The United States depends on satellite systems for managing the unconventional challenges of the 21st century in ways that are rarely acknowledged. This is particularly true for satellites that monitor climate change and other environmental trends, which, in the words of the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, “will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions” of DOD. According to Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security, "By 2016, only seven of NASA’s current 13 earth monitoring satellites are expected to be operational, leaving a crucial information gap that will hinder national security planning."
Losing satellite-based earth monitoring capabilities will affect U.S. national security. The Department of Defense relies on earth monitoring satellites for up-to-date weather conditions and forecasting. The U.S. Agency for International Development requires remote sensing technologies to efficiently allocate U.S. food assistance and to provide data for its Famine Early Warning System. The State Department addresses environment-focused foreign policy priorities such as Arctic issues, climate change, ocean policy and resource scarcity using earth monitoring systems.
Authors Christine Parthemore and Will Rogers acknowledge that while the U.S. government should replace the earth monitoring systems now in decline, the current political and fiscal environments make it less likely for Congress to appropriate funds to do so. Given this reality, Parthemore and Rogers recommend that policymakers should use existing systems more efficiently, improve information sharing among interagency partners and leverage international partners' investments in their own systems in order to boost U.S. climate and environmental data collection capabilities.
More from CNAS
CommentaryEnergy Markets, Geopolitics, and COVID-19
On May 14, members of the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security (EES) program held a Twitter conversation on the impact of COVID-19 on energy markets and geopolitics. EES Progr...
By Sam Dorshimer & Abigail Eineman
CommentaryIs U.S. Policy Towards Venezuela at a Turning Point?
On March 31, the Trump administration announced a pivot in U.S. policy towards Venezuela. The United States has spent more than a year backing opposition leader Juan Guaido, w...
By John Hughes & Peter Harrell
Elizabeth Rosenberg before Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
Elizabeth Rosenberg, senior fellow and director of the Energy, Environment and Security program, testifies before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources....
By Elizabeth Rosenberg
CNAS Senior Fellow Elizabeth Rosenberg at House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Elizabeth Rosenberg, senior fellow and director of the Energy, Environment and Security program, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the geopolitical po...
By Elizabeth Rosenberg