After last week’s New York Times report that the US Air Force and the Bush Administration were considering policy changes that would permit the deployment of weapons in space, the issue is still reverberating among columnists. A prime example is a syndicated column by Ann McFeatters, the Washington bureau chief for two newspapers. She believes that deploying space-based weapons would cost “hundreds of billions of dollars”, although she doesn’t back up that claim with any detailed estimates. She noted that retiring acting Air Force secretary Peter Teets “did not spell out the secret projects already under way to use space to launch weapons.” (If they’re secret, how does she know how much they’ll cost?)
Ms. McFeatters also used the column to take a swipe at the Vision for Space Exploration, noting that since the president’s January 2004 announcement (which included “robotic missions on the moon in 2008″, a misreading of the his statement) “we haven’t heard much about going to Mars from the president.” Fortunately, the column includes her email address if you’d care to correct any of her misconceptions about milspace policy or the VSE.
Offering a useful reality check is Dwayne Day, who writes in The Space Review that Air Force officials have often promised unrealistic space systems without the broader support of the Air Force, but critics of such systems fail to pick up on this. All the discussion of “rods from God” and other fanciful systems, he argues, obscures the real problem with military space programs: chronic, severe cost overruns and schedule delays on programs like SBIRS that have hurt the Air Force’s credibility with Congress.