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US Military investigating Starlink contracts over Musk's eccentric behaviour

by on13 March 2023

We don't see why we have to make military decisions based on the whim of one rich kid

As we predicted, the US military is not that happy that its military strategy is vulnerable to the whims of the likes of Elon [look at me] Musk and is starting to review contracts awarded to his Starlink space service.

For those who came in late, Musk threatened to switch off his Starlink service to the Ukrainians because they failed to follow his plan to resolve the war by surrendering to the Russians. When it was pointed out that he could not do that, he ordered Starlink to work out ways that his system could not be used to damage his friend, that nice Mr Putin's armies.

Then to make matters worse, Musk started to back a plan which would involve surrendering Taiwan to the Chinese, which was a move based on the receipt of subsidies from the Chinese government and his multibillion dollar financial interest in China. Musk was already warned by the Chinese government not to talk too much about the COVID-19 lab leak theory.

Given the amount of cash that the US military has given to Musk and Starlink, the thought that it might have its military strategy being dictated by Musk apparently never occurred to it. Normally, the Department of Defense would revoke security clearances from its personnel for carrying unreasonable debt and displaying public admiration for American adversaries, but it seems oddly happy to reward Musk’s public endorsement of authoritarian propaganda with more multimillion dollar contracts.

After all, what is to stop Musk’s enterprises from deciding to turn off a ballistic missile detection satellite because he thinks he knows better and it would be far better for the US to surrender to the Chinese or Russians?  He could also throttle network traffic to a Navy ship conducting a freedom-of-navigation operation in an area contested by China? Musk has a contract to build satellites for the U.S. Department of Defense what if (at a cruicial moment) he disabled them in an attempt to bring his own brand of "peace" to the situation. 

Now it seems that the Pentagon is getting wise to the danger. It is apparently looking into old style military contracts which prevent this sort of thing from happening. These include contracts drafted in the late 1950s which meant that while a company managed its tech, it still had to obey the US military rather than its CEO. It has to do something because it is worried that the Chinese are shooting up Starlink style satellites and it will be out done. 

Space Command’s Gen. James Dickinson. “Do you feel there's a connection between the availability of this capability to our partners in Ukraine in this conflict, and relationships we have with companies like SpaceX?” 
Dickinson answered matter-of-factly: “Yes.”
The Pentagon’s relationship with SpaceX has only grown since DARPA’s 2005 Falcon program helped the company get off the ground. The military, already a large customer of Starlink services, is planning a vast expansion of battlefield communications that depends on cheap commercial satellite communications.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Dickinson described the importance of commercial satellites as a key lesson of the Ukraine war.
“There's no question that SpaceX’s Starlink system has been used extensively by Ukraine and its response to the Russian aggression,” he said. “I think this demonstrates that commercial space capabilities can play a significant role in our modern high-intensity conflicts.” Dickinson said that the Pentagon needs to make sure that all sides understand their legal obligations and have a full understanding of the military’s expectations before those moments occur.


Last modified on 14 March 2023
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