September 15, 2023

Senators Warren, Shaheen, Duckworth Seek Answers from Department of Defense Following Reported Elon Musk Starlink Intervention in Ukraine

“The confusion over what actually happened during this Ukrainian attack - and Mr. Musk’s specific role - demands answers.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, requesting information regarding reports that Elon Musk restricted the use of Starlink satellite communications (SATCOM) terminals used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) in southern Ukraine in 2022. The letter also asks whether further legislation is necessary to ensure continuity of satellite access. 

“Such reports appear to indicate that Mr. Musk’s decision provided de facto protection to Russian military assets which continue to launch strikes on Ukrainian population centers and critical infrastructure and enforce a Russian embargo on grain shipments in the Black Sea,” wrote the lawmakers. “These actions have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainians and driven an increase in global food prices, bringing the world to the brink of a food security crisis.”

To address their concern about these reports, the Senators are requesting that the Department of Defense (DoD) provide details of any incidents involving the disabling or restriction of Starlink or other commercial services provided to Ukraine. Additionally, they are requesting information on the terms and conditions of defense service contracts to ensure that there are protections against any provider unilaterally impeding or altering service. Lastly, they are asking what the Defense Department is doing to develop redundant capabilities to ensure access to critical services during times of crisis.

“It poses grave national security risks if DoD contractors are able to independently act to abrogate their provision of services,” concluded the lawmakers. “We are deeply concerned with the ability and willingness of SpaceX to interrupt their service at Mr. Musk’s whim and for the purpose of handcuffing a sovereign country’s self defense, effectively defending Russian interests.”

Given the serious implications to U.S. national security objectives of a unilateral company directed interruption of all SpaceX contracted commercial services, the lawmakers asked the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide the aforementioned information no later than October 31, 2023.