Rosen, Ernst push for integrated Middle East space defense architecture

The legislation is a follow-on to integrated missile and maritime defense efforts the lawmakers have pushed in previous years

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U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) gives opening remarks during the third installment of The Senate Project moderated by FOX News Channel's chief political anchor Bret Baier at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on June 12, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts/ Sen. Jacky Rosen attends the 45th Kennedy Center Honors ceremony at The Kennedy Center on December 04, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced legislation on Wednesday to integrate efforts among Abraham Accords member countries and other U.S. Middle East allies to defend against Iranian malign activities in space.

The lawmakers framed the bill, known as the Space Technology and Regional Security or STARS Act, as a follow-on to bills they’ve advanced over the past two years: the DEFEND Act, seeking integrated missile defense, and the MARITIME Act, seeking integrated maritime defenses. A similar provision has already been added to the House’s version of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress’ annual defense and national security policy bill.

The bill seeks to promote cooperation between the U.S. and its Middle East allies on space and satellite security, to protect against and improve awareness of potential threats.

“As Iran and its terrorist proxies escalate their aggression against Israel and continue to destabilize the Middle East, it’s critical that we work with our allies in the region to bolster collaboration in all areas of defense,” Rosen said in a statement. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to strengthen space and satellite security cooperation with our allies and partners in the Middle East, and improve collective security to address urgent threats from Iran.”

Ermst said in a statement, “The next step to ending Iranian aggression is by deepening the United States’ international space partnerships to improve awareness of the Middle East.”

She said the STARS Act would “adapt [the] model” of the DEFEND and MARITIME Acts, which she described as significant successes, to the space arena.

The bill would require the secretary of defense to develop an “integrated space and satellite security capability,” describing the initiative as building “upon the historic opportunities created by the Abraham Accords and the incorporation of Israel” into U.S. Central Command.

The envisioned cooperation would include security measures as well as a data-sharing agreement to protect “people, infrastructure, and territory” from adversaries’ attacks on space systems.

Within 60 days of the bill’s passage, the secretary of defense would be required to submit a strategy for the cooperative program, including a report on the threats to space systems and threats posed by space-based or space-transiting capabilities, the potential benefits of a “multilateral space situational awareness data-sharing agreement and an integrated space and satellite security architecture,” existing cooperative efforts, space capabilities that Middle East partners could acquire and operate and capabilities that are exclusive to the U.S. military.

The bill’s introduction came days before the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s work on the 2025 NDAA next week. 

The DEFEND and MARITIME bills were co-sponsored by the full Senate and House Abraham Accords caucuses. Thus far, the Senate bill is only sponsored by Rosen and Ernst, and not their Senate co-chairs.

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