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Senators Probe Chinese Satellite Kill In Closed Hearing

By | January 29, 2007

      The Senate Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee met Friday with key government officials to probe a recent Chinese test in which one of its missiles shot down a Chinese weather satellite.

      While he would not provide details about the subcommittee’s focus for the closed hearing, Chairman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) indicated it was an important issue for the subcommittee.

      “I’m going to be in this one four square,” he told Defense Daily, sister publication of Space & Missile Defense Report.

      Nelson said the door to this scenario opened during the late 1980s. At the time, he warned that the United States should not allow its satellites to be placed on Chinese Long March rockets.

      “I was vigorously opposed to it then when I was space subcommittee chairman in the House,” he said. But then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger allowed it to move forward at the urging of industry, he added.

      “As a result there was a huge transfer of technology, which allowed the Chinese to have an enormous gain in their space program,” Nelson said. “I come at it through that lens, and I will be watching this one very closely.”

      Officials testifying included Ron Sega, the under secretary of the Air Force; Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security; Mary Margaret Graham, deputy director of national intelligence for collection, and Brian Green, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategic capabilities. Officials from the U.S. Strategic Command also testified, according to a committee statement.

      Leaders of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee denounced the Chinese military test.

      “I am very concerned with these recent actions by the Chinese and will be carefully evaluating the available information about the threat this poses to space assets of all nations,” wrote Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman.

      Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement the test raises concern about American satellites.

      “We depend on satellites for a host of military and commercial uses, from navigation to ATM transactions,” said Everett. “America needs to take a hard look at our space vulnerabilities and capabilities to protect our assets, starting with space situational awareness. We cannot afford to stand idly by and not address these threats immediately.”

      Nelson said he did not yet know whether the test would prompt the Department of Defense to boost spending in military space programs.

      “I will get the answer to that — either tomorrow or in the next few weeks,” he said.

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