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)