our Military Space Systems

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OVER THE LAST 25 years the United States has become increasingly dependent on space-based systems to support its military forces, and this trend is likely to continue for some time. Satellite systems have become an integral part of nuclear deterrence by providing strategic warning of an attack, tactical warning of missile launches, reliable communications between command authorities and nuclear forces, and nuclear explosion detection. Satellites also aid in conventional war-fighting by providing accurate reconnaissance, intelligence, weather, and navigation information. Current and future anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon technologies are capable of preventing many of our space systems from carrying out their missions, thereby possibly decreasing the stability of nuclear deterrence and weakening the effectiveness of conventional forces. This paper evaluates a broad range of policy options that could help to protect our space assets. It is found that although unilateral measures could go a long way toward safeguarding satellite systems, bilateral agreements are also necessary if we are to guard against the full range of ASAT threats without generating dangerous instabilities.

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