Remarks by Vice President Harris on the Ongoing Work to Establish Norms in Space
Vandenberg AFB, CA
5:18 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Please have a seat. Good afternoon. Thank you, Specialist Davis, for that kind introduction.
It is wonderful to be back in California.
And I want to thank the members of Congress who are with us today — Senator Alex Padilla, Representative Carbajal, and Representative Ted Lieu.
And thank you to Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks and the many local elected officials who are with us this afternoon.
And thank you to all of you, in particular to the United States Space Force Guardians and the United States Space Command personnel, and to our international and commercial partners.
I think everyone here recognizes how extraordinary space is. Whether it is satellites that orbit the Earth, humans that land on the Moon, or telescopes that peer into the furthest reaches of the universe, space is exciting. It spurs our imaginations, and it forces us to ask big questions. Space — it affects us all, and it connects us all.
There are so many opportunities in space for our country and for all of humanity — from science, to commerce, to national security.
All of you on this base know the importance of the space systems that you use and operate and how important they are for our national security.
Our space capabilities provide for global awareness, global connectivity, and global navigation.
And, of course, we also know the threats we face in space.
This is why our administration has proposed the largest single increase in our military space capability in our nation’s history.
And we will continue to invest so you are able to protect our interests in space which, in turn, protects our interests here on Earth.
In recent months, you have heard the President and me talk a lot about defending international norms and rules. Rules and norms are shared principles that guide the behavior of people and of communities. They are common understandings of what is right, what is wrong, and what is acceptable.
Whether it is the way we interact with our colleagues at work or the way nations interact with each other on the world stage, rules and norms provide us all with a sense of order and stability.
As we have seen in Ukraine, Russia has completely violated the set of international rules and norms established after World War Two which provided unprecedented peace and security in Europe.
In the face of Russian brutality, the world has come together to say these roles and these rules and norms must be upheld. I am heartened to see such strong affirmation of their importance.
At the same time, our administration is working to establish new rules and norms for the new challenges of the 21st century — areas like emerging technologies, cybersecurity, and, of course, space.
In December, I convened the first National Space Council meeting under our administration. As the Chair of the Council, I made this issue a point of emphasis. I believe without clear norms, we face unnecessary risks in space.
The United States will continue to be a leader in order to establish, to advance, and demonstrate norms for the responsible and peaceful use of outer space.
I’ve met with leaders from around the world — countries like Singapore and France, Bahrain and India — and I’ve raised this issue.
It is clear there is strong interest among our international partners to develop these norms. We must write the new rules of road. And we will lead by example.
Today, we are taking a major step forward in this effort — a step that specifically addresses the problem of destructive missile tests in space, like the one Russia took in November.
That, of course, is when Russia launched a missile to destroy a satellite in space. It is called a destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test.
In 2007, China conducted a similar test.
These tests are part of their efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons systems.
These weapons are intended to deny the United States our ability to use our space capabilities by
distruping [disrupting], destroying our satellites — satellites which are critical to our national security.
These tests, to be sure, are reckless, and they are irresponsible. These tests also put in danger so much of what we do in space.
Here’s how: When China and Russia destroyed their respective satellites, it generated thousands of pieces of debris — debris that will now orbit our Earth for years, if not decades.
I just received a briefing from the 18th Space Defense Squadron, and their work is incredibly impressive.
So far, the 18th has identified more than 1,600 pieces of debris from the Russian test. There are over 2,800 pieces of debris still in space from China’s test 15 years ago.
Like air traffic controllers for space, the 18th tracks debris and satellites to prevent collisions.
This debris presents a risk to the safety of our astronauts, our satellites, and our growing commercial presence.
A piece of space debris the size of a basketball, which travels at thousands of miles per hour, would destroy a satellite. Even a piece of debris as small as a grain of sand could cause serious damage.
We have consistently condemned these tests and called them res- — reckless. But that is not enough.
Today we are going further. I am pleased to announce that as of today, the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.
Simply put: These tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them.
We are the first nation to make such a commitment. And today, on behalf of the United States of America, I call on all nations to join us.
Whether a nation is spacefaring or not, we believe this will benefit everyone, just as space benefits everyone.
In the days and months ahead, we will work with other nations to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space. And there is a direct connection between such a norm and the daily life of the American people.
If a satellite was taken out by debris, it could affect the daily weather forecast, GPS driving directions, and even your favorite TV station.
Critical infrastructure, like wind turbines that power our homes, well, they rely on satellites for connectivity.
Satellites help us track the climate crisis. They enable our commercial activities. And they help us protect our troops and our people.
All of this is threatened by the debris created by these reckless tests.
These tests also threaten the lives of astronauts in the International Space Station.
In fact, I spoke earlier this month with Mark Vande Hei who just returned from 355 days in space on the Space Station. An American record.
While he was in space, Russia conducted its anti-satellite missile test. He had to shelter in an escape capsule in case the Space Station was hit by debris.
Russia’s action was a threat not just to his life, but also to those of Russian cosmonauts.
Our commitment today is just one step. Our administration has already begun to establish a broader and comprehensive set of norms.
One example is the Artemis Accords — a set of principles that will guide civil use of space.
They are designed to create a safe and transparent environment for space exploration, science, and commercial activities.
Since our administration took office, we have doubled — to 18 — the number of nations to sign on.
As we move forward, we will remain focused on writing new rules of the road to ensure all space activities are conducted in a responsible, peaceful, and sustainable manner.
The United States is committed to lead the way and to lead by example.
The leadership of the United States in space will continue to be a source of strength for us, both at home and abroad.
And our administration, with the help of all of you here on this base, are going to ensure future generations will benefit from space just as we have today.
So, thank you all again for all that you do on behalf of our country.
God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 5:32 P.M. PDT