Press Release

Examining the History of Competition for Supremacy in Space


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The United States is spending tens of billions of dollars annually – far more than all other countries combined – to acquire advanced military space capabilities. However, for technical and economic reasons, that investment is unlikely to yield the government’s stated military goals, according to a new white paper from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In fact, current U.S. space policy threatens services that are integral to the performance of the global economy as well as American military capabilities, the authors conclude.

Reconsidering the Rules of Space Security by Nancy Gallagher and John D. Steinbruner is a comprehensive review of U.S. military plans for space, examining the history of competition for supremacy in space, existing legal frameworks, and the technical, economic, and strategic implications of the 2006 U.S. National Space Policy and supporting documents that articulate Washington’s intention to dominate space for national military advantage. The authors make a case for international negotiations that would lead to new rules that explicitly address the central problems of space security.

The paper is part of the American Academy’s Reconsidering the Rules of Space project. The study has produced four earlier volumes: United States Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities by George Abby and Neal Lane; The Physics and Space Security: A Reference Manual by David Wright, Laura Grego, and Lisbeth Gronlund; The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age by Jeffrey Lewis; and Russian and Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Plans in Space by Pavel Podvig and Hui Zhang. All of these publications are available from the Academy website.

Authors Nancy Gallagher is the Associate Director for Research and John D. Steinbruner is Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Before coming to the University of Maryland, Gallagher was Executive Director of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Task Force and worked with the Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State on recommendations to build bipartisan support for U.S. ratification. Steinbruner, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, previously served as Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and held academic positions at Yale University, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Steinbruner is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.




Reconsidering the Rules of Space

John David Steinbruner