CHARLES FERGUSON: My official title here at the Council is I'm Charles Ferguson, I'm the Philip D. Reed senior fellow for science and technology. But my unofficial titles for this project, I like to think, are sherpa and instigator. (Laughter.)
And in terms of being an instigator, we were fortunate to have some extra money from a MacArthur Foundation grant to be able to branch out outside my general field of where I write, which is nuclear security, nuclear energy, nonproliferation issues, and to our real expert in the field, someone who is the real deal in terms of what's going on in space.
Bruce has been doing some very innovative thinking about how we should respond to the Chinese. They had some satellite tests from last year. And I will defer to Tom Behling to actually introduce Bruce because Tom is also one of the real-deal experts in the field. It's a great pleasure to have him here. And most of you in the room probably already know who he is. But just in case you don't, he is currently vice president for National Security Programs at Northrop Grumman. And from 2003-2007, he was the deputy undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Preparation and Warning. You can read other parts of his biography. It's in the handout.
I'd also mention that he's won numerous awards, including the NRO Medal of Distinguished Performance and the DCI's Executive Leadership Award for countering denial and deception. He is imminently qualified to speak and write on these topics because you'll see he has a bachelors degree in physics from Dartmouth and an M.A. in Chinese from Washington University.
So with that, let me turn it over to Tom Behling, get his thoughts on this issue and Bruce's report. And from now on, I'll let Tom chair this meeting.
THOMAS BEHLING: Thank you, Charles.
And thanks to the Council for their insight in funding and supporting Bruce in this endeavor. It's a real privilege to be here to introduce Bruce MacDonald because of the quality report before us. And I'm anxious, as I know everyone else is here, to have Bruce walk us through this report.
And of course, I'm here in the capacity as a private individual. I'm not representing my current or past employers. But I do have a strong and abiding interest in space security and stability. And Bruce has touched on some key elements which, I think and I hope in the future, will be a touchstone for future work that needs to be done in this area.
We all know that we depend on space for economic and military capabilities. It is, in effect, a foundation stone for our national power, our economic power. It also is a touchstone for our military power and provides a component of our diplomatic power as well.
But unfortunately, space is a fragile and very demanding environment. It is unlike terrestrial environments where at least we have some sense of the conditions, of borders, of coastlines, mountain ranges which give us some sense of structure and which have basically, through history, given us some more ending lessons. There are no natural firebreaks in space. Escalation there is, for all of us, an unknown quantity.
And when we think about the firebreaks that were developed during the Cold War, theory of deterrence associated with nuclear systems, such things as mutual-assured destruction, assured second strike, counterforce and countervalue, those concepts which took a very long time to be developed and to be accepted and to be debated, those concepts simply do not exist, at least we don't know how they might be applied in space.
And if we were to assume that they could be applied in space, we would be doing so pretty much in the dark. We wouldn't have a genuine appreciation of how well these concepts of deterrence work. Because after all, deterrence rests in the mind of a potential adversary. And so without focusing in on this issue, we could be making some serious mistakes.
Now, unfortunately, my own experience has shown that we don't pay enough attention to this issue, and it really needs to be examined in detail. And Bruce has helped us get started in that direction. I thought that one observation that was made in an article prepared by Harold Brown in New Nuclear Realities is an interesting analog to this problem.
He was writing on the motivation of countries to develop nuclear weapons. And he wrote that the real drive for nuclear weapons capabilities does not come from fear of U.S. nuclear capabilities, rather it comes from U.S. conventional power projection capability and the concern that it may be used to intimidate, attack or overthrow regimes, as it has done before.
Space counterspace systems offers the same attractiveness because it is an alternative that is relatively low cost. And as long as we possess this very powerful, conventional power projection capability, potential adversaries will be incentivized to look for ways in which they can undermine our space capabilities. For that reason alone, we need to understand how to deter these actions to promote stability. And I think that is the powerful message that Bruce has.
He quotes Tom Moorman who has said that it's important to encourage a debate on space power, to include development of a space-deterrent theory. We need something similar to the intellectual (ferment ?) that surrounded nuclear deterrence. I couldn't agree more with that.
And with Bruce before us, let me just say that he is currently the senior director to the special Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States which is currently chaired by two former secretaries of Defense, Jim Schlesinger and Bill Perry. He is an independent consultant in technology and national security policy management. In the late '90s, he was assistant director for National Security at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. And he served as senior director for Science and Technology on the National Security Council.
Bruce also served as the staff member on the House Armed Services Committee and as a foreign policy adviser to Senator Bumpers. He worked for the State Department as a nuclear weapon and technology specialist and led the interagency START Policy Working Group. He served on the U.S. START delegation in Geneva, something I didn't realize we shared in common.
BRUCE W. MACDONALD: Yeah, yeah.
BEHLING: He, of course, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Bruce MacDonald holds a bachelor of science and engineering from Princeton in aerospace engineering and two masters degrees, also from Princeton, one in aerospace engineering specializing in rocket propulsion and a second in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School. So Bruce truly is a rocket scientist. (Laughter.) But today he will be speaking to us on policy.
Bruce, thank you.
MACDONALD: Thank you, Tom, and, Charles, as well.
And thanks really to all of you, a, for being here and, be, for a good many of you, almost all of you, a good percentage, who were so generous with your time as I worked on this study over the last year or so. It's a real pleasure to be here.
I'll thank the council and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting this work.
And it's a very timely topic as China gets ready a week from today to put three taikonauts -- I don't know if they still call them that -- in space. And it speaks to their confidence that they've announced in advance, for the first of any non-U.S. Country, they've announced when they're going to do it, which is a week from today. It will be a three-day mission.
This is not a shy, retiring country with a primitive technology. And the United States for a while has been concerned. We've said that China's not our enemy, but there still are some issues that cause us some concern.
What's happened, of course, within the last two years, the United States and China have both demonstrated sophisticated, anti-satellite capabilities within 14 months of each other. Both countries have strong military incentives to deploy offensive counterspace capability.
The U.S. current space dependence is crucial to our conventional military superiority, far more than has ever been true in the past. This is a dependence that's ripe for the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, of China to exploit. And the PLA certainly knows it, especially in a Taiwan context where if such forces were to be used that it might well be in that context. China's space dependence is much less than that of the United States, but it's going to grow substantially over the next 15 to 20 years so that China, too, will become, in that sense, perhaps a little vulnerable in that way.
Our space infrastructure is growing increasingly vulnerable. In the Cold War, really our key U.S. satellites were protected by the realities of nuclear deterrence since they were so intimately bound up primarily, not exclusively but primarily, with the U.S. nuclear deterrence force. And that's really not so much the case anymore. I mean, some support the nuclear mission, but a lot are strictly conventional in their focus. And the U.S. nuclear umbrella, if you will, does not as credibly protect them, as was true in the past.
China could pose a major threat to the United States satellites if they decide to deploy the ASAT which they tested early last year, although coordinating such an attack would not be easy. China's got other offensive counterspace programs under way in various stages of development -- lasers, microwaves, cyber and so forth.
And a key thing to keep in mind in looking at the question of space capabilities and offensive space capabilities is that defending space assets is far more difficult than attacking them. It's a challenging problem. I mean, it's not unlike -- I mean, we could predict, not entirely but pretty well, where a satellite is going to be three or six months from now. It's like ducks in a shooting gallery. You know, just go around and around.
And also, in all countries, particularly the United States and China, advancing technology is going to help both -- (inaudible) -- to have offense. But the offense, I believe, is likely to benefit more, so that issue's going to become even more pronounced.
And let's keep in mind that, of course, space debris is a growing problem that some kinds of ASAT weapons called kinetic energy ASAT weapons will seriously aggravate if they're actually used. Debris is already increasing at roughly 10 percent a year. And already, in the latest shuttle mission, the estimate of an interception, if you will, or a conjunction, as I guess they like to say, is already 1 in 184. So in the next 15 years, that would like triple to maybe 1 in 50 unless we put some serious brakes on the debris problem.
U.S. space policy, as I argue in the report, it raises but it does not answer a number of key stability issues in space. This is the space policy which was signed by President Bush in the early fall or actually it may be late summer of '06, which calls U.S. space capabilities vital to our national interests and deemed a top national priority. It's the first time they've been characterized that way. And for those of the foreign policy-national security game, "vital national interest" carries a lot of freight with it. That means, in theory, one would not even rule out even a nuclear response if those interests were attacked. It doesn't guarantee that we would respond with nuclear, but it means that nuclear weapons are on the table for that.
Our policy also reserves the right to deny adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests. But I argue that attacking other space capabilities invites attacks on our own space capabilities which our policy has called a vital national interest. And again, with technology evolving, this guarantees even greater threats to these vital national interests in the future.
This seems a little bit contradictory, yet there's a way out of it if the governing force doctrine is deterrence. In other words, we don't actually want to have to do that, but we reserve the right and the capability to do so.
I argue that our primary objective ought to be not so much engaging in space conflict as deterring it because the stakes are just too high. Our conventional forces are so dependent on it. As one Air Force officer put it to me, if we suddenly lost our satellites, we would go from being an information age military power to being an industrial age military power. Not to be trifled with, we were pretty powerful even in just the purely industrial age. So it's not like oh, that's like nothing. But nonetheless, we would suffer a huge potential degradation in our conventional force capability.
And so that's a problem in and of itself. And it seems to me the potential for strategic and crisis instability seems high and likely to grow with advancing technology. But I believe that our space policy and national leaders of the policy don't address this.
There's an inherent risk of strategic instability when relatively modest defense investments can create a disproportionate danger to an adversary. And the amounts of money needed to develop a sophisticated offensive capability, while big to us as individuals, in the context of a national economy is relatively small. And there's also an inherent risk of crisis instability when one side, if they go first, they would reap big military advantages.
And yet, U.S. policy is largely silent on these issues. I believe that there are multiple issues that are just begging to be addressed. When I was doing my research on this, I was surprised that, at least in the open literature, they really hadn't been addressed very much. I did stumble across on article by this very perspicacious guy, who happens to be sitting next to me, but it got published while he was on his way out the door. And you know how it works. As the senator I used to work for said, I wish these guys when they left the service or left their offices, that they would say earlier in their tenure what they say in their swan songs. (Laughter.) But nonetheless, if this thinking and this direction is going on there, it's not particularly evident.
The question, it seems to me, is, what U.S. space strategy and the acquisition strategy that should result from that would promote U.S. security interests and reduce space instability over the long term? And also, how does China see this, and how does this affect what they might do?
So I think the U.S. needs a stabilizing space protection strategy with a focus on stability, deterrence, escalation control and transparency. We want to incentivize nations to avoid destabilizing irreversible actions in space that are harmful. And we ought to have our military space architecture with defense in depth, reduce adversary incentives, maximize warning time and reaction time.
Also try to, and we're starting to go in this direction, but we need a lot more emphasis to not put all our eggs in one basket but to spread out our capabilities so that there are more targets for a potential adversary to go after. And the loss of any one or two would not potentially be as harmful. We are making steps in that direction, but I think it needs greater emphasis.
And also, we need to maintain an ongoing dialogue among the U.S., Chinese and others military and policy experts to promote a better understanding and reduce the chances for misunderstanding and miscalculation. I'm one who believes that one of the greatest military threats we face is a combination of Murphy's Law and Mother Nature, that something is going to go seriously bad. It won't happen when everything is fine. But something will go seriously bad for a purely technical reason. It will happen in the middle of a crisis, you know, fate being the way it is. And so we ought to minimize the opportunities for that kind of thing to escalate beyond anybody's control.
Now, the PLA clearly understands space conflict. There's a lot of writing. But it's important to keep in mind that PLA writings are not Chinese government policy. But the writings make clear what Chinese diplomats don't, that the PLA envisions conflict or the possibility of conflict in space, and they're preparing for it, although it's unclear whether their interests and the programs that they are supporting reflect an interest in war fighting in space or just deterrence. That remains to be seen and needs to be investigated.
There are some papers that I've seen that talk about it primarily in a deterrence context. And they explicitly cite the connection with the Chinese strategic nuclear forces where they say, we want to be able to deter. We don't need to match you weapon for weapon. But if we have enough to punch you pretty hard, we don't need to be your equal, we just need to have some credible capability, you know.
The Chinese have a very modest nuclear capability against the United States. But if we only lost Los Angeles and/or Seattle, we would fully notice that. And there's a great deterrent capability. So I think we need to better understand Chinese thinking on that.
One of the problems that the reports cites is that current U.S. space policy seems to just reject arms control and other statements as well. There recently has been some interest in non-binding, voluntary steps on codes of conduct, debris mitigation, rules of the road. This is all excellent, but I don't think it goes far enough.
It would seem to me that the greater U.S. space dependence suggests that we have more to gain from diplomatic attempts to limit the threat, yet we don't pursue them. This, what I call an arms control allergy, I believe, is counterproductive. I believe that we should, and the report argues, that we should consider steps, diplomatic and arms control steps even, that promote U.S. security interests and are verifiable. Those ought to be the touchstones. Those were the touchstones of the Clinton space policy which, by the way, I worked on. But to just reject it out of hand, to me, again, seems counterproductive.
One thing is certainly true. Space arms control cannot solve all of our problems in space or even necessarily most of them. But it can help, it seems to me, on an incremental basis.
So to establish a secure space regime, we want to be able to deter others from attacking U.S. space capabilities, bolster an international regime that reinforces space deterrence and the absence of conflict in space and promotes stability and promotes behavior that maximizes the ability of everybody to utilize space for productive purposes and minimizing operational and other problems. I mean, space is kind of getting crowded up there, and the traffic is getting worse and worse.
Now, the touchy subject here is offensive capability in space. And I think there are a few realities here. One is that the Rubicon has now been crossed, to come extent, as far as anti-satellite capabilities here. Capabilities in technology can't be un-invented. And missile defenses which clearly have a capability to attack are probably here to stay.
And also, some other realities, though, that our security crucially depends on space, and it will become even more so. And that capability must be preserved through both active and passive means. Again, as I mentioned before, it's difficult to defend and protect assets completely. So offensive capabilities are needed, but the question is, at what level and to what purpose?
And once again, I believe that deterrence is the approach to go. It's easier and less costly to sustain than trying to dominate space to a point where we would seek to take out other people's capabilities and completely defend our own.
So in that sense, I think any offensive capabilities the United States would want to take on, they should be effective. And here's another key consideration, they should use temporary and reversible effects, i.e., not blow up a satellite to smithereens but, for example, to be able to jam or otherwise immobilize a satellite during conflict but then do the equivalent turn off the jammer and the satellite is capable of functioning again.
It should be survivable which I believe really, in a way, implies ground-based systems. If someone could show me how you could have an offensive system in space that would be survivable over time, I'd be open to that. But I have to say, I have some doubts. They should be cost effective at the margin. In other words, we shouldn't have to pay a lot more for offense than it costs for somebody to defend against it. It should be resilient, credible and have minimal collateral damage.
So broadly, there are three broad, doctrinal options. One is just defensive options and arms control. And I think that's, while it has a lot of intellectual appeal, I think that horse is probably out of the barn. The second is having deterrence where you don't want to fight a space war but you have the capability to, and each side deters the other.
And then there's this all-out war fighting, the idea that this is one more weapon in our arsenal and that somebody else is using satellites and that they get benefit from it, why, we're just going to take them out. I think that, first of all, that could be, if your adversary is technically competent at all, it could be very expensive. You would be very vulnerable to a technological surprise. And you'd almost need some cooperation from your opponents that I believe you'd be unlikely to get.
You need robust space situational awareness, in any event, and certainly robust technology development. But it seems to me, above all, we want to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy in space where our actions end up bringing about the very kinds of threats that we most fear or are worried about.
So an idea of what I call space dominance where we can do whatever we want in space and we can protect ourselves against anybody else, I think that's difficult to sustain. I think in the very short run we probably could sustain it, but I don't think it's sustainable over the medium and long term. There's a multiplicity of ways to attack space assets. As I said before, space offense is easier than space defense. Dominance is acutely sensitive to technology issues. Also, it's just downright provocative saying to the other country, we can do what we want to and you can't, and there's kind of an "oh, yeah?" I mean, there's already been a little bit of that from the Chinese.
And again, as I said, it suffers from OMB problem. That could be a very costly option to try to maintain. And last time I checked, fiscal issues are not exactly our strong point at the present time. (Laughter.) And we'd really be in a hole if China achieved a technological breakthrough that we didn't some time in the future.
I think, though, if we play our cards right, we can maintain a position of what I call space superiority, even to the point of preeminence, where we derive a lot more benefit from space than anybody else because we pursue the technology. It's a less-demanding approach.
There's also a precedent of a strategic balance between the U.S. and China where we have more nuclear weapons than they do, but China doesn't feel compelled to catch up to us. It would probably result in some level of Chinese offensive counterspace capability, and that's the hard one for some people to swallow. But again, the U.S. would derive more benefit from space than China or others would. It would need a bunch of things to support it like dialogue, confidence-building measures and so forth.
So we need a strategic space doctrine, I believe, where the goal is a more stable and secure space environment that allows us to continue to reap an increase of space information benefits and underwritten by a doctrine of deterrence which, to me, appears to be the only framework that is sustainable.
So in conclusion, the report concludes that it's not likely that the U.S. can maintain the degree of space monopoly that we've had in the past. And the question is, what do we do for the future? I believe it's in the interest of both the U.S. and China not to conduct broad-scale counterspace warfare, even in conflict. I mean, if you were fighting somebody like Sudan, where I don't think we have to worry about Sudan's counterspace capability, maybe we could get away with it there. But if it's a sophisticated opponent, that gets more difficult as time goes out.
And I think that, again, the doctrine of space deterrence offers the most benefit. And we need to also better understand how space deterrence works, as Tom referred to. This is kind of new territory. We've fought on land for maybe a couple of tens of thousands of years. We've fought at sea for (my guess ?) about 2,500 years. We've fought in the air for about 100 years. But space is brand new. And the terrain is very uncertain.
How does deterrence in space work? We need some thinking on that. And also, how does China look at deterrence? So I think we need a policy perspective, enunciate a deterrence framework, open up space policy to encourage negotiated agreements where they are viable in the U.S. interest and engage China in scientific and other civilian space ventures. And I'm glad to see that apparently we've just done that. There are talks now going on with China, just recently initiated, to broaden civilian space cooperation. And I think that's all for the good.
And in acquisition and programs, we need to develop a layered suite of defensive capabilities to prevent anybody from having a free ride in attacking our forces. To enhance our space situational awareness capabilities, we need some level of offensive capability with select capabilities that are stabilizing. And diplomatically, we want to build on the military-to-military dialogue we've had with China to see what can be done in the space arena.
I believe a kinetic energy ASAT testing ban is worth pursuing. And also, we want to look at confidence-building measures.
And the report also makes a few recommendations for China. China needs a national security council. I mean, they've messed up so badly. I felt almost embarrassed for the foreign ministry where they were so totally out of the loop when they did their test back in January. They need some kind of coordination.
And also, frankly, I think the PLA needs to beef up the foreign policy training and awareness of senior PLA leadership. And they need a serious international security affairs department within the PLA. Also, the Chinese are not the easiest. They talk about dialogue, but they're not always real easy to engage, particularly with the PLA. And we need to do more in that area as well.
So with that, I thank you for your attention and now open it up to questions.
BEHLING: Well, thank you very much, Bruce. That was an excellent summary. And I would like to go around the room and get questions. But I'd like to, if I may, begin with one of my own. And that is you make a very compelling case for the need for an operational theory of deterrence, and yet the problem has been with us for a long time. And so I was wondering if you'd care to speculate on why we have no such systematic approach to deterrence today. What's impeding this process?
MACDONALD: That's a good question but also a tough one. I think part of the problem is that the whole venue is so new to people in terms of seriously thinking about conflict. But then also, to some extent the whole question of weapons -- offensive capability related to space has been a little bit, at least in some circles, taboo. And so that makes it hard -- by definition, if you wanted to deter, you have to have something to deter with. And so it's -- I think that has inhibited people from talking about it.
At the same time, I think that uneasiness about pursuing diplomatic approaches has sort of frozen that dimension of it as well.
So I think you add all these things up and together and there's been a lot of talk about -- when they talk about space policy -- they haven't talked about acquisition strategy. And in my mind, acquisition needs to follow broader doctrinal policy, not the other way around. In the early days of the nuclear era, you had a lot of sort of -- some good and some pretty hair-brained ideas for nuclear weapons because it was the acquisition community kind of running off on its own. It's only with the thinking through of deterrents if applied to the nuclear context where there began to be some coherence in program planning. People would still disagree, but they had a common understanding. And that's what's needed here. I was just surprised when I did research and preparation for this -- part of this study, that I didn't stumble on -- this just hasn't been taken up.
And so to me it's a wide open expanse and it needs a lot more work so that we could think through what kind of capabilities, offensive and defensive, that we need, and how deterrence works in space. I think it borrows a little bit from the nuclear era, but in a number of ways it's substantially different.
BEHLING: Yes, sir?
QUESTIONER: Yousaf Butt from the National Academies. I agree with the contention that deterrence might be a good way to have space security, but in a slightly different incarnation I think -- in terms of weapons in space deterring each other, I think there's an asymmetry that -- you know, our dependence is much greater than any other nation's dependence, so they don't care if you shoot down all three of their satellites. They'll function just fine. (Laughter.)
There's another problem, which is one of attribution. Right now we don't have space situational awareness, so suddenly your satellite goes blank and you don't know if that's because a debris hit it or what happened. Did China attack it? Did Russia attack it?
QUESTIONER: Did it just break?
QUESTIONER: Or did it just break, or solar flare, or --
MACDONALD: That's in Murphy's Law and Mother Nature -- (inaudible) --
QUESTIONER: Yeah, exactly. So if people are pushing for deterrence in terms of, you know, we'll each have a few space weapons and we'll have this concept of deterrence, the first thing you need to do is to have perfect space situational awareness even before you -- before that sort of deterrence can be effected, is my opinion. But I think a different type of deterrence which is much simpler could be used, which is just to make a policy statement that if any nation screws with our satellites, we'll have a massive conventional attack against them on the ground. So you know, just basically U.S. satellites are U.S. soil, and if we find out that you messed with them we'll take massive retaliatory action on the ground. You don't need space weapons for that. It protects -- to an extent -- I mean, there could be sneaky things that are going on, but I think this concept of having space weapons, a few, having deterrents, doesn't make sense from space situational awareness and the asymmetry that's involved.
MACDONALD: Well, I agree with a good bit of what you said. First of all, about space situational awareness, I 100 percent agree with what you're saying, and you point out correctly some of the problems of not having good space situational awareness. And of course -- Jim, correct me if I'm wrong, but I guess our space situational awareness capabilities in some ways just declined a little bit with that one satellite that finally went out of commission a couple of months ago. So in that respect, no disagreement at all. You're absolutely right.
When I said space weapons, I am one who believes that any offensive capability you have, as I mentioned before, probably ought to be ground-based. I could be convinced it could be space-based, but I'm from -- like the guy from Missouri. You'd have to show me how it is that you could maintain an offensive capability in space that would not be vulnerable.
You also are correct to point out the potential for a problem which is the asymmetry in space dependence, and the report talks about that. My response to that is two-fold, and the report talks about it. One is that China is pretty quickly going to become a lot more dependent on its space assets itself. That's good news from an offensive space capability, but it's bad news if you're a grunt soldier on the ground because it means they're going to be able to fight smarter, too.
We do need -- in the interim period, we need -- there is an asymmetry, but we need -- but there are -- we don't have to consider space in isolation. We have other capabilities as well that would be -- and it's clear that attacking a satellite would be an act of war.
Where the rubber hits the road, though -- and this is where I have a little bit of a problem with it -- you know, there's the old saying that satellites don't have mothers, and so if we were to launch a major conventional attack in response to China's taking out some of our satellites, that might not be an easy decision. I mean, we could put that threat out there, but that might not -- that would put a U.S. president in an awfully tough spot. That is why I think -- for that and for other reasons, I think some offensive capability -- and I say this reluctantly because I'm one who sort of thinks ideally it would be nice if we could preserve the regime, but the temptations I think to China and others are just too great -- but to do -- to have offensive capability but to do it in a deterrence conflict.
But I think reasonable people can disagree about this, and you're right to bring up the issues that you have.
BEHLING: Ben, and then the gentleman at the end of the table.
QUESTIONER: Just to kind of follow up on that, I mean there's the -- kind of the (kevus romanus ?) style, attitude of deterrence, but also I think you mentioned, Bruce, just to kind of contextualize with that, the idea of the removal of the objective. And that's something that we've been very focused on -- you know, nano-satellite constellations, options like that. So to keep the U.S. technical advantage and say, "Okay, what are our other technical options for diversifying deterrence in terms of removal of objective?" And I think it's really important to keep those two kind of parallel tracks in the thinking as opposed to just saying, well, is it defensive or is it offensive? Well, there are other options which we should be really looking at, and I think you mentioned briefly on both. But --
MACDONALD: I mean, it's -- again, going back to the old saw of not putting all your eggs in one basket, if we could somehow have nano-satellites or we had a whole bunch of little tiny satellites, then it might be -- short of a nuclear blast in space, it might be very difficult to take those out.
QUESTIONER: Unless the adversaries had attack nano-sats, that -- (inaudible) --
MACDONALD: Yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Well, just back to the last point, I wanted to do a little plug that we've been looking into. I know that the Eisenhower Center were doing an event on space deterrence, and we're also looking at doing an event on space deterrence, and we strongly support the concept that there needs to be more thinking on this issue, which the community hasn't really quite got to grips with yet.
BEHLING: And your affiliation?
QUESTIONER: I'm sorry, Secure World Foundation.
MACDONALD: The surprising thing -- by the way, let me just add to that, Ben -- is that a couple of times in the space policy -- at least, the unclassified one; I haven't seen the classified one -- the word deter comes up, but they don't describe it. And if you listen to a number of people in the Air Force talk about it, deter, shmeter. (Laughter.) They don't --
QUESTIONER: They're going to blast them out.
MACDONALD: They're going to blast them. And I think that that is -- we want to have the capability to do that, but I don't think we really want to go down that road unless maybe it's -- if we get in a war with Venezuela, maybe we can disable Venezuela's satellite. But against a near-peer -- (inaudible) -- competitor --
QUESTIONER: Which was built by China.
MACDONALD: Which was built by China -- that's exactly right. We were talking just before -- during lunch, and it's interesting: Nigeria, Venezuela -- I mean, maybe they're going to offer a cut-rate satellite to Saudi Arabia and Gabon, for all I know.
BEHLING: For those of you who wish to ask a question, just raise your hand and I'll put you on the list here. So let's go to the gentleman -- Theresa, I have you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Jon Barry, Newsweek. Let me offer for my usual idiot question, what do we actual know -- as opposed to guess, surmise, worst case -- about what China is actually doing? I mean, they have an ASAT test -- okay. Took them three shots, but they got it. But that was a strictly limited capability. They've painted a satellite with a laser, and they have a lot of excited colonels writing to each other, and Mike Pillsbury and other people have compiled all that stuff, okay. But as you rightly point out, that doesn't tell us about Chinese policy. What do we actually know about what they're actually doing?
MACDONALD: That's a tough one for me to answer because I do hold some security clearances, but I -- it's the old saw, and I'm sorry. I mean, we know some things, and -- I for one do not believe -- you know, there have been some explanations offered for the Chinese ASAT test that were totally benign, and I actually believe them as far as they go, but my problem is they don't go far enough.
I am prepared to believe that when China first kicked this off in '84, the direct descent, that they did it because the U.S. had demonstrated this technology in the Homing Overlay Experiment with the early -- in the early days of SDI and they thought, hey, we probably ought to start studying that, too. And I believe that.
But -- and I believe that bureaucracy and competition -- I mean, after all the Chinese invented bureaucracy about 4,000 years ago -- we should maybe talk to them about that. (Laughter.)
But, anyway -- but I do not believe that there's a level of funding (that's taken ?) place -- that it was done purely in the activity in other areas -- is strictly for research. And, again, like the guy from Missouri, if they want people to believe that then they need to be a little more transparent in explaining why. And, frankly, if they sort of screwed up by doing that test -- and I think internally they probably did, that's why they need some kind of NSC staff -- if there really was a screw up, then I don't think the guy who was in charge of that operation would have been promoted to the -- what, he got a promotion to the head of the general's -- staff director for the general's staff for the PLA. I mean, he got promoted. And usually you don't promote people who screw up -- cause your country to be terribly embarrassed on the national stage.
So what do we know -- and there are people, clearly, in the intelligence community and elsewhere, who know a lot more. There are -- might even be people sitting at this table who know a lot more.
MACDONALD: But they -- so I think because the stakes are so high -- like I said, there's this delicate balance. We don't want to end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy of bringing about the very threat we're most worried about, but we also don't want to just say, "Oh, there's really no problem." We need to have some options here.
But one thing I think is absolutely clear -- what generally -- not always, but generally helps is some kind of dialogue so that at least we know where we are coming from.
And, I think -- again, I think that there are some negotiated agreements that we could consider that would be in everybody's interest. My favorite -- just take the moment -- one that I think is worthy of at least serious investigation would be a ban on exactly the kind of test that China conducted, where you create a lot of debris. An example I like to cite is the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which drove the nuclear testing underground. People think of it as an arms control agreement, but in many ways it was really an environmental control agreement. People back then were scared to death about the -- (inaudible) -- Cesium 137 was showing up in food and milk supplies.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Milk, yeah.
MACDONALD: And hard to believe in this era of endless negotiations, but we negotiated that in eight weeks. It was that fast.
And so in the same way, no matter what your position is on space weapons, we ought to all be able to agree, I would hope, that we should need to take steps to prevent or minimize the creation of more debris in space because that stuff stays up there -- at any altitude, stays up there almost forever.
BEHLING: We have five people who wish to make a comment or ask a question.
I'll go next to Bill Courtney.
QUESTIONER: First let me ask sort of a demanding scenario about an adversary having targeting capabilities against us in the 1980s -- and you and I were both involved in this. The Soviets had EORSAT and RORSAT, which we were concerned could target U.S. Naval forces. In the end the Navy found other ways to avoid that so the Air Force ended up not deploying ASAT capability --the MHV F-15 program.
Now the threat is a potential adversary having targeting capability from satellites against our ground forces.
QUESTIONER: And if that were to come about there would be enormous pressure on the president to do something about that to prevent our soldiers from being killed needlessly.
Where in the deterrence spectrum -- and you've talked about some offensive capability, sort of how much -- my question is sort of how much fits in deterrence? For example, if an adversary has that kind of satellite and can target our forces and result in greater deaths of our troops, temporary, reversible, non-attributable means would all be the first choice if you could do that -- and that would be far less escalatory I think as you correctly say, that massive ground attack against the adversary. Would that be kind of okay within the deterrence framework that you're talking about, as opposed to some more, you know, aggressive, kinetic kill or something like that? How much defense -- I'm sorry, how much offense is consistent with your deterrence framework?
MACDONALD: That's a good and a difficult question. Let me -- without bloviating too much, let me try to tell you how I see it. This is where a president would really earn his or her pay because that's a very difficult question. The way I've heard some people frame it is that, you mean you would just sit there and let them derive benefit which could hurt our soldiers? And when it's phrased strictly that way, it's like, of course we've got to take it out. You'd be -- if you decided to take it out, it would be better to take it out with temporary and reversible effects, absolutely, than it would be with permanent, irreversible effects.
But to me the question that the president really has to ask is -- assuming that the space threshold hasn't been breached, the real question is, do we derive more benefit from our satellites than he derives from his? So that it's a little bit like a chess game; you can't look just one move ahead. If we took out their satellites, if that lead to their taking out our satellites and we in fact derive more benefit from our satellites than they do from theirs, then even though we've spared some soldiers in the particular area, we may have put at risk others.
Now, it's hard to analyze that without knowing what the specific situation is. That's why I argue in the report that the ultimate objective even during conflict ought to be to deter conflict in space.
Now, it is certainly possible that if you temporarily jammed one satellite in a very purely -- I mean, jamming has been -- has a well documented place in warfare, but broad scale, even if temporary, negation of one-side satellites is certainly going to bring on a response. And so to me, the real question is kind of a net -- I mean, it's almost like the old Ann Landers question -- you know, are you better off with him or without him? (Laughter.)
The question is, are you better off with you having your satellite capability but the other guy having his, or are you better off with -- he doesn't have his but you don't have yours either, assuming that both sides had the capability? And I'm arguing that over time, as technology advances, at least China and perhaps some other countries will have a fairly significant anti-satellite capability.
So that's a -- not quite a crisp and clear response to you, but that's the way I see it. My sense is that we want to deter -- have the capability to but not actually do it even during warfare unless there were some extraordinary circumstances that were beyond just a small purely battlefield kind of jamming situation.
QUESTIONER: So are you saying no temporary and reversible should be used in that context, or how much?
MACDONALD: Well, this is where, you see, if we did that -- if we took out -- well, not, you know, a whole thing but a little bit purely in a battlefield -- see, this is where it's different from nuclear. You know, in nuclear, all kinds of war games showed that even with just a small, even, like, you know, using just one suitcase nuclear bomb in a very tactical situation, it inevitably escalated to all out nuclear war.
MACDONALD: This is just a hunch on my part, but my sense is that it's not quite as -- the strategic situation -- the strategic landscape is not quite as fragile.
But, again, one of the big arguments -- the recommendations in this book is, this is terra incognita. We don't really know. And, I think, instead of, like, we ought to have -- there is some war game that goes on, but you know how war games are. Usually people -- there's this pretext in the buildup, but people really want to get to where the fun stuff happens, you know, where they start, you know, shooting. (Laughter.)
I believe what we need are crisis games where we look at what are the dynamics that happen in a crisis and how does this stuff play out? Now, maybe we could do what you describe -- I don't know, I would change my viewpoint -- but my sense is that purely tactical we can get away with, but against a near-peer competitor -- a near-peer space competitor, if we were to go out and take out a significant of his satellite capability, we would then lose ours. And my sense is that we would be worse off, as tempting as it would be, just like with nukes. We could use a tactical nuclear weapon, boy, and we could save our guys and knock them out in that battlefield, but you know what would happen. It would escalate. It's the fallacy of the last move, that there would be -- my sense is that there would be a -- but it needs work, and that's what I'm saying. There needs -- this kind of stuff needs to be studied and examined. And if we had this kind of meeting maybe three years from now, we could maybe reach some more intelligent conclusions.
BEHLING: We have a number of people who want to offer their comments. Let me just interject that I was looking at the copyright date of this book by Thomas Schelling, which basically kicked off nuclear deterrence theory. This was 1960. It was 15 years into the Cold War. So there is a long process that is required and a lot of careful thought that will have to be required.
Let me ask if you would just give your affiliations when I call upon you. Theresa? Theresa Hitchens.
QUESTIONER: I'm with the Center for Defense Information, downstairs on the sixth floor, and I'm the director of our space security project. I have just a couple of quick things I'm going to sort of go through, and I hope you can respond to them.
The first one was I wanted to go back to the deterrence argument. I mean, one of the reasons there hasn't been a lot of thought about it is because the Bush administration downplayed deterrence even as a theory in nuclear war from the get-go after 9/11, basically saying you can't deter non-state actors; you know, we can't -- these people are crazy; rogue states -- you know, this sort of thing. There's no such thing as deterrence. So I think -- I just wanted to throw that out there, that it's not only in space but that sort of thinking went away for a while in nuclear issues as well.
I want to ask about China because I think we get a sense on the outside that somehow China -- everything that China's doing is nefarious and everything we're doing is good. And it seems to me that the kind of research that they're doing is exactly what we're doing. We're researching lasers on the ground. We're looking at adaptive optics to be able to narrow the beam to put it on a target. We do laser tracking. We've got microsatellites. We've demonstrated hit-to-kill ASAT. So I mean, I think we have to ask ourselves in the broader -- in the broader U.S.-China relationship, what is it that China could do in space that wouldn't terrify us? So I think you have to ask that question the other way around, or otherwise it's not fair. You're demonizing them, and it's don't -- you know, do as I say, not as I do. It doesn't work in child rearing; it doesn't work in international relations. (Laughter.) I have a 13-year-old. (Laughs.)
The last question I want to ask is --
QUESTIONER: I'm sure your child's a model child. (Laughter.)
BEHLING: But she has to use deterrent theory. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Especially now that he's three inches taller than me. (Laughter.)
The other question I have about the idea of deterrence is this crisis escalation issue, and one of the reasons we didn't go down the ASAT route with the Soviets was because we saw the ASAT route as escalatory, particularly with regard to early warning satellites. What has changed that that's not the case amongst nuclear powers? And the second question is, considering the smaller nuclear powers that don't have early warning satellites, they are using their imaging satellites as kind of a substitute for the early warning satellites. They're watching each others nuclear installations -- I'm thinking Pakistan and India in particular, but also India and China and in those regions. And so, why would there not be an escalatory problem with attacking those imaging satellites under those circumstances?
MACDONALD: That's a real good question, and I think there are a couple of responses. One is that in the old days, as I was saying before, most of the satellites were so intimately involved in the command and control and intelligence -- super-ISR, for those in the trade -- of our nuclear forces, that they were pretty well -- it was considered highly escalatory because it ran a very serious risk of triggering nuclear conflict.
Given that a lot of our satellites today are more oriented toward -- not entirely, but more oriented toward conventional forces, I don't think that -- the threshold has loosened so that I think that -- I mean, attacking a satellite would be escalatory, but I don't think it would be as escalatory as before.
Now, going beyond that, and where it gets really messy -- and we had troubles dealing with this with the Clinton space policy back in '96 -- and that is, what do you do when -- if you're a bad guy or a good guy, what do you do if -- right now, you know, 80 percent of the military's DOD's communications are through commercial -- you know, third-party satellites. That gets really messy. There's no nuclear analog for that at all, unless, you know, if the Soviets had a big missile silo field right next to a real friendly country, or at least a neutral country -- which, of course, they didn't do that. So that makes it stickier still, and this is once -- you know, I'm going to repeat myself -- and that's my -- this is a different kind of problem and it needs to be analyzed as to how do you handle that? How do you handle that if you're a bad guy? How do you handle it if you're a good guy? It's messy, and there's -- maybe there's -- you know, I went looking on the Internet -- God bless Google; it's so much easier to check things now than it used to be. (Laughter.) But most of the stuff I saw, even, like, at the Air Force Academy and elsewhere, the thinking tends to be very tactical. There's not much that's really strategic thinking this through.
QUESTIONER: There's not strategic thought. Yeah. It tends to be very tactically focused.
MACDONALD: I have to say -- you know how when you do a study, most times you know ahead of time what you're going to say and then you analyze it and you study it. I've changed my thinking a little bit. I mean, I feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole. It's like, "Oh my God, there's a whole different world here." Because this is a new arena, and I think that it's a little bit -- somebody said it's a little bit like you're in a big darkened warehouse and all I've got is a little match, and I'm trying to see what does this look like. And it's dangerous because there are a lot of redlines and things that could be very dangerous.
QUESTIONER: I guess my -- just my point there was that there may be a different deterrent relationship between the U.S. and China than there would be between China and India or India and Pakistan, and that we want to make sure that whatever we do doesn't have second or third order consequences on those relationships that might be actually more destabilizing than stabilizing. And so I just -- it's -- you know, because it's not a two-state problem. It's a bigger problem.
MACDONALD: And it should come as no surprise to really anybody here that in response to the Chinese ASAT test, the Indians were pretty vigorous pretty quickly. And although it's more form than substance -- (laughter) -- they did stand up some kind of a space command, and they are -- given the tradition of warm relations between those two countries. (Laughter.) So it's cause for concern.
BEHLING: Jeff Abramson.
QUESTIONER: Jeff Abramson, with Arms Control Today. I guess I wanted your diplomatic take on when China and Russia sort of proposed the new outer space treaty and what was behind that. If it could go through, which we can't expect Conference on Disarmament to let anything happen there, but if that would go through, would that mean anything, and how do you take -- how do you view this sort of Russian-Chinese cooperation? Is this sort of an international publicity stunt? How do you -- what do you make of that piece?
MACDONALD: I -- to me, it's like a sort of temporary marriage of convenience. I think that they are both concerned about U.S. space capabilities, harking back to Theresa's comment, and I think that we too often forget about how what we do looks like to other people. And I see the Chinese-Russian proposal as a half-deft -- not daft but deft -- piece of diplomacy where it serves their political interests. And in any -- you know, this country -- this administration acts shocked -- shocked that it's so unverifiable, and they list with a fair degree of accuracy all the shortcomings of it. It's like, you know, this is not -- you know, the game of diplomacy, and it's not by Robert's Rules of Orders. I mean, it makes sense that they would ask for something fairly outlandish, and then we could have come back with something maybe outlandish in our direction. And it's like an opening gambit and -- in my sense.
Now, that said, I think it was done primarily for political reasons because we clearly are substantially ahead of where they are, and they are worried because indeed our space capabilities are pretty significant, and they are worried about that we could clean their clocks, at least in the near- to medium-term.
So -- but if you look back on the history of arms -- (inaudible) -- negotiations, the Soviets were calling for general and complete disarmament back in the '50s. I don't think anybody took that seriously. Well, this is not that bad, but I -- even the Chinese admitted that there were some verification problems with a -- how do you verify what they were proposing? I mean, what I've heard from at least one Chinese interlocutor is, you guys are so far ahead of everybody else in space technology, you'll figure out a way. (Laughter.) I mean, it's kind of -- that's really like faith-based arms control. (Laughter.) They have faith in our ability to -- (inaudible) -- because our technology is so great.
QUESTIONER: To verify. (Laughs.)
MACDONALD: And it's like, well, you know, I don't think so.
So with that said, I think that there are a number of arms control steps well short of what they propose that could move the ball forward, and maybe over time we could see what else might be possible. But again, I'm very clear: It needs to be verifiable, or it -- or effectively verifiable -- I'll use that slight wiggle word with a -- from the past -- and also it needs to be in the U.S. interest.
BEHLING: Ben Rusek.
QUESTIONER: Hi. I'm also with the National Academies. This is really a two-finger question to a question that you asked earlier, sir. And my question is, so if you -- during -- well, if you could ask the relevant people in the -- (inaudible) -- about Chinese space policies and plans, you know, what would you ask, specifically? What -- where are the knowledge gaps, and what don't we know? I may -- well, I'll take my --
MACDONALD: Yeah. I think that's a good place to begin. What do we know, what don't we know about what is their -- my sense is that even in the intelligence field, it's very easy -- you know, God bless intelligence analysts. I mean, we -- you know, there's a tendency -- they want to jump all over and analyze the hell out of some individual little weapon, and they want to study the veins on the leaves on the tree in the forest -- and we need that. I'm not saying we shouldn't do that. But the real question is, it would help if we could somehow find out, you know, through various means, what is their organizing -- what is their doctrine or principle? Because first of all, once you do that, it can -- it helps you a lot better anticipate what they might do when it fits into some larger construct.
Now, the problem is you can't just dial 411 and ask information what's their doctrine. I mean, the Chinese have not exactly been open. But this is where dialogue comes in because sooner or later in dialogue, I mean, people are human. There's already been some useful things come out of the military-to-military contact. And that I think needs to be expanded.
And let me say, the problem with the expansion of that level of dialogue -- the sort of track one discussions -- has been -- my sense is it's been more on the Chinese side than it's been on our side. The PLA is, shall we say, a little gun shy about engaging. But there are some signs of progress. But I would ask things like that because I think once you understand the construct, then you can begin to understand more of what they're likely to do, and it helps reduce uncertainty, which is -- it's always been one of the important side benefits that people tend to overlook in the arms control negotiations is you get a lot of good information about the other guy, and he gets a -- and a clearer picture -- and likewise he does about you.
QUESTIONER: Just a comment about Bruce -- about Ben's point. He represents the academy, and they have the (CSAG ?) dialogue with the Chinese, and it's with the scientists.
QUESTIONER: And you aren't going to do anything over there unless the science community is involved. So I think -- I mean, you're in a very good position, if you can know what questions to ask, to have a dialogue that might get you some answers.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. I wanted to ask you if you butted up against anything more specific in your -- during the course of your research -- if there are areas that --
MACDONALD: Well, to me this fundamental question, what is the doctrine under which they are -- whatever they may be doing in the offensive counter-space field, are they -- is it strictly -- do they see fighting a war, or is it strictly deterrence? I've seen a number of references where they've drawn an explicit analogy between their space -- offensive space capabilities and their nuclear deterrent -- that they don't need to match us one for one, but they want to have enough to be able to deter. And it would be interesting to get some sort of a -- maybe it's like a black hole -- you know, you can't image it directly, but if you fire particles nearby and watch the curvature -- (laughter) -- you can begin to get some understanding of what's -- of what might be there.
I think, Norm, that's an excellent idea. It would be useful to get -- and I think not only useful for us, but I think it would be useful for them to have us better understand what they're doing because, you know, if we worst-case them and they worst-case us, we're all going to be in a heap of trouble.
BEHLING: It might be worth having an offline discussion on that point.
Let's go next to Ray Williamson, and I'll --
QUESTIONER: Yeah. I'm with Secure World Foundation. I want to make a couple points and then ask you a question.
First of all, I think it might be worth considering briefing this in China. You had some recommendations for the Chinese. I'm sure they'd take it very well. But -- I mean that -- that's meant to be partly comic. But I'm also serious that it would be very interesting to brief it in some Chinese setting.
And the other thing, it seems to me that one of the reasons it's so difficult -- or rather, one of the reasons that we haven't developed a strategic deterrence theory for space is that space is so different --
QUESTIONER: -- from what we experience every day. I mean, everybody who's been out on the ocean understands something about oceans; and we fly; we -- you know, we work on land and so forth.
QUESTIONER: Even in the ice. So it does seem to me that that's a difficult matter to get beyond because so many of our assumptions about how the world works don't work in space, despite the fact that it's the same physics.
Now -- but the other thing -- you haven't mentioned -- now here's the question -- you haven't -- or almost haven't mentioned -- civil space. One of the issues, it seems to me, there is that we depend -- in fact the rest of the world is coming to depend so much on civil space assets that any major conflict would put not just the U.S. but the whole world into a very different place. So I wonder if you've got any thoughts about that and whether your report covers civil space at all.
MACDONALD: I do. The report only very glancingly touches on it. One of the things -- I mean, and Charles can vouch for me that I was sweating bullets -- I mean, they actually granted me a little bit of -- (inaudible) -- to even make it this long and so by definition anything else to go in there would have had to squeeze something else out.
QUESTIONER: (Laughter.) Yeah.
MACDONALD: But I do briefly reference it.
But you touch on a very important point here that I think is central and -- potentially central in all this, and that is -- a little bit works -- here I think it's a little bit analogous with the cyber world, and that is, right now the United States and China, and probably throw in Russiam, and you can probably throw in France and Britain and a few others -- if anybody really wanted to, they could wreck the international financial system potentially.
QUESTIONER: Already have. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: We already have.
MACDONALD: Fair point.
QUESTIONER: We did it ourselves.
MACDONALD: Fair point. I mean intentionally -- intentionally wreck it. Right, right. As opposed to what we've been up to lately.
QUESTIONER: Stumbling into it.
And -- but they don't because the more interconnected we become in that way -- I briefly refer to it when -- you know, the third party transmission of 80 percent of DOD's communications.
You're right. In a more interconnected world like that, anything other than purely military-only focused satellites has the collateral damage problem. And that has a deterrent value all its own.
And so that -- but again, that's one war dimension that needs some thinking through, and just calling, "Well, we got to watch out for space Pearl Harbor and therefore that should justify a whole lot of things," -- I mean, it's a tougher problem than that.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, I don't hear any thinking on the civil side, either.
MACDONALD: Yeah, and I think that's --
QUESTIONER: -- (Inaudible) -- the civil end --
MACDONALD: You are right. That's a very important dimension of the problem. I'd agree.
BEHLING: John Logsdon.
QUESTIONER: You write in the report, Bruce, that while China represents the most prominent challenge to U.S. space assets, it's not the only one. If you were writing this report five years from now, do you think Russia would be at the top of the list, and would the recommendations be different if Russia were the potential adversary?
MACDONALD: One of -- once again, doggone it -- I should have counted on a great question like that from you, John.
That is -- that's a very good question to ask and it's -- to me, it's, you know, the Cold War was tough enough; it's like playing chess in two dimensions. Imagine now an end dimensional game where you want to charge the board. It gets sticky and messy.
And, you know, if I had a crystal ball -- well, if I had a crystal ball I would have shorted AIM and Lehman Brothers and been wealthy. (Laughter.) But Russia is potentially -- could be more of a problem because especially --
QUESTIONER: They have a lot of capabilities.
MACDONALD: They have a lot of capability; they have a legacy; they are a petro nation.
I've heard some people express concern that if the price of oil collapses, that could lead to real instability in Russia, not unlike what happened 10, 11 years ago.
But Russia could be there, depending on a lot of scenarios.
I mean, my sense is that in an ideal world, China would moderate politically. You know, they're not going to change their political system overnight, but I could imagine five years from now China having certainly more technical capability, but our relations being in a more improved state, depending on what kind of transparency and so forth goes on.
But in terms of, if you were just to look at what is the gallery of potential worries, I would put in -- Russia certainly would be at the top of the list and then, if Iran really wanted to, they could pose some threat. But it's -- and you've got -- in fact the report refers to -- I don't know if it survived the final edit, what I call the "CRINKLE" countries.
MACDONALD: China, Russia, India, North Korea, and lesser -- maybe I get the -- yeah. I was thinking "lesser entities", but -- anyway, those are the ones that I -- as I see as the challenges.
But India I would not be worried about us. North Korea, certainly, although who knows what's happening there? And Russia --
BEHLING: Well, but the second part of my question was given the whole history of strategic dialogue with Russia, would we talk with them differently than do you think we should talk with China?
QUESTIONER: I would -- to me, I'd want to have preliminary dialogue with them first to find out if they just want to create mischief, or if they are serious. And my sense is that it's not guaranteed, but under the right circumstances, China can become a more responsible stakeholder.
I think if they do -- should they test their ASAT again, that the direct -- the kinetic energy one -- they will do it somehow at a lower altitude. I think they got burned pretty bad by the -- by their last test.
QUESTIONER: We taught them how to do it with USA-193. (Laughs.)
QUESTIONER: Well, that's -- (inaudible) -- and what are you going to say? I had a few problems with that test, but by golly, we did it at the right altitude and we notified people, and there was simply some semi-plausible --(laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Semi-plausible, yeah.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, you know, but -- open to concern.
So that's who I would put there. But who do you think?
QUESTIONER: Well, it seems to me that we, with our focus on China -- I was going to say fascination -- underestimate the potential of conflict with Russia --
QUESTIONER: Yes. Yes.
QUESTIONER: -- in coming years, including in the space dimension.
And it seems to me all of what you say vis-a-vis China could be applied to dialogue with Russia now, but it might be different dialogue, given the history of our discussions with them.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I think that that is right. And given how much all more advanced countries are growing more dependent on satellites, it's -- everybody's got to be worried about this.
So that even if Russia is in a mischief-making mood, sooner or later -- we've got some common interests here, not only on things like space traffic management, organizing all the satellites going around, but on things like the conflict. And it ought to be in everybody's interest to want to figure out ways to -- you can't ever eliminate it, but at least minimize the chances of --
QUESTIONER: Do you need a new forum? The CD is deadlocked. Where do you have these discussions bilaterally?
QUESTIONER: Well, to me, you used the CD primarily to ratify what you've already agreed to. There would need to be another forum, even if it's an ad hoc one, to have that kind of dialogue.
BEHLING: Okay. We're not working off our backlog here. (Laughter.)
Jim Armor, and then to Jon Barry and then to Ben.
QUESTIONER: No, I'll waive mine. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: I'm Jim Armor. I'm just a random citizen.
(Laughter, cross talk.)
QUESTIONER: But I used to be in the Air Force for a long time, so --
QUESTIONER: He was head of the National Security Space Office, and he is forever tarred with the brush of having served on the advisory committee to this study.
QUESTIONER: Well, and I wanted, first, to congratulate you for finishing. This is really good -- (laughter) -- and I like it.
And I like it because I feel like at the start of our conversations I was trying to convince you that this was a more conventional domain than a nuclear one. And I think a lot of the discussion --
QUESTIONER: And who says waterboarding doesn't work? (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: So I'm really pleased. I like where it's going, and I'd like to continue the conversation. I love all these comments on this.
But let me just focus on one where I basically wanted to more disagree with Tom than you. When he said that there is -- there's not --
QUESTIONER: Wait a minute. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: -- not a physical domain division. It's sort of borderless.
And I think -- know that there are some physical space domains, like Leo. Then there's Van Allen radiation belts; there are some specific geostationary locations.
But I want to take it -- this discussion has been primarily focused, terrestrial focus supporting war fighting, supporting intelligence, supporting terrestrial activities. And the space is destined to go far beyond that, like to the L points and to the new -- the next new continent, which is the Moon.
So we -- I think in way we're sort of setting the groundwork here for the next age of imperialism. And maybe that's an overly provocative term, but --
I'd still like to stay away from the nuclear comparison -- although it is vital, the conventional -- and look forward to the next round of this where we look even beyond the terrestrial interests.
I'll stop there, because I'll go on forever if I --
QUESTIONER: And let me just make a comment. Jim, you're absolutely right in the sense that you can define certain operational areas of space. And in fact in order to think through the issues which Bruce has raised, it's important to disaggregate space into these different parts.
Low Earth orbit is the distance from here to Richmond, pretty much, or Williamsburg. It's not that far. Geosynchronous orbit is 20,000 miles. It's a great distance.
QUESTIONER: Well -- it's the same thing from here to Williamsburg. You just go the other way around. (Laughter.)
BEHLING: So as we think through this problem we have to be mindful that there are other -- there are components that we have to think about separately. So I'll just make that passing comment.
Bruce, did you want to add anything?
MACDONALD: It's such a new domain. I think we're still kind of feeling our way as to what are the significant ways to slice it up.
And in my own mind, I have -- to me, geo is kind of special, and even maybe mid-level, too. Because -- and again, maybe I'm overly focused on the debris problem, but you don't -- it's the --
You go up in altitude -- Jim, you know better than I do that it just goes -- the decay time goes exponential. I hate the thought of if we had a conflict in space at geo and you had a lot of debris there.
Now, admittedly, it's a bigger area, but that debris is going to stay there forever. And as I say to people, it's an imperfect analogy, but imagine if some fraction of the bullets fired during World War II were still whizzing around every day in Europe and around the world. Life would be pretty tough.
QUESTIONER: : Well, the debris at the L points is accumulating.
MACDONALD: That's right.
MACDONALD (?): And those may be incredibly valuable commercial points of interest, or scientific -- (inaudible) -- so they're likely to be military as well at some point.
So I think we need to continue this conversation. (Chuckles.)
QUESTIONER: Maybe DARPA will have some wonderful technology to have a vacuum cleaner in space --
QUESTIONER: The space Hoover! I've patented that -- (laughter.)
BEHLING: Jon, did you have a comment, or did you want to pass?
QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask -- (inaudible) -- about the question of reconstitution. I mean, one way to (have deterrence ?) -- used to say, well, it won't matter because we could always replace the missing satellite very rapidly.
But we're not really very good at having rapid launches of --
QUESTIONER: And even if we did, people -- my understanding, people at NRO have a little bit of heartburn with ORS. On balance, the support it and all, but these are -- the kind of satellites you have, these are -- it's not like a spare tire and you're back. These are expensive things.
And if you -- money you spend on having a spare capability is money you could have put into something that actually goes up there and does something during peacetime. So there's that trade-off.
But you're right. Conceptually, that's what you'd like to be able to do and that's why some interest in sort of smaller, cheaper satellites or backup systems of some kind -- who knows? Maybe --
You know, DARPA's working on this Vulture technology where you'd have a UAV at the upper reaches of the atmosphere that would stay up for five years at a time. And maybe there's something there; I don't know.
But it's a trade-off. How do you decide how money to spend versus how much to save?
QUESTIONER: But you also do yourself the favor, under those circumstances, of making your space assets less valuable targets.
That's they key problem for us now, is that -- when you've got three ginormous, bazillion-dollar spy satellites up there where people can get them, that's a pretty tempting target. You can take out the capability fairly easily. If you've got 50 small ones over the battlefield at any one time, it's not worth their time.
QUESTIONER: I just kind of wanted to pick up on Jon's point and follow on to what you said, Bruce. Space is a fundamentally globalized domain with very extreme national application.
And talking about Russia and China, the difference between Russia and China -- the Europeans, somewhat of a different case -- but with the Russians, the business dealings, the commerce side, the -- all of that kind of engagement is significantly less than it is with China, take out the petro side of the equation.
And when we're approaching states, how do we put this into the bigger context of globalization? If we were to get into a conflict which had expression in space, it's going to be in a very world to any conflict we've been in in the near term.
And that globalized expression, how do we roll in all of these different factors -- economy, commerce -- and really put that together into a package?
And I think one of the problems we have as a space community is we keep it very -- (inaudible). We say this is about space and space weapons. Well, actually, no, now. Where is your satellite when it's going over? Who's it going over? Where's that debris being created? If the thing falls out of the sky, where is it going to land? And all of these applications.
So I think how do we broaden out the great basis you've done here and put that into the wider context of foreign relations?
MACDONALD (?): To me, the most important thing is just to tee it up as an issue, sort of like tapping everybody on the shoulder and say don't forget this. I think that the war game hasn't been invented yet that accurately takes all these things into account.
And so I don't know how you do it, but I think you begin to do it by at least making sure that people are aware of these interconnections. If you think about it, maybe one of the best deterrent effects we have against China is if they totally mess us up, we'll just go collapse as an economy and then they'll be stuck with worthless debt.
(Laughter, cross talk.)
QUESTIONER: And lots of useless toys. (Laughter.)
MACDONALD (?): I don't have an easy answer, other than, like I said, at least people need to be aware of it and to recognize it. It's a very multi-dimensional world, and it would be a mistake --
Purely within a small battlefield, I think you can isolate things. But if you look at that broader conflict, it becomes and n-dimensional game that's very hard to analyze.
QUESTIONER: If I could just add on to that, I think the work lies ahead of us. And it's important that major institutions such as the Council, the Academy and others here that we have today begin to focus time and attention on this.
I know the Center for Strategic and International Affairs --
QUESTIONER: Studies. CSIS -- we have a representative here -- is about to start a project on strategic space issues as a way to foster the intellectual development of this area.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not something that you solve overnight, and we perhaps forget about the contention that took place when we were trying to think through deterrence for nuclear issues.
I know it's not the same, but the fights about what constituted deterrence then were very, very passionate and had major programmatic consequences.
Just as deterrence then was too important to be left to the nuclear physicists -- (scattered laughter) -- space is too important to be left to the space acquisition program managers.
BEHLING: Are there some last comments?
QUESTIONER: I just wanted to follow up what Ben said, because one of the things that I do think that we do have to remember when we talk about our -- even our strategic level desires with regards to space or deterrent theory or any of these things, is the effect on the commercial marketplace.
And one of the first commercial reports to come out after the Chinese ASAT test was done by Teal Group, which is relatively well-known Beltway bandit-kind of group, forecasting group.
And they were almost in -- they were just crazy. They were ballistic about this, because the idea was -- (cross talk) -- simply said this is the worst. (Cross talk.) Yeah. This is the worst possible thing that could happen for the market, the development of ASATs, the deployment of these kinds of destructive ASATs.
The worst possible thing for the market because of the increased risk of debris, increased instability or potential for debris that would -- not just the debris if somebody shot each other, but the potential for debris by these things being on the ground and aimed at things in space would harm the commercial market to such an extent that it could create a situation where they would not even be -- people would go out of business, because it wouldn't be worthwhile.
QUESTIONER: Since we've already destroyed this -- the space industry, commercial space industry, with our --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
QUESTIONER: It doesn't really matter. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: All we have is the military industrial complex. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: That's why, in some of the recent news about relaxing some of the restrictions on China might be good, and if we could just deal with ITAR, maybe we could be back in business again.
QUESTIONER: That would be good.
QUESTIONER: I want to go back to my imperialist analogy, just for one quick second.
Because I think we're arguing deterrence here during the time of early-Greek-and-before seafaring, where they were really restricted to line-of-sight of the Earth, or just a few brave souls would go out of sight of dirt, compared with in the Enlightenment when they were really sailing the seas and world commerce started.
I think if we're just looking at terrestrial-focused space applications, we're in the Greek trireme era. We really haven't gotten into the true solar system-and-beyond space era.
And I think we're going to take our states with us when we go into space and issues about private property on the Moon or ownership of asteroids, like islands in the ocean today, are going to drive a lot of the deterrent and military and intelligence theory that we're going to try and --
QUESTIONER: You're real optimistic about that technological breakthrough --(laughter.)
QUESTIONER: It's a just a matter of time. We've already got tourists flying up.
QUESTIONER: Suborbital, true.
QUESTIONER: Just a quick couple of comments on things that have -- points that have been raised already.
I think on China's doctrine, maybe it's not good to overly pigeonhole it quite yet between are they doing war fighting or deterrence. I think what's probably most likely is just a hedging strategy. They're just trying to keep up their R and D --
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
QUESTIONER: -- just looking at us, and we're looking at them. So it's a little bit of two mirrors.
The other thing, I get the feeling that -- maybe this is not intentional, but you appear to pooh-pooh the arms control a little bit too much and say that deterrence -- maybe not pro-deterrence, but maybe that's okay.
But I think that opens a dangerous door because of the point that Theresa raised, which is between China and the U.S., that may be able to be worked. They both have good space situational awareness. They can see what each other's doing to each other's satellites.
But for instance in that context where that door has been opened, an Indian satellite goes dead, they don't really have good situational awareness. They lose that attribution problem.
So I think perhaps it's not good to just say oh, it's already too late for arms control, and really give it shot.
MACDONALD: Well, I don't want to be misunderstood. I am one who does not think it's too late for arms control. I think that -- (what I look at/when I look at it), I see some opportunities in the near term that could be seized on. And maybe once (you even ?) got that far, some other things would come up as well. So I'm a supporter of arms control.
But it's just like arms control -- go back to -- we're going back to the nuclear era. Arms control by itself could not solve the nuclear problem, but it could certainly help. And I see arms control in the same realm in space.
Now, it could even happen if someone had some really -- insights and suddenly Russia and China and maybe some others would agree to very intrusive measures -- and the United States, too; that could be the biggest one -- (inaudible). Maybe arms control could play an even bigger role.
But I would also throw back to you the argument that in the same way that it gets more complex for deterrence, it also gets more complex for arms control as well. It's not like -- it's an exponentially more difficult problem, I think, in both arms control and in deterrence.
Now, on your point about space situational awareness and space understanding for countries like India and others, excellent point.
I've heard some suggest -- Jim, I wouldn't want to target you on it. I was thinking maybe you said it, but it might have been somebody else -- about one possibility is to consider, to the extent that we can, is to internationalize as much as we can space situational awareness capabilities.
Obviously there's some point, Jon, which we could not go, but that that might have some merit to at least partially --
And the United States already does that with -- the Air Force, what is it they -- we put on the Internet? It's open to -- I mean, Osama bin Laden could find out what the (FMRS ?) data are, if he wants to log on.
MACDONALD: I'm sorry?
QUESTIONER: With only moderate accuracy.
MACDONALD: Yeah. Well, that's right.
MACDONALD: But -- that's the way I think I would address that.
QUESTIONER: I think the most important thing, which is great that you bring up, is even if you want deterrence to the space situational awareness, is the first thing that -- even the U.S. doesn't have that great a capability.
We don't know, in real time, who's next to our satellite.
QUESTIONER: That's right.
QUESTIONER: And it would probably -- and just a wild guess -- I think it'll be at least a decade or two before we can even get a good enough space situational awareness to have deterrence.
QUESTIONER: It could be.
MACDONALD: By the way, let me point out one thing that I'm fascinated by, and that is 10 years ago the arms control community was very suspicious of space situational awareness because they said, well, if you want to attack satellites, that's what gives you the targeting data. And there's been a sea change.
And actually, that -- now people on left, right and center, there's pretty strong unanimity that we need stronger space situational awareness. And I am encouraged by that.
And now if we could just figure out a way to get more dollars out of the budget -- that space, as Jim wrote in his article about, that resources are not exactly in abundant supply for --
QUESTIONER: The Air Force doesn't share that data willingly.
QUESTIONER: They want more accurate SSA for themselves and not share it.
QUESTIONER: And I think you were talking more about more open domain -- sort of like I see the sea and the air domain, where there's very, very good sharing common situational awareness --
QUESTIONER: Yeah, on this one, actually it's coming whether the Air Force likes it or not --
QUESTIONER: I think so, too, which makes you mad at the Air Force.
QUESTIONER: ESA is about to make the decision to go ahead with their SSA capability. I mean, even countries like South Africa are looking at such a thing because they have -- in the case of South Africa, they've got a geographical advantage, being in the Southern Hemisphere, to contribute. So it's -- I think it's coming.
It may take a very long time.
MACDONALD: One point I want to come back to was mentioned a little earlier by a couple of people, and that is there's been an argument made by some that oh, space is just one more dimension or venue, like land and sea and air. I just think that's completely wrong.
The laws of physics are the same, but if you blow up something on the ground, the debris falls out in a matter of, at worst, minutes. You don't have the problem, like in -- and it's totally different in space.
Space is also much harder to access and there's a real -- not just anybody can go into space. And to me, it's a substantially different venue with its own peculiarities, and I think that's one more thing we haven't fully thought through how that plays in possible conflicts and the dynamics of deterrence and so forth.
So the laws of physics are the same, but things are different in orbit than they are on the Earth. That -- for the physicists here, that potential well, there's a big difference in the way that you behave.
QUESTIONER: Just a question. You mentioned that there had been recently something more along the lines of cooperation in space with China. I'm not aware of that. What is that?
MACDONALD: The best thing I can do -- I'm sure that people can speak to it --
QUESTIONER: It was an Aviation Week article that was published last Monday talking about the fact that NASA had sent a new team to China and they have agreed to try to set up working groups on Earth observation.
MACDONALD: "Reopening China," this is the article. And the sanctions were lifted against the Great Wall, the parent company. So -- I'd be happy to make a copy of it for you, Norm, if you're --
QUESTIONER: Oh, great. I'd love it, because Griffin's trip was not so successful there.
MACDONALD: That's putting it mildly, yeah.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. And so -- the Cox Report just absolutely terrified NASA, and has for several years. And they're not out of it yet because of their budget problem.
So that is a huge breakthrough, if that really --
MACDONALD: Yeah, it really is. I was very encouraged to hear that.
One of the recommendations in here is that we need to take another look at those restrictions and hold onto the ones that make sense. And the ones that either are outdated or ineffective we ought to let go.
QUESTIONER: It's interesting; I don't know how many of you heard Bob Zoellick last week, but he's just a brilliant guy. He did the economic situation.
But the way he approached answers to questions was wonderful. He took a view up here, and then he moved it down several levels until he got to the operational level. And you could really start off by saying what would be the basis for a war with China?
Are we going to have a land war with China? Are we going to invade them? Are we going to occupy them? And so on like that.
And there's a fellow in the -- he's now gone to DNI, but he used to be at State. And he said, think about it. Except for the Taiwan issue, which doesn't really need to blow up into war, what basis is there for a real conflict with China?
But it's terribly useful for people who need money and so on to have an enemy out there. So everything they do is an enemy.
My son is sort of a China hand; at least, he spent five years there in Beijing, in the Embassy. And he said, one reason they don't like to meet with you is they're so embarrassed because their PLA was so primitive for so long. And actually, maybe they're going to open up now.
Remember when Blair talked to us here? Admiral Blair? And says, I was just too early. Ten years ago I was trying to get more mil-mil cooperation, and they just wouldn't deal with us. But hopefully, that can expand as well.
We've got to insist on transparency with China across the board, in my view. And then this area is a key one.
QUESTIONER: Ironically, as China grows a little stronger and a little more self-confident --and I think announcing in advance when this man's mission is going to be is a sign of that confidence -- maybe that -- I think you're right. I think maybe they'll feel a little more confident and they might feel a little more comfortable about engaging in dialogue like that. At least I hope.
QUESTIONER: But if you were a PLA officer, what would you do? I mean, looking at us and our capabilities and every week the announcement in every magazine has a full-page picture of every aerospace company saying fighting for freedom and all this NASA capability that we've got. What would you do? (Inaudible) -- nothing?
QUESTIONER: Makes me a little worried.
QUESTIONER: No -- well, you get right on the program, all right?
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Yeah.
BEHLING: Well, I know we've reached 2:00 and I want to once again thank Bruce for his accomplishment here, which sets the stage for future work in this area. It's really a groundbreaking paper.
And I want to thank you, Bruce, for the hard work and the effort that you put --
MACDONALD: Thank you, Tom. I want to thank everybody for coming here. I have magnificently enjoyed myself. The questions were uniformly excellent. And this is the kind of dialogue that we need a lot more of and in different venues as well.
And again, my thanks to the Council for providing support, and Charles, to you for your great leadership as well.
FERGUSON: Thank you very much, Bruce. (Applause.)
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