Jeffrey LewisChinese parasitic micro satellite 2

A Military Intelligence Failure? The Case of the Parasite Satellite (Gregory Kulacki and David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists, 16 August 2004) is now on-line.

Take a moment to read it, then imagine the humiliation for the person who wrote the Chinese counterspace section in the 2003 & 2004 editions of Chinese Military Power.

I feel bad for Lt. Cmdr. Alvin “Flex” Plexico, the spokesman that the Pentagon trotted out to defend DIA (as in “Do It Again”) to the inquiring Bradley Graham of the Washington Post.

Flex Plexico, who was left with the best name in Government following Steele Means’ return to academe, is probably a nice guy. But he doesn’t have much to work from.

Flex Plexico/’s first statement was simply false, telling Post that “The facts themselves contained within the Pentagon’s report on China’s military power are accurate and based on a number of sources, not just one press report.”

Maybe some of the facts, but not this one. The report bases this “fact” solely on the Hong Kong paper. The exact wording

A Hong Kong newspaper article in January 2001 reported that China had developed and ground-tested and would soon begin space-testing an antisatellite (ASAT) system described as a “parasitic microsatellite.” This claim is being evaluated.

As Gregory and David point out: “it is not the case that the Pentagon included the reference to the Hong Kong newspaper story in its reports because it has other sources that confirm the story’s claim about a parasite satellite; the Pentagon states in its report that it cannot confirm the claim.”

We’ll give Flex a Mulligan on that one. Flex Plexico then tried the “no harm, no foul” approach, telling the Post “no policy decisions” have been made based on the Hong Kong article.

Speak for yourself (and DIA), Flex. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard P. Lawless briefed the contents of the report to Congress, referring specifically to the parasitic micro-satellite when he said “China has reportedly begun testing an anti-satellite, that is an ASAT system.”

After Lawless’ presentation, Senator Brownback (R-KS) cut to the chase:

SEN. BROWNBACK: I chair the Science, Space, Technology Subcommittee and we’re looking at adjustments in our space program. One of the things that we’re going to hold a hearing on in the future is other competitors in the space field, and China is the one that really steps forward—and there are others, but China key one. What are they looking to do, can you determine from a Defense or military perspective, in the space program? Other than you were saying about imagery targeting, are there other designs that you’ve been able to determine from a military aspect of their space program?

MR. LAWLESS: Well, quite obviously they have a very aggressive manned space program. They’ve made no doubt about the fact that they intend to work and live in space. So I believe that the combination of the resources they’re devoting right now, the fact that they’re able to induce reasonably sophisticated technologies where they can’t home grow them, and the fact that they’re devoting a lot of resources to the development of space capabilities suggests that they see space as an important area for security policy in the future. [Emphasis is mine, of course]

Maybe Senator Brownback and the Science, Space, Technology Subcommittee—in making “adjustments in our space program”—would like to know that one of the claims by DASD Lawless is probably false.

Need I mention that Secretary Rumsfeld, testifying before the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, warned that “Adversaries are likely to develop ground-based lasers, space jamming and ‘killer’ micro-satellites to attack U.S. space assets.”

That warning formed the basis for his request for “funds for a number of programs designed to provide unmatched space capabilities and defenses. These include:

  • $88 million for Space Control Systems that enhance U.S. ground based surveillance radar capabilities and, over time, move those surveillance capabilities into space;
  • $103.1 million for Directed Energy Technology to deny use of enemy electronic equipment with no collateral damage, to provide space control, and to pinpoint battlefield targets for destruction.”

No policy decisions, my ass.