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by Tyler Will, Naval War College Public Affairs


Naval War College (NWC) National Security Decision Making Chairwoman Joan Johnson-Freese released her book “Heavenly Ambitions America’s Quest to Dominate Space” on May 22, which assesses shortcomings in U.S. space policy and makes a compelling case why the cosmos is critical to victory in the modern battlefield.


A policy pioneered during the Cold War has evolved into a network of satellites, whose military functions range from gathering intelligence and spying, to weather forecasting, GPS functioning and radio communicating.


While satellites are necessary, Johnson-Freese said the U.S. should look to diversify its means of asset control in space.


“The U.S. approach has been to focus on using technology to try to protect our space assets, rather than using technology as one tool among many, including arms control,” Johnson-Freese said. “The pitfalls of that kind of reliance are several.”


Some of those pitfalls are developing expensive technology that might not actually work and a compromise in the diplomatic image of the U.S. when it declines to discuss arms control.

Johnson-Freese said the idea of military “domination” is different in the high skies.


“The United States does not have a monopoly on space technology,” she said. “Too many other countries have the technical know-how to frustrate U.S. efforts to dominate, if we give them the motivation to try to do so.”


Johnson-Freese said space assets are key to achieving U.S. national interests, and understanding space policy will help students understand the costs and advantages of space assets compared to land and sea assets.


“Because space is a capability used by all the services, the more students understand both its value and its vulnerabilities, the better they will be able at understanding the need to protect it in the future, and perhaps how best to do that,” she said.


Johnson-Freese has been Chairwoman of the National Security Decision Making Department since 2002.  Previously, she was a professor of National Security Studies at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.  She has published about seven books, and has testified several times before Congress on issues relating to space security and China. She also teaches terrorism and space security courses at Harvard.