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Bush space policy puts priority on defense: report

Reuters | October 18 2006

President Bush has signed a newly revised space policy that sets defense as a priority and rejects future negotiations that might limit U.S. flexibility in space, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The document, released earlier this month with no public announcement, emphasizes security issues, the newspaper reported.

Bush's top goals, as stated in the document, are to "strengthen the nation's space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives" and to "enable unhindered U.S. operation in and through space to defend our interest there," the newspaper reported.

The top goals of the Clinton administration had been more of a balance of science and security, the Post said.

The Bush administration said the first full revision of overall U.S. space policy in 10 years was not a step toward putting weapons systems into Earth orbit, the newspaper reported.

A senior administration official, who asked not to be identified, told the paper: "This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period."

The newspaper cited two arms experts who said that the Bush policy goes beyond the previous Clinton policy which opened the door to developing space weapons.

Theresa Hitchens, director of the nonpartisan Center for Defense Information, was quoted as saying that the Bush policy "kicks the door a little more open to a space-war fighting strategy" and has a "very unilateral tone to it."

The Bush administration official strongly disagreed with that characterization, saying the policy encourages international diplomacy and cooperation, The Washington Post said. But the official said the document also made clear the U.S. position: that no new arms-control agreements are needed because there is no space arms race, the report said.

According to the report, the Bush policy accepts current international agreements but states: "The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space."

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