WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2010 — Once the private preserve of the United States and the Soviet Union, space has become “congested, contested and competitive,” requiring a shift in the military space community’s thinking and practices, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said today.
In remarks prepared for delivery at a U.S. Strategic Command space symposium in Omaha, Neb., Lynn noted that the United States has “derived tremendous benefits from its presence in space” for more than 50 years.
“We are — and continue to be — the world’s pre-eminent leader in space,” he said. “But the environment we operate in has changed so markedly that we have reached a historical inflection point.”
Space has become congested, he said, because 60 nations now have a presence there. “Nine-thousand satellite transponders will be active by 2015,” he noted, “and the skies over Earth are so cluttered with debris that further collisions could eventually put usable orbits in jeopardy.”
Dozens of countries in space with various agendas, Lynn said, constitute the “contested” portion of today’s space environment. “We cannot take the stability or sustainability of space — or access to it — for granted.”
“It used to be said that the primary threat to a satellite was launch failure,” he told the audience. “Now, many countries can hold space systems at risk through kinetic and nonkinetic means. Some nations are even jamming satellite signals to censor news, illustrating how counter space capabilities can be used for political as well as military purposes.”
Competition is a factor, Lynn explained, because the United States once owned three-quarters of global business, but now accounts for little more than a quarter of that business. President Barack Obama’s space policy, announced in June, recognizes the shift in the space environment, and the Defense Department of Defense can bring four crucial elements to its military space activities, Lynn said. Those elements, he added, will form the basis of the National Security Space Strategy, which the Defense Department will release jointly with the director of national intelligence this fall.
The elements are:
— A move toward the sustainability and stability of the space domain;
— A renewed emphasis on international cooperation;
— Expanding how the United States protects space systems in a contested environment; and
— Improvement of space system development and acquisition.
Lynn called sustaining and stabilizing space a “vital national interest” that demands a cooperative and predictable environment to minimize accidents or interference. To that end, he said, the new space policy calls for “bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures which will help establish norms of behavior in space.”
“Along with the right to use and explore space comes the responsibility to be a good steward of it,” he added.
The president’s space policy incorporates international cooperation, Lynn said. While the United States has such a partnership with Australia on the Wideband Global Satellite Communications System, Lynn said, Stratcom is looking into ways to add concepts from the “joint” Space Operations Center into a “combined” Space Operations System.
“Turning our Space Operations Center into a coalition enterprise, with close allies working side by side with our own commanders, could bring levels of cooperation to new heights,” he said.
Ways to share resources with allies also is critical, he said, such as missile warning and maritime awareness.
“Coalitions and partnerships, with both nations and firms, will not only help us achieve our security objectives in space more efficiently,” Lynn said, “they will also fundamentally strengthen our space posture,” he said.
The new space policy directs DOD to assure mission-essential functions, even when they are degraded or disrupted, Lynn pointed out. “Achieving this will entail expanding how we protect our space systems in a contested environment,” he said, noting that resilience is the key to deterrence in the U.S. national security strategy.
“Making our space systems more resilient, and our combat power less reliant on their full functioning will help deny adversaries the benefit from an attack in space,” he said. “Just as in the cyber domain, denying the benefit of attack can join retaliatory deterrence as a disincentive to adversaries.” Alliances with other nations also are essential to strengthen the U.S. deterrent posture, he added.
The United States has another challenge besides handling the congested, competitive and contested space environment, Lynn said.
“The fiscal climate our nation faces, as well as the globalization of the aerospace industry, makes it even more difficult to maintain our competitive advantage in space,” the deputy secretary said. “To preserve our current advantage, we must become better buyers of space systems and work to ensure the health of our space industrial base.”
Export control reform is integral as a priority in the nation’s efforts in space, he noted.
“We recognize that controlling sensitive space exports is of particular concern to Congress,” he said. “We are serious about building ‘higher fences’ around our most sensitive technologies, while de-listing those items whose export does not threaten our security.”
DOD also must improve space acquisition to succeed, Lynn said.
“Block buys and the deliberate management of the engineering work force are two avenues in particular we are actively exploring,” he said. “Block buys have the potential to reduce costs and timelines by creating more predictable demand and allowing larger material buys with fewer spares. Establishing a predictable demand schedule has the added advantage of stabilizing the engineering work force associated with a project.”
Lynn said the new national space policy affirms the centrality of space to national security and seeks to maintain advantages in the face of an evolving space environment.
“The fundamental mission of the Department of Defense to deter war and to protect the security of our country stays the same,” he said. “But how we use space capabilities to achieve this mission will change.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)