WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 — The departments of Defense and State have agreed an international code of conduct should govern activities in outer space, and officials announced plans to work with the European Union to develop it.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little yesterday issued a statement saying DOD “supports the concept” of an international code of conduct for outer space activities.
“An international code of conduct can enhance U.S. national security by encouraging responsible space behavior by reducing the risk of mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust,” he said.
Little added that a European Union draft plan “is a promising basis for an international code.”
Little’s statement followed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s announcement yesterday that the United States has decided to join with the European Union and other nations to develop a code of conduct, which she said “will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability, and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space.”
Clinton’s announcement came two days after a Russian spacecraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 700 miles west of Chile. The European Union issued its proposal about the same time as another space mishap the February 2009 collision between a commercial satellite and that of a Russian military satellite, according to reports.
“The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors,” Clinton said. “Ensuring the stability, safety and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community. These systems allow the free flow of information across platforms that open up our global markets, enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring, and enable global navigation and transportation.
“Unless the international community addresses these challenges,” Clinton continued, “the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to human space flight and satellite systems, which would create damaging consequences for all of us.”
Opponents of the European Union plan have said it would restrict U.S. military options. But Clinton said yesterday that the U.S. government “has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space, or our ability to protect the United States and our allies.”
In early 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper approved a National Security Space Strategy designed to govern congestion and competition in space, as well as contested areas of space.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)