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New Race for Space: DoD Official Outlines US Space Strategy

The strategy seeks to maintain US space dominance in the face of increasing challenges posed by hostile actors Russia and China.

On the heels of a meeting in which the US space chief declared that America must be prepared for warfare in space despite its reluctance to engage in such a scenario, a Department of Defense (DoD) official detailed the country’s space strategy for the next decade and beyond.

During a virtual Heritage Foundation event on Wednesday, Defense Department space policy expert Justin T. Johnson explained the country’s four pillar strategy for space-based defense, outlined in a document released in June.

The strategy seeks to maintain US dominance in space in the face of increasing challenges posed by hostile actors Russia and China. It also aims to ensure space stability and provide support to national, joint, and combined operations.

Four-Pronged Strategy to Space-Based Defense

The first pillar is for the US to develop a military advantage in space. This effort is already underway with the awarding of contracts to build space-based missile-tracking satellites.

This military advantage should be comprehensive to counteract hostile actors’ aggressive efforts in developing anti-satellite technology that neutralizes America’s intelligence advantage.

The second pillar is integration between land, sea, and air forces with allies and partners under the US Space Command in preparation for a war in space, should such a conflict ever be necessary. The integration would include being able to locate and execute fire upon ballistic and hypersonic missiles by land, sea, and air forces, and even from space-based firing systems.

Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman displays his insignia during a presentation of the United States Space Force flag in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, May 15, 2020.
Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman displays his insignia during a presentation of the United States Space Force flag in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, May 15, 2020. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP

The third element is to shape the strategic environment, Johnson said. This includes educating citizens about future threats, promoting responsible activity and use of space, and letting potential enemies know that attacks will be met with a firm response.

The fourth pillar is to work with allies, partners, industry, and other government agencies by, for example, streamlining regulations and cooperation in the development of space defense technologies. Twenty nations and 100 industrial and academic partners have already signed on to collaborate with the US in this mission.

Space as Warfighting Domain

Johnson explained the urgency behind the execution of this strategy by pointing out that Russia and China had already developed systems designed specifically to attack American satellites. “China and Russia have made space a warfighting domain,” he added.

US intelligence reports of a Russian anti-satellite weapons test seem to confirm these suspicions.

Johnson also pointed out a strong upside in economic development to developing military capabilities in space, stating that commercial interests in space are worth $20 trillion.

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