Defense, State Agree to Pursue Conduct Code for Outer Space

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)