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Space and Security

Space and Security

Remarks by His Excellency François Bujon de l'Estang at the "Space and Security" Seminar held at the MIT Faculty Club, Boston, April 22, 2002. Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like first of all to thank MIT for hosting this seminar on the timely topic of "space and security."

My gratitude goes to Dr. James Roche, the Secretary of the Air Force, who agreed to be the featured speaker this evening, and to Professor Sapolski, director for security studies here at MIT, for organizing this challenging event with great dedication and efficiency.

I am also pleased that a number of industrial partners joined ranks to help make this seminar possible. I want to express my appreciation to Alcatel, Arianespace, the Boeing Company, EADS, Lockheed Martin and Snecma for their active participation.

It is a pleasure to be here once again at MIT, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

With more than 900 professors and some 10,000 students, MIT draws its strength from its excellence in science and technology—the fact that 11 Nobel prizes were awarded to MIT professors is particularly telling--from inter disciplinary and international cultures, and last but not least, from the special relationships it maintains with both the government -- the Lincoln Lab in particular is represented here today-- and industry.

In this context, today’s event has been made possible thanks to a program called MIT-France. As you may know, France recently decided to launch a bilateral program to promote exchanges of professors, researchers, and interns between French universities, labs, industries and MIT. MIT-France is therefore the direct result of a mutual and consensual interest.

Taking advantage of all the above, the "space and security" seminar has attracted an impressive, diverse and international audience. It is an honor and a privilege to address such a prestigious group on such a strategic topic.

The issues you are addressing today are of the utmost importance as their implications are considerable.

This seminar was initially planned for October 2001. September 11 pushed it back. That was for the best.

Meanwhile, as the war against terrorism was going on, the United States once again demonstrated to the world the tremendous tactical and strategic advantages of space assets.

Collecting all sorts of data around the globe, at any time, in any weather, transporting such data, generating information, disseminating knowledge to local populations, connecting people, targeting, planning, guiding and tracking are among the best known functions of space assets.

But that isn’t all. Space, as expressed in the joint vision for 2020, is the additional dimension that enhances force and allows for network-centric warfare.

It is indeed the center of the two principles of the military strategy defined by Von Manstein, realism and force concentration or "schwerpunkt."

It isn’t surprising that the Rumsfeld report noted that space is as strategic today as nuclear deterrence was during the cold war.

But you are the experts and have already discussed these points in detail this morning. So let me focus on three elements at the core of this seminar: the position of the European Union, the need for transatlantic cooperation and the role of France in this cooperation.

  • The European Union’s position

Although perhaps not quite ripe today, the use of space for civil security and environmental monitoring has a promising future. Europe is more advanced in these applications, known as "useful space." You have heard about that this morning as well.

The current genesis of the GMES program and the existence of the operational charter of the management of industrial and natural disasters tend to prove this point. Applied to civil or military security, space assets rely on the same dual technologies. Europe has developed most of them through civilian channels.

From launchers to remote sensing, from optics to radar, from visible wavelengths to infra-red and hyper spectrum, from space telecommunication to space exploration, Europe created the know-how, managed the resources and shaped the talents to become a prime space power.

This was made possible thanks to the European Space Agency, ESA, and such national space agencies as the CNES, the French Space Agency, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last December.

As you all know, however, Europe is still a work in progress. That progress is rapid and visible. After the formation of the European Economic Union, based on free trade, and after the advent of the Euro, the common currency emblematic of European financial unity, Europe is working toward common security and defense.

A European defense will take into account the new environment of the 21st century. It will also take advantage of new technologies. Such a defense will be irreversibly flawed without the appropriate space capabilities. Again, most of these technologies are available within Europe.

There is no doubt in my mind that it will not miss this tremendous and historic opportunity. Europe will rise to the challenge of "transforming" our defense policy, our defense strategy and our defense capabilities.

It might take some time—five, even ten years—but Europe will be there.

The recent decision on Galileo, the European satellite navigation system --clearly a dual space system-- supports this last point. The Galileo decision is a very significant one. Galileo is the first European Space program to be decided on and funded by the European Union. Therefore, it represents a major step in European integration, a step that only a few months ago many thought would be impossible.

And finally, Galileo offers an easy transition to the second element I wanted to mention…

  • The need for transatlantic cooperation

There is no denying that there are some impediments to transatlantic cooperation on space for security, such as transatlantic industrial competition and the quest for autonomy. However, I see three main driving forces for transatlantic cooperation in this strategic field: it will be operational, will allow real burden-sharing and have a commercial dimension.

First, I believe it is quite realistic to state that Europe and the United States are allies and will remain allies. Europe and the United States share the same values --universal values like freedom and democracy-- and the same threats --global threats as specific as terrorism or global warming-- and since the end of the cold war they have fought shoulder to shoulder on several occasions.

Second, space is global and expensive. It makes perfect sense, between allies, when appropriate, to develop, build and operate common space infrastructures.

The best example to date, although still in the pre-development phase, is the "NPOESS" program: the new polar orbiting environment satellite system. It will be built around two American satellites and one European satellite, METOP, from the European meteorology organization EUMETSAT. It will serve both military and civilian, European and American needs.

However, each partner might want to preserve its independence for the sake of its own national security. When that applies, different systems will be necessary. These different systems must be interoperable in order to be used simultaneously. The different systems must in fact have only positive effects on each other’s performances.

Then, combined as a system of systems, they will provide superior performance and integrity. That is certainly the case for Galileo/GPS.

Finally, some of these space systems are dual-use. While they may be military, they are very likely to evolve toward civilian applications.

Again, space being global, there is no sense in developing local standards that would act as trade barriers and would prevent the development of a global market. Here again, the GPS/Galileo example is striking, as is the example of Ariane 5, which was designed to space-shuttle standards, the benchmark in civil, commercial and military space transportation during the 80’s.

One must acknowledge that sharing a standard, which I believe is the lowest form of cooperation, requires a minimum level of exchange.

This is important and relates directly to a point that you cannot leave out during this seminar, the u.s. control of exports of sensitive technologies.

The United States has the leadership in most of the military space systems and there is no denying that it sets the standards. But what happens when the standard is not shared ? Another standard will emerge to further reinforce walls and fortresses.

  • The role of France in this cooperation

France has always valued space as a strategic domain.

On the one hand, it has always been the main contributor to the European space agency and the leading European country in space in terms of its budget, technology and industrial capability.

On the other hand, it has enjoyed long-standing cooperation in space with the u.s.

CNES has worked in civil space with both NASA and NOAA for more than 30 years. Their cooperation has always been very efficient, fruitful and safe. Over the past decade it has grown in both quantity and quality. Today there are more than 30 ongoing bilateral space projects between our two countries.

Keeping all that in mind, I believe France has a key role to play in fostering this transatlantic cooperation in space for security on earth now and for the future.

For the future we must act now. Education is essential. MIT-France could be instrumental in promoting American and French students to study, research and dream together about space.

Thank you for your support. I wish you an excellent seminar.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).