U.S., French Defense Leaders Sign Space Agreement

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2011 — U.S. and French defense lead­ers con­sult­ed on a wide range of mutu­al inter­ests and signed an agree­ment on space sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness at the Pen­ta­gon today.
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and French Defense Min­is­ter Alain Juppe dis­cussed Afghanistan, restor­ing NATO, con­tain­ing Iran’s nuclear ambi­tions and defeat­ing inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism, and also addressed the sit­u­a­tion in Egypt.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, right, escorts French Defense Min­is­ter Alain Juppe through an hon­or cor­don into the Pen­ta­gon, Feb. 8, 2011. The two defense lead­ers held secu­ri­ty dis­cus­sions on a broad range of top­ics, includ­ing the sit­u­a­tions in Tunisia and Egypt.
DOD pho­to by R.D. Ward
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Gates host­ed Juppe and his par­ty last night at a restau­rant that once host­ed John Quin­cy Adams and Mar­quis de Lafayette in 1824.

On Egypt, both men empha­sized the need for a peace­ful tran­si­tion. Gates said the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary “has con­duct­ed itself in an exem­plary man­ner” through the protests.

“They have act­ed with great restraint, and frankly, they have done every­thing that we have indi­cat­ed we hoped they would do,” Gates said. “They have made a con­tri­bu­tion to the evo­lu­tion of democ­ra­cy that we’ve seen in Egypt.”

Egypt needs an order­ly tran­si­tion, but it needs to con­tin­ue to move for­ward in a way that allows peo­ple to see “a steady pace in imple­ment­ing a num­ber of the reforms that have been announced and which the Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted,” Gates said.

Juppe stressed that both the Unit­ed States and France want free and fair elec­tions in Egypt.

“It’s up to the peo­ple of Egypt to decide about that,” he said through a trans­la­tor. “We are ready to sup­port what­ev­er deci­sions they make.”

Juppe said Arab lead­ers always have told the West that “it was either us or Islam­ic chaos.” He said the coun­tries need to let oppo­si­tion par­ties form and should not let any­one “con­fis­cate the demo­c­ra­t­ic process.”

Gates called the upris­ings in Tunisia and Egypt a “spon­ta­neous man­i­fes­ta­tion of dis­con­tent on the part of peo­ple who have both eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal griev­ances.” The Unit­ed States has been aware of the prob­lems, he said, and has spo­ken to gov­ern­ments in the region on their need to address these prob­lems.

“I would hope that oth­er gov­ern­ments in the region, see­ing this spon­ta­neous action in Tunisia and Egypt, would take mea­sures to begin mov­ing in a pos­i­tive direc­tion,” he said. “In this way, we can have an order­ly tran­si­tion toward greater democ­ra­cy.”

The two men also signed a bilat­er­al state­ment on prin­ci­ples for space sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness. Gates said the agree­ment will go a long way toward address­ing one of the key secu­ri­ty chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tu­ry.

“As the new strat­e­gy puts it, space is becom­ing increas­ing­ly con­gest­ed, con­test­ed and com­pet­i­tive,” he said.

A grow­ing num­ber of nations are using space for a grow­ing num­ber of pur­pos­es: manned space­craft, satel­lites, the inter­na­tion­al space sta­tion and more. This increas­es the odds of acci­den­tal col­li­sions.

In addi­tion, many space tech­nolo­gies under­gird civil­ian and defense capa­bil­i­ties such as pre­ci­sion nav­i­ga­tion, cli­mate mon­i­tor­ing, secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions and nat­ur­al dis­as­ter warn­ings.

“These agree­ments help us mit­i­gate sit­u­a­tions by shar­ing infor­ma­tion and pool­ing our var­ied capa­bil­i­ties,” Gates said. “Our arrange­ment will fos­ter safe­ty and reduce the chance of mishaps, mis­per­cep­tions and mis­trust. Such coop­er­a­tion is a key aspect of our Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Space Strat­e­gy.”

Juppe empha­sized the high lev­el of con­fi­dence the French have in their mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with the Unit­ed States. He said the close coop­er­a­tion between the two nations allows their mil­i­taries to work togeth­er from Afghanistan — where France has more than a brigade of troops work­ing with Amer­i­can forces in Region­al Com­mand East -– to space, which the min­is­ter called one of the most chal­leng­ing domains.

He assured Gates that France is a reli­able part­ner despite bud­get con­straints that all nations are fac­ing.

“I want to stress that we will safe­guard the oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty of our armed forces,” Juppe said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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