Launch Site Security in the PRC
Launch Site Security in the PRC
The U.S. satellite manufacturer is responsible for the physical security of U.S. satellites that are exported to the PRC, and for guarding against the unauthorized or illegal transfer of U.S. technology during technical discussions that occur in the PRC. The U.S. Government oversees this function by assigning a representative of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), now known as the Technology Security Directorate of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to the launch site in the PRC.
This Defense Department "monitor" is responsible for ensuring that the satellite manufacturer properly implements a Technology Transfer Control Plan that is intended to provide and maintain protection against the unauthorized transfer of U.S. technology. Defense Department monitors also are required to attend all meetings of a technical nature that may occur between the satellite manufacturerís employees and representatives of the PRC launch provider leading up to and during the launch.
In the course of their duties, Defense Department monitors are required to report regularly to the U.S. Air Forceís Space Command and Technology Security Directorate Headquarters on their activities at the launch site, including any security infractions they have detected. According to the Director of the Defense Technology Security Administration and Defense Department monitor reports, these infractions represent instances that require the monitorís attention, but do not necessarily constitute violations of the export license that should be reported to the State Department. The guidance that is provided to Defense Department monitors provides that, should they encounter a security infraction at a launch site, they should first try to work out the problem with the satellite manufacturerís personnel, including its security guard force. If this effort does not result in resolution of the problem to the satisfaction of the monitor, then the monitor is to call Headquarters and advise a supervisor. The supervisor may then call the company to insist that it remedy the security problem.
Defense Department monitors have reported many minor to severe security infractions at launch sites in the PRC. While the Select Committeeís limited review has found no witness to confirm that a transfer to the PRC of controlled U.S. technology has occurred as a result of ineffective launch site security, given the difficulty of proving that an improper transfer has occurred, it cannot be inferred that no such transfer has taken place. Moreover, the security infractions that have been documented demonstrate the potential for technology transfers to occur. Testimony by the Department of Defense on the potential for a technology transfer to occur as a result of access to a satellite in the PRC provides a perspective for considering these security infractions.
The Defense Department concluded that visual or photographic access to a satellite would allow confirmation of the existence of various attributes of a satellite already in the public domain.
With additional, longer-term unguarded access, the Defense Department estimated that a foreign intelligence collector could gain physical access to the satellite and obtain technical information of value regarding the satellite.
U.S. satellite manufacturers hire a security force to provide physical security for a satellite while it is awaiting launch in the PRC. In recent years, only one security guard company has bid on and received contracts to provide this service in the PRC.
The conduct, professionalism, and abilities of that companyís personnel have been sharply criticized both by Defense Department monitors and the satellite companies.
Because of the potential that technology transfers associated with the launch of a U.S. satellite in the PRC can occur, it is critical that the Defense Department monitors, the physical security guards, and the satellite manufacturers provide effective protection of U.S. technology associated with launches in the PRC. The Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1999 has addressed several of the criticisms received both from inside and outside the Defense Department regarding its monitoring program. However, the Clinton administration has not yet issued regulations to implement the Act.
Protecting Sensitive Information at PRC Launch Sites
The United States relies on a variety of means to protect controlled military-related technology during PRC launches of U.S. satellites. These include bilateral agreements between the United States and the PRC, export licenses for satellites and related technology, the presence of private security guards at PRC launch sites, and monitoring of launch-related activities and communications by U.S. Defense Department representatives.
U.S.-PRC Bilateral Agreement
In 1988, prior to authorizing the first launches of U.S. satellites from the PRC, the United States entered into a bilateral agreement with the PRC to prevent unauthorized disclosures of controlled technology. Under that agreement, the PRC agreed to give the United States access to and complete control over the satellite and related information while it is in the PRC for launch. The PRC also agreed not to seek to obtain unauthorized information.1
Export Licenses for PRC Launching of U.S. Satellites
Under U.S. law (including the Arms Export Control Act, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and regulations issued by the Department of Commerce),2 a private party wishing to launch a U.S. satellite from the PRC must first obtain an export license to do so. The license limits the access that the PRC can have to the satellite, restricts the information that can be shared with the PRC, and requires that the private party develop and abide by a plan to protect controlled information from unauthorized disclosure. Private security guards are often hired for this purpose.
Defense Department Monitors
The United States requires that Defense Department representatives must be present at the PRC launch site, and that the expense of these monitors must be borne by the U.S. satellite manufacturer. These Defense Department officials are responsible for overseeing the physical security of the satellite and associated equipment and documents. They are also required to monitor the technical interchange meetings that occur between U.S. and PRC engineers throughout the satellite development and launch campaign.
Each of these mechanisms for protecting sensitive, controlled U.S. information from unauthorized disclosure is discussed in this chapter.
Unauthorized Access Allows Opportunities to Gain Information Concerning U.S. Satellites and Other Controlled Technology
Launch site security is intended to protect controlled military-related technology, including information that could be gleaned from a U.S. satellite and its associated documents, equipment, and technical personnel, against disclosure to the PRC. Protecting controlled information that might be stolen or inadvertently disclosed during the launch or pre-launch period is a demanding and important task.
Efforts to protect U.S.-controlled technology during the launch and pre-launch period in the PRC are complicated by several factors.
First, the launch and related pre-launch activities (often called the "launch campaign") in the PRC take place largely on a PLA military base. The Xichang Space Launch Center, from which many U.S.-manufactured satellites are launched, is located within a PLA military installation. Yet the U.S. satellite manufacturer is required to maintain control over certain portions of the facilities and to make them secure during the time a U.S. satellite and its associated documents and equipment are located there.
Second, U.S. satellite manufacturing companies take considerable amounts of controlled equipment and technical data to the military facility in order to assist them in their work to prepare the satellite for launch. All this controlled information is required to be kept under lock and seal when not in use and protected.
Yet PRC workers have legitimate reasons for having access to some of these U.S. materials at various times, making the security function particularly demanding.
Third, the U.S. engineers and support personnel who accompany the satellite must live and operate far away from home, often under relatively uncomfortable conditions. Some U.S. companies are unaccustomed to doing business in such a demanding security environment.
One satellite manufacturing company security official says that his company takes every possible precaution, but notes that, if the PRC really wanted to monitor everything that went on for the duration of the launch campaign, it probably could easily do so.
The official also recalls that, during one launch campaign at Xichang when building access badges were being made for local PRC personnel, a PRC man gave the official a business card as identification. The card clearly indicated the PRC manís title was "intelligence officer." 3 The individual was not allowed access to the satellite.
There are indications that the PRC carefully monitors the activities of the U.S. personnel at the launch site. For example, Lockheed-Martinís Director of Security explains that the power facility for the Xichang Space Launch Center is located adjacent to the satellite processing building. At one point when U.S. personnel supplied power to the satellite for testing purposes, a number of PRC personnel emerged from the facilityís power building to determine what was happening. This was an indication, in his view, of how closely the PRC was monitoring satellite operations.4
Access by the PRC to U.S. communications satellites could permit the PRC to gain information about the configuration and design of Western-manufactured satellites. If the PRC has only visual or photographic access to a U.S. communications satellite ó the most common violation of U.S. security guidelines ó only information that confirms known capabilities and is already in the public domain may be obtained. If the PRC had unrestricted access to a U.S. communications satellite for at least two hours, the PRC military could gain valuable information that is not otherwise available in the public domain.
The PRC could accomplish even exploitation that penetrated the interior of the satellite, given two hours of time, without leaving any traces.
With this kind of exploitation, the PRC could gain new information about major satellite subsystems, as well as the design and manufacture of each subsystem.
While unmonitored PRC access to a U.S. satellite for more than five or six hours would produce diminishing returns, there is almost nothing about a U.S. satellite that the PRC could not learn from unrestricted access for 24 hours.
Among the reasons the PRC would be interested in exploiting the technology in U.S. communications satellites is to determine the satellite manufacturerís techniques for passive thermal control. Thermal control is critical to satellite life. The PRC would also likely be interested in:
- The materials used in satellites
- Engine and propellant data
- Electrical design and protection
Additionally, the PRC could seek to acquire information about the dimensions and part numbers for satellite components or assemblies, as well as dimensional tolerances. Obtaining part numbers could allow the PRC to try to acquire U.S. technology directly from the manufacturer that would improve the performance and provide for longer on-orbit life for PRC satellites.
Launch-related equipment, documents, and personnel accompany the satellite to the PRC military facility for the launch campaign. Technical interchange meetings between U.S. and PRC experts also occur. All of these materials and exchanges relating to controlled technology or information are required to be monitored by the Defense Department.
Unauthorized PRC access to controlled equipment or materials, including blueprints or testing equipment, could benefit the PRCís own military space launch activities.
Unauthorized PRC participation in technical discussions, as well as PRC eavesdropping into technical discussions among U.S. experts, could have similar military benefits to the PRC. For example, the chapters of this Report concerning Loral and Hughes discuss in detail the potential gains to the PRC from technical discussions held in connection with unauthorized failure analyses performed by these companiesí experts.
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