Space-based weapons, once the fantasy toys of science-fiction novels and robot cinema, are a very real part of the U.S. military's research and development plans, according to Victoria Samson, a research analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.
It's not far-fetched to suggest that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, part of which is being built in Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, is "being used to piggy-back weapons-into-space programs," she said.
"I don't think you can say that the interceptors that we're putting in Alaska and California will be turned into space weapons," Samson said. "But I think the overall command and control center can be used for space-based interceptors."
Samson will present "Little Cat Paws: The U.S. is Creeping Stealthily Toward Weaponizing Space," at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, on the first floor of the Dimond Courthouse. The lecture is free and is being presented by the Juneau World Affairs Council (http://www.jwac.org).
Formerly a subcontractor of war-game scenarios for the Missile Defense Agency's Directorate of Intelligence, Samson has worked for the Center for Defense Information since 2001. CDI (http://www.cdi.org) was founded by retired military officers in 1972 and monitors defense spending and global security. The think tank has been lauded for its investigations into secret Pentagon programs.
"The Clinton administration was seen as being hostile toward space-weapons programs," Samson said. "I think this administration is reversing that policy. They're discussing the costs and benefits of it, and they've put a lot of money on getting space-based weapons information from the Missile Defense Agency."
The Air Force's 2005 budget request included $23.8 million to fund lasers with anti-satellite capabilities, $15.8 million for space control technologies and $25 million for a hypersonic delivery vehicle, Samson wrote in an April 2004 article for Space News. The Missile Defense Agency's 2005 budget included a request for $10.5 million for a space-based kinetic energy intercept test bed, she wrote.
"I think a lot of people realize that a space-based weapons race is inherently pretty destabilizing," Samson said. "It's a race that will blow nuclear weapons out of the water."
"I think what they're trying to do is get these programs established without alerting anyone they're doing it," she said. "A couple of years down the line, they can say, 'We already have this technology.' I always say, 'It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.'"
In her lecture, Samson will define space weapons, talk about existing hardware, discuss the international legal restraints on weaponization and debate the need for such programs.
"We don't have a very good space situational awareness," Samson said. "When our satellites malfunction, we don't know why. I think the military is using that uncertainty to justify putting a lot of money in space control."
"Given the long lead time for many weapons systems, the time to talk about it is now, before the decision is out of the public's hand," she said.