Earlier this year, at the direction of President Donald Trump, the Defense Department formally established the U.S. Space Command. Many Veterans, indeed, many Americans may not see this as a big deal. But those who understand how America conducts military operations see it as a very big deal, indeed.
That’s because the four military services — Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy — don’t command forces in wartime. Since World War II the United States has almost always placed combat forces under the operational control of a unified commander. The military’s 11th unified combatant command (Space Command being the 11th), “Space Command” now takes its place alongside commands like Special Operations Command and Central Command.
Over the years, the U.S. military, all branches, have come to rely on space-based assets. Spy satellites provide intelligence; global positioning satellites provide navigation capabilities needed for precision-guided munitions; and communications satellites provide world-wide communications for our globally stationed military forces. These space-based capabilities now define how the U.S. military fights, and represents the US strategic military advantage. Protecting our space assets to guarantee their access and use, is absolutely essential for our nation’s military success.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report about military expansion in space, especially focusing on the increasing “weaponization of space” by China and Russia. In this report, the Defense Intelligence Agency explains in detail key concepts of military counterspace necessities, including, Cyberspace threats, “directed energy weapons,” and threats to satellites and other orbital space systems. Both China and Russia, according to the intelligence report, are developing these capabilities – from laser weapons to ground-based anti-satellite missiles.
Russia and China have closely monitored our military capabilities of our space based assets and they have reflexively developed their own military capabilities that can challenge the United States in space. China has tested an anti-satellite weapon and continues to explore similar methods. Indeed, space must now be considered a full war-fighting domain.
Specifically, China’s space activities indicate that it is developing anti-satellite systems to target U.S. space assets. These anti-satellite systems consist of a satellite “armed with a weapon such as an explosive charge, fragmentation device, kinetic energy weapon, laser, radio frequency weapon, jammer, or robotic arm.” Besides the “hard-kill” methods, it is believed that China is also testing soft-kill methods to incapacitate US satellites.
So how may we effectively protect and defend our Space assets? Space Command!
Before Space Command was created, U.S. Strategic Command was responsible for space operations. But STRATCOM has responsibility for America’s nuclear deterrent, among many other strategic responsibilities. So all of these space matters and concerns had to compete for attention and resources among all these other important responsibilities within STRATCOM.
In August 2018 a Congressional Bi-Partisan study group studied these efforts by our global competitors released its report, titled the “Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense.” One of its key recommendations was to establish a combatant command for space.
Heeding that recommendation, President Donald Trump signed a Presidential Space Memorandum directing the establishment of the U.S. Space Command. Just as Central Command handles military operations in the Middle East, Space Command will be charged with those responsibilities in space.
With the creation of Space Command, America now has a commander and command focused specifically on the needs of, and the unique responsibility to advocate for, the resources the US needs to ensure we retain military superiority in space, and to guarantee the safety and security of those assets we have and that we have such a dramatic need to employ to conduct our military operations.
Is “Space Command” a wise move? Or would we be better served by allowing STRATCOM to continue to manage our space assets? So, what do YOU think?