Latest News

AIA Takes Stance Against Space as a Critical Infrastructure Sector

By Rachel Jewett | September 20, 2023

      Photo: Via Satellite illustration

      Powerful industry group Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is taking the stance that space should not be designated as a U.S. critical infrastructure sector. AIA released a letter on Tuesday that its President and CEO Eric Fanning sent to national security advisor Jake Sullivan, urging the National Security Council (NSC) to assess how such a designation would affect space systems and the space industry. 

      “‘Space’ should not be considered a ‘sector’ when analyzing the critical infrastructure designation. For purposes of the critical infrastructure designation discussion, space should be considered a domain, like the ocean or airspace, rather than a sector. This is because many space-based capabilities and their enabling infrastructure are already considered within critical infrastructure sectors,” Fanning wrote in the letter. 

      He pointed to how space capabilities already support manufacturing, communications, defense industrial base, government infrastructure, and transportation, which are all critical infrastructure sectors. 

      The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designates the 16 critical infrastructure sectors including food and agriculture, energy, and critical manufacturing. These industries are considered so vital that if they are incapacitated or destroyed it would have a “debilitating effect” on national security, public safety, and/or the economy. 

      Space assets are not considered a critical infrastructure sector by the U.S. government, an issue that some in the commercial space industry and Congress have lobbied for. The NSC is currently evaluating critical infrastructure under Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21), and considering if any changes should be made. 

      Fanning said the NSC analysis should focus on specific space-based capabilities like position, navigation, and timing capabilities, and consider reorganizing that capability within the critical infrastructure framework. 

      He also pointed out that the critical infrastructure designation does not come with any federal funding, and additional requirements could put financial and regulatory constraints on the commercial industry

      “Critical infrastructure designations could come with additional requirements for industry operating in that sector — and likely without any additional federal funding. These requirements could adversely affect industry growth and development and could have a disproportionate impact on small businesses,” Fanning argued. 

      The AIA is advocating for a more focused cost-benefit analysis to understand how a this designation would impact specific space capabilities, and if a change would additional government regulation, constrain resources, and affect growth and development, especially for small businesses.

      AIA represents more than 320 suppliers, designers, manufacturers, launch providers, and operators of commercial, civil, and national security satellites and space vehicles. Its members include Ball Aerospace, L3Harris Technologies, Rocket Lab, Boeing, and Viasat. 

      Discussion around designating space as a critical infrastructure sector received more attention after Russian anti-satellite (ASAT) test in 2021, and the 2022 hack on Viasat’s KA-SAT ground network in Europe just before Russia invaded Ukraine. 

      Also in 2021, DHS and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) established a Space Systems Critical Infrastructure Working Group, a private deliberation group to deal with the issue of how space is treated as a critical infrastructure. 

      In July, a bipartisan group of Congressmen introduced the “Space Infrastructure Act,” bipartisan legislation to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate space systems, services and technology as a sector of critical infrastructure. The bill was introduced with the support of Cyberspace Solarium Commission and Space Foundation. 

      “Our space-based assets are critical to our national security and economic stability,” Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick said at the time. “As we navigate threats to our nation from our adversaries, it is important that we are forward-thinking in the protection of our critical infrastructure, which includes space.”