Information is central to the conduct of both peace and war; spectacular recent advances in how quickly and cheaply it can be generated, transmitted, and processed promise to alter both radically. In one sense, these advances are exogenous phenomena to which all international actors must be prepared to adapt. However, government policy decisions do affect the precise direction in which information technologies advance, the channels through which they are allowed to flow, and the speed at which they spread from the technologically advanced nations to other societies.
Information technology and space are closely linked. Most uses of space are information-oriented: navigation, surveillance, communications, and science. Space is an element of the emerging Global Information Infrastructure (GII) with special relevance for national security; it is a medium through which information crosses national boundaries with or without the consent of sovereign governments. Space has also been accorded its long-awaited due as a force multiplier. The Gulf War has been called the world's first space war for good reason; although the allies surely would have won without their massive dominance of space-based surveillance and communications systems, doing so would have been more difficult and costly.
Information technology and space issues are increasingly finding their way onto the national security agenda. Technologies that were once limited to the rich nations--particularly space technologies--are swiftly becoming available to all who can afford them. From a national security perspective, the most salient trend in the new information environment is that the capabilities that DOD spent billions to build in the 1980s are increasingly available for other nations to buy or rent at a fraction of that cost. DOD is continuing to refine its capabilities, but the difference between U.S. gold-medal technology and the bronze-medal technology of others may be shrinking inexorably. True, the ability of the U.S. military to assimilate and integrate information technologies will not be surpassed anytime soon; but the U.S. defense community may yet be unpleasantly surprised by how well others can adapt such technologies to their particular strategic environments. One of the following conclusions may be drawn from such trends:
Not coincidentally, this trifurcation of attitudes is mirrored in the three interests associated with the issues described below.