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DoD Releases New Strategy to Maintain US Space Superiority

By Vivienne Machi | June 18, 2020
The Pentagon, headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense. Photo: DOD.

The Pentagon, headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense. Photo: DOD.

The Pentagon released a new Defense Space Strategy June 17, laying out four lines of effort meant to maintain U.S. superiority in the space domain and counteract ever-growing threats by Russia and China.

An unclassified summary and fact sheet of the strategy was released Wednesday as the U.S. government continues to increase its emphasis on the need to treat space as a warfighting domain, following the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the sixth U.S. armed service and the reestablishment of U.S. Space Command, both in 2019. It provides guidance for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to achieve “desired conditions in space” over the next 10 years, informed by other Pentagon documents such as the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, per the document.

“The U.S. space enterprise was not built for the current strategic environment,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay during a Wednesday press briefing. In order to remedy that, the report lays out four lines of effort: build a comprehensive military advantage in space; integrate military space power into national, joint and combined operations; shape the strategic environment; and cooperate with allies, partners, industry, and the U.S. government and agencies.

To build a “comprehensive military advantage in space,” the Defense Department must continue to increase its agility and flexibility to take advantage of commercial innovation, the report said. Specific goals include reforming organizations and building new resilient architectures, improving intelligence and command-and-control (C2) assets, continue to build out the new Space Force and develop “spacepower culture” through expertise, doctrine and operational concepts.

The strategy looks to integrate space power into national, joint and combined operations by updating the security classification for DoD space programs and integrating allies and partners into space activities. It calls on U.S. Space Command to bring “full time operational focus to deterrence and employment of military space power.”

The U.S. military would shape the strategic environment by deterring adversary aggression and attacks in space, and developing and promoting new standards and norms of behavior in space with allies and partners. The strategy also recommends informing international and public audiences of “growing adversarial threats in space.”

The department should enhance space cooperation within the U.S. government, with international partners, and with the commercial sector to better influence policy and strategy, while taking advantage of information-sharing and operations opportunities, the report said.

The strategy is necessary as the U.S. military must posture itself to face increasing threats in the space domain from various state actors, but especially Russia and China, Kitay noted. Those two countries’ actions “pose the greatest strategic threat with ongoing development, testing and deployment of counterspace systems and the associated military doctrine designed to hold allied and U.S. space systems at risk,” he said, adding that Moscow and Beijing are developing ground-based anti-satellite missiles, on-orbit assets, directed energy weapons and jamming and cyberspace capabilities to use against the United States and its allies.

At the same time, the U.S. government is at “a moment of historic reform” as there is synergy from the White House, to Congress, to the Pentagon to prioritize space and streamline national policies and procedures surrounding the domain, Kitay said. “I see this progress as a gears of a powerful machine clicking into place,” he said.

Kitay added that allies and partners abroad are also at a similar moment in their focus on space, “where there is a recognition of the criticality of the domain, as well as the threats that we’re facing.” He cited NATO and the “Five Eyes” partners of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as key partners in space, along with France, Germany, and Japan. “I would say that that the opportunities for partnership are high. We’re getting a strong demand signal from them,” he said.

This article was originally published by our sister publication Defense Daily.