Senators Warn Clinton On Space Code

A solid group of 37 Republican senators, led by Sen. Jon Kyl, tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton they must be told whether the Obama administration plans to negotiate and sign on to a Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. The Feb. 2 letter says the senators are "deeply concerned" the administration may pursue an agreement they fear poses "a multitude of potential highly damaging implications for sensitive military and intelligence programs... as well as a tremendous amount of commercial activity."

A solid group of 37 Republican senators, led by Sen. Jon Kyl, tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton they must be told whether the Obama administration plans to negotiate and sign on to a Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

The Feb. 2 letter says the senators are “deeply concerned” the administration may pursue an agreement they fear poses “a multitude of potential highly damaging implications for sensitive military and intelligence programs… as well as a tremendous amount of commercial activity.”

The warning comes hot on the heels of the new National Security Space Strategy, which targets just such an agreement. A fact sheet on the new strategy released today says:  “The United States is working closely with the European Union on a draft international Code of Conduct, which could serve as an important first set of norms of responsible behavior.”

Kyl and his colleagues say they don’t know of any consultations between the State Department and the Senate about this and “urge the Administration to immediately consult with key Senate committees” about this.

The senators also take the extra step of asking for Clinton’s “personal responses” to five questions about any code talks. They want to know what impact it might have on the military, especially “anything that would impact in any way a U.S. decision to deploy missile defense interceptors of any sort in space…” They want to know if it would affect “the development, test or deployment of an anti-satellite weapon, such as the one successfully used in the 2008 Burnt Frost operation” when the US shot down an errant spy satellite, US 193.

They also want to know if it would affect in any way “a kinetic defensive system in outer space that is capable of defeating an anti-satellite weapon, such as the one tested by the People’s Republic of China in 2007.” And then they say they want to know about any impact on anything satellite development or operations by the military or the intelligence community.

The senators want Clinton to tell them how much compliance with the code might cost and whether the US could renounce the code should it want to. They want to know if Russia and China are involved in the consultations concerning the code. And they want her to tell them if “any information about U.S. space systems” will be exchanged with those two countries “under the draft code or any other agreement or code of conduct the administration is discussing with either nation.”