Rumsfeld orders military space programs consolidated
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Implementing many of the recommendations he helped draft as chairman of the Space Commission, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered Tuesday that responsibility for military satellites and other military space programs be consolidated under the command of a four-star Air Force general.
"Space issues are complex and merit a renewed focus. A more compressive management and organizational approach is necessary to assign clear responsibilities and accountability for national security space programs," Rumsfeld said in announcing the changes at a Pentagon briefing.
Rumsfeld said the management and organizational changes were designed to raise the visibility of space because of its growing importance to military and civilian operations.
"Our dependence on operations in space, however, makes us somewhat vulnerable to new challenges. It's only logical to conclude that we must be attentive to these vulnerabilities and pay careful attention to protecting and promoting our interests in space," Rumsfeld said.
The announcement comes amid renewed debate on a proposed national missile defense system, which would use satellites to track targets.
But Rumsfeld stopped short of proposing any new defenses for satellites or other space-based systems, saying the United States remains committed to the peaceful use of space.
"These proposals have nothing to do with that," Rumsfeld said, "These proposals have to do with organizational arrangements within the Department of Defense that put a focus on the important issues relating to space which have been spread throughout the department in a way that has made it difficult to get the right kind of focus and the right kind of emphasis."
Nevertheless critics denounced the changes as the first step toward deploying weapons in space.
Tom Cardamone, Executive Director of the Council For a Livable World Education Fund said in a statement, "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has formally established the Pentagon infrastructure that will lead to the weaponization of space."
The Space Commission report issued in December warned that the increasing reliance on space satellites is leaving the United States vulnerable to a "Pearl Harbor in space.
"That is an inflammatory statement," Cardamone said, "which is intended to unnerve Congress so that the money to expand space-based weapons programs starts of flow."
Rumsfeld was joined by members of the congressionally-mandated Space Commission that he headed until December, when he stepped down because of his nomination to be defense secretary.
One commission member, Sen. Bob Smith, R-New Hampshire, said the hoped the management changes would lead to new programs to protect U.S. satellites against attack, but did not suggest how that might be accomplished.
"There are nations out there that are hostile to us and they are in space. They have such weapons as lasers, anti-satellite weapons and electromagnetic pulse weapons and we have to be ready to recognize that threat," Smith warned.
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