USA — Lynn Details Defense Department’s Space Strategy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 14, 2010 — From the com­man­der in chief in the White House to a pri­vate man­ning an obser­va­tion tow­er on Afghanistan’s bor­der with Pak­istan, space is the domain that ties them togeth­er.

2010 National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III speaks at the 2010 Nation­al Space Sym­po­sium in Col­orado Springs, Colo., April 14, 2010.
DoD pho­to by Cherie Cullen

Space pro­vides crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties for the Defense Depart­ment and the orga­ni­za­tion must change its space strat­e­gy as the sit­u­a­tions and con­di­tions change, Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III said at the Nation­al Space Sym­po­sium here today.

Speak­ing to about 4,000 civil­ian and mil­i­tary space experts at the Broad­moor Hotel com­plex, the deputy sec­re­tary out­lined the Defense Department’s strat­e­gy to address the chang­ing space envi­ron­ment.

Space gives the depart­ment four crit­i­cal advan­tages, he said: to strike pre­cise­ly, to nav­i­gate with accu­ra­cy, to com­mu­ni­cate with cer­tain­ty and to see the bat­tle­field with clar­i­ty. “These advan­tages make U.S. forces more accu­rate and agile than ever before,” Lynn said. “They extend the range of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pow­er. They have changed the nature of war­fare.”

Space allows air­men to fly unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles over Afghanistan from their bat­tle sta­tions in the Unit­ed States. And, space-based glob­al-posi­tion­ing sys­tem satel­lites pro­vide the capa­bil­i­ty enabling the extreme­ly pre­cise tar­get­ing that’s nec­es­sary for over­seas coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions, Lynn said.

“The deploy­ment of space-based capa­bil­i­ties in our mil­i­tary today is so seam­less and so ubiq­ui­tous that for­ward-deployed units for­get that many of the capa­bil­i­ties they depend on touch space every minute of every day,” he not­ed.

The upcom­ing Space Pos­ture Review is based on the idea that devel­op­ments in space chal­lenge our cur­rent pos­ture, Lynn told the group. “The Space Pos­ture Review starts with the premise that space has become con­gest­ed, com­pet­i­tive and con­test­ed,” he said.

Satel­lites and man-made debris are clog­ging orbital path­ways, as more than 60 nations oper­ate more than 1,100 orbit­ing sys­tems. More than 20,000 bits of known, track­able debris also orbits the Earth, along with tens of thou­sands of pieces of space debris that are too small to mon­i­tor, but still pose dan­gers.

“Space has also become more com­pet­i­tive, with more nations work­ing in space than ever before,” Lynn said. A key to con­tin­ued progress in space, he added, is for coun­tries to coop­er­ate in assets and ben­e­fits from space-based sys­tems, cit­ing GPS as a prime exam­ple of a tech­nol­o­gy with wide­spread ben­e­fits.

Nations need to coop­er­ate to min­i­mize the specter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­fer­ence in space, Lynn said, as the sheer num­ber of com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites being launched is caus­ing prob­lems. “We’re approach­ing a point at which the lim­it­less fron­tier no longer seems quite so lim­it­less,” he told the audi­ence.
Final­ly, the deputy said, space is becom­ing con­test­ed.

“We can no longer take access to space for grant­ed,” he said, not­ing that some nations jam sig­nals to satel­lites to cen­sor what their peo­ple can see. Oth­er nations can destroy satel­lites in low-Earth orbit.

“Still oth­ers have tech­nolo­gies that can dis­able or per­ma­nent­ly dam­age space plat­forms,” he said. “Our space assets could be tar­get­ed as part of a delib­er­ate strat­e­gy to deny us access to the domain. By crip­pling key sen­sors and plat­forms such anti-access tac­tics could off­set our con­ven­tion­al-force capa­bil­i­ties. Nev­er before have our space assets been so vul­ner­a­ble to destruc­tion.”

A new strat­e­gy must seek to estab­lish norms of behav­ior in space, to use inter­de­pen­dence of space-based plat­forms as an asset and to deny any ben­e­fit from space attacks, Lynn said. The Unit­ed States is work­ing to estab­lish the norms of behav­ior in space, he said. Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are try­ing to ensure com­mu­ni­ca­tions spec­tra do not clash, and they’re also work­ing on a coop­er­a­tive pro­gram to track and chart satel­lites.

Selec­tive inter­de­pen­dence, Lynn said, is the sec­ond part of the strat­e­gy. Space is a com­pet­i­tive place “with many rival actors maneu­ver­ing for advan­tage,” the deputy sec­re­tary not­ed. In some areas – such as sur­veil­lance and com­mand and con­trol – there will be lit­tle coop­er­a­tion, he acknowl­edged. In oth­ers – such as envi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing and mis­sile warn­ing – “our shared inter­ests prop open the door to pos­si­ble coop­er­a­tion,” he said.

Deny­ing ben­e­fits from an attack can be done by build­ing redun­dan­cies into satel­lites and into ground and air capa­bil­i­ties. Lynn also rec­om­mend­ed build­ing small­er satel­lites with mod­u­lar parts that would make replace­ment eas­i­er.

The first small satel­lites will launch lat­er this year, he said, and will deliv­er need­ed capa­bil­i­ties to Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)