The unclassified summary of the National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) of the Obama Administration was released in January 2011. The NSSS is supposed to provide a guiding principle for the next 10 years for all government-related agencies that use the information provided by the U.S. space assets. Unfortunately, President Obama’s preoccupation with arms control won over prudent space policy guidance.

The strategy rightly recognizes that space is vital to U.S. national security and describes the three major trends that drive the current strategic environment: congestion, contest, and competitiveness. The strategic objectives are to strengthen safety, stability, and security in space; maintain and enhance the strategic national security advantages afforded to the United States by space; and energize the space industrial base that supports U.S. national security.

So what are the strategies to achieve these objectives? Considering that the constitutionally mandated obligation of the federal government is to provide for the common defense (and therefore protect U.S. vital space capabilities), the priorities in the NSSS seem misplaced. Instead, the NSSS brings up the old fallacious assumption that the power of example will prevent adversaries from doing the United States harm. Indeed, then-presidential candidate Obama promised not to “weaponize” space during his campaign, and arms control in space is seen as one more checked box from the list of promises to arms control advocates. As Baker Spring concludes, this policy will force the U.S. in the direction of giving up its dominant position in military and intelligence space capabilities, which provide the U.S. with enormous advantages over the enemy in the conduct and support of military operations.

On the positive side, the NSSS emphasizes the importance of the revitalization of the U.S. space industrial base, preventing and deterring aggression against the space infrastructure that supports U.S. national security and preparing to defeat attacks. These positive steps, however, could be jeopardized by the NSSS’s commitment to pursue international partnerships.

The strategy suggests additional measures that can be taken to prepare to defeat attacks and operate in a degraded environment. The most important criterion to judge development of new capabilities is resilience. Unfortunately, the strategy does not recognize the utility of space for missile defense systems. Space-based missile defense systems are the most capable and efficient alternative to costly and vulnerable sea- and ground-based systems. A serious NSSS would recognize this fact.

Co-authored by Baker Spring.