Weaponization of Space working group briefs policymakers at the Pentagon

April 1, 2024
"Students present at the Pentagon"
Left to right: Kathleen Brett (MPIA ’24), Michael DeAngelo (MPIA ’24), Delaney Deitrick (MPIA ’25), Branden Duchess (MPA ‘25), and Robert Miller (MPIA ’24)


As a graduate student, many research projects end by handing in a paper or with a presentation to a classroom of peers. This semester, however, five members of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center’s Weaponization of Space working group presented their findings somewhere a little different: a briefing room at the Pentagon.

University of Pittsburgh students Kathleen Brett (MPIA ’24), Michael DeAngelo (MPIA ’24), Delaney Deitrick (MPIA ’25), Branden Duchess (MPA ‘25), and Robert Miller (MPIA ’24) addressed United States Air Force and Space Force policymakers in February with their project, “The Weaponization of Outer Space: Gaps in International Parameters Threaten U.S.”  The final report identified areas of weakness in current government policy and gave carefully crafted policy recommendations to address these concerns.

The group was co-led by Brett and DeAngelo, who both participated in last year’s working group and hoped to take a more active role in steering the research this year. They began work on the project early last summer, engaging the Air Force research laboratory AFWERX as a client to research and address gaps in current international space law.

“It’s been a while since a lot of these international space laws have been updated,” explained Brett, noting many have been in place unchanged since the late 19060s.  “We spent the first half of the year doing background research and looking at twelve key vulnerabilities, then moved into our goals and policy recommendations this spring.” 

The students received very positive feedback from the AFWERX and Space Force officials in attendance, “They said that they liked some of our recommendations better than what the Department of Defense was currently doing,” Brett said with a laugh.  “We were also told they were looking at doing other things we recommended in the near future.”   

The Ridgway Center analyzes past and emerging security problems to generate original research and address current issues facing the U.S. and international community. Now in its third year, the Weaponization of Space working group incorporates open-source intelligence analysis, policy writing, and oral briefing to identify possible solutions to security concerns related to space.  Other issues being addressed by Ridgway working groups include global trends with radicalization and mobilization of juveniles and patterns of radicalization and violence within those with military backgrounds.