May 5, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), a member of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, delivered the following opening statement at a joint hearing on space norms:

Rep. Lamborn remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Cooper, Chairman Castro, and Ranking Member Malliotakis. Additionally, I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today to discuss this important issue. As this subcommittee has highlighted again and again space is a vital component of our national security now more than ever. Not only that but our global economy is totally dependent on access to space.

Space, like the air and sea domains, is a common good that we all benefit from regardless of country of origin but, unlike those other domains space is more likely to suffer a tragedy of the commons outcome as a result of bad actors. The physics of space leaves it susceptible to long-term damage from debris created by collisions, poorly conducted anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) testing, and simply poor planning.

The foundational international laws and norms that we currently operate under were developed under the cloud of the cold war and when only the two great powers could access space. As a result, the Outer Space Treaty (OST) doesn’t account for the congested operations of space we see today. 

Today, not only have the number of spacefaring nations increased, but the use of space by the commercial sector has increased exponentially. The availability of commercial launch services and commoditized components of satellite production means the barriers to entry for both nation states and commercial entities has never been lower. 

The OST was also written with very broad language and phrases that are open to wide interpretation by signatories to the agreement. For example, it states that “nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction” will not be placed into orbit but no where is either ‘nuclear weapons’ or ‘weapons of mass destruction’ defined in a way that all parties agree.

It is my belief that the U.S. along with our allies and partners need to lead the way when it comes to developing verifiable and enforceable guidelines and norms for space operations. I do not believe China and Russia are operating in good faith when it comes to their proposals as evidenced by the Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) sometimes referred to as the “No First Placement Treaty.” The PPWT proposed to ban weapons in outer space but lacked any mechanism for verification and also was silent on space debris caused by ASAT testing and rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO).  Most notably however, Russia and China are in many ways already weaponizing space, proposing a treaty which upon ratification, they would already be in violation of.  

This is no surprise considering the Chinese government’s test of an ASAT weapon on one of its own failing satellites in 2007 that increased the amount of debris by 20 percent and created the largest amount of debris to date from a single event. Russia on the other hand has satellite in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) commonly referred to as Luch that is notorious for preforming maneuvers and has been in 19 orbital locations including near three different U.S. commercial satellites and a French-Italian military satellite. I’d like to hear from our witnesses what our Russian counterparts tell us when we raise this with them at our Strategic Security and Space dialogues.  

I was glad to see that the U.K. submitted a U.N. resolution to “Reduce space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviors” to be considered by the U.N. General Assembly this summer in a drive to make space safer and more sustainable. What I don’t want is another international treaty that would tie our hands, while others blatantly ignore its limitations, like the late Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. I also don’t want to see a treaty where the U.S. receives almost no benefit, but our adversaries do, like the now dead Open Skies Treaty (OST). 

I look forward to hearing how you all are engaging with the U.K. on their resolution, and what conversations you are having with our allies and partners, as we work to build a consensus of responsible space nations. 

I appreciate the continued service and experience that you all provide to the nation and I look forward to our discussions today.