War in Space at NPS
NASA’s top administrator addresses hometown crowd at graduation ceremony.
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Google the phrase “Joint Vision 2020” and you will come across a document published by the US Space Command called “Vision 2020,” which explains the mission of military dominance and control of outer space.
For years, the US military has been focused on what it calls “jointness,” a relatively seamless integration of all the services, commands, forces and weapons systems, such that no enemy can resist its multi-directional, high-tech onslaught. In two documents that outline this strategy in broad brushstrokes—Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020—the concept of “Full Spectrum Dominance” is explained as an overwhelming force that wires together every aspect of the armed forces, from the rifleman to the satellite.
That intra-service “jointness” extends not only outward to international allies and foreign coalitions, but to the military’s quest to control the final frontier. The Space Command document declares that its mission is “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment.”
If there’s any doubt about the goal, refer to the penultimate page of the Space Command’s “Vision 2020” document. It portrays a copper-colored satellite shaped like a coffee thermos with fins, unleashing a laser beam cone toward earth. The ray of energy cuts through a background of stars and hits earth with a bright flash and explosion. Where on earth does the laser burn? Baghdad.
Sean O’Keefe, the chief administrator of NASA, was in Monterey last week, not to talk about frying central Iraq from outer space, but to speak at the commencement of one of the Naval Postgraduate School’s (NPS) four classes of 2004.
On March 26, the school graduated 155 military officers and civilians. The preponderance of the graduates came from the US armed forces, along with other students from the Mexican, Turkish and Greek navies, the Tunisian, Turkish, Ukrainian and Australian armies, the Romanian, Bulgarian and Singaporian air forces, the Mongolian Ministry of Defense and the Botswana Defense Force.
Civilian graduates came from overseas as well as the Federal Cyber Corps, a Clinton-era initiative to create information security experts with funding from the National Science Foundation.
O’Keefe was born in Monterey, when his father was a naval officer studying at NPS. Now the chief of the nation’s space exploration program, O’Keefe’s background is in national defense.
Besides several federal budget positions, O’Keefe was also Secretary of the Navy for President George H.W. Bush, a financial officer at the Pentagon under then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and a staff director of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
O’Keefe has made headlines in recent months both for his handling of NASA in the wake of the Columbia loss and for the Mars exploration mission, as well as his decision to cease maintenance of the wondrous Hubble Space Telescope.
But his message for the Naval Postgraduate School was: We Need You In Outer Space.
“I’m certain that we have more than a few future astronauts sitting in the audience who will help us explore the Moon, Mars and beyond,” he said.
It’s no wonder, since NPS has produced more astronauts than any other graduate-level institution, with 34 grads turned astronauts, including 16 currently in the space program.
Noting President Bush’s broad mandate for human and robotic space exploration, as well as the evidence of water equaling Lake Michigan on Mars, O’Keefe said, “It is my hope that in a matter of decades a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School will help carry the torch of exploration and discovery to the shores of these ancient Martian lakebeds.”
The very research underway at NPS lends itself directly to the national strategy of “jointness” from the mud to the stars. With $66.6 million spent by a variety of sponsors at NPS in fiscal year 2002-03, $18 million went to education and $48 million went to research. Among those research projects are satellite weather forecasting, experiments at Camp Roberts integrating satellites, ships, ground forces, sensors, robot aircraft and hot air balloons, as well as ship-mounted “free electron laser” weapons and “plasma ignition for pulse detonation engines.”
Responding to a reporter’s query before his commencement speech, O’Keefe denied ever seeing a UFO, but said he did hold out hope that there may be life up there. He had cited many examples of possible life-supporting conditions on Mars, such as salt water, but when asked if he believed in extraterrestrial life, O’Keefe said simply, “Don’t know.”
With so many problems here on earth, many ask why we bother poking around outer space. O’Keefe noted that for every dollar spent on the space program, seven go to national economic development. The average American taxpayer puts $50 a year toward the space program, and space-related research brings everything from MRI scanners to anything that’s been miniaturized to the global marketplace, he said.
Despite the national strategy to own space as the next battleground, O’Keefe kept his reasoning for continued space missions philosophical.
“It’s a desire within the human heart,” he said. “There no human being that isn’t curious about what’s on the other side of that ridge.”