Maintaining Space Dominance Is Vital for the US
WASHINGTON, DC – April 2, 2019
“Space is a vital national interest,” Kenneth P. Rapuano, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, said at a March 27 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. “It underpins our economy and way of life, supporting our academia, agricultural, banking and travel sectors, among others. Moreover, the rapidly growing commercial space sector offers enormous promise for the prosperity of Americans and our global partners.”
However, a lot has changed in space in the last half century, including the number of countries that are capable of putting things on the moon, launching rockets with complex satellites, or building space stations. The United States still has a lead in space, but that might not last long.
Rapuano said China and Russia are developing military capabilities, doctrine and organizations intended to place US space systems at risk, including anti-satellite weapons, ground-launch missiles and directed energy weapons. Additionally, he said, they continue to launch experimental satellites that conduct sophisticated on-orbit activities to advance counter-space capabilities.
“China has expanded by orders of magnitude,” Rapuano said. “The Russians have grabbed back. They have newly invested in space and developed some relatively exquisite capabilities. But the scale of the Chinese investment is the lead in terms of everyone else out there, including Russia. They have more rocket launches this year than the United States. They are the lead rocket-launch nation in the world.”
According to Rapuano, maintaining leadership in space for the United States is of fundamental importance, including in terms of national security. Space also offers the US military an advantage that America must fight to maintain. Just how important is space to uniformed gunslingers on the battlefield?
“It’s pivotal,” Rapuano said. “Our targeting. Our communications. Positioning, timing, location for GPS. And all of the ... capabilities in terms of surveillance and reconnaissance that we get from space. Real-time situational awareness of adversaries’ locations and activities. To lose those capabilities would be very significant, and that is why we are so focused on defending and protecting them.”
“The department must do more to accelerate its response to the changing dynamics of space by adapting our organizations, policies, doctrine, capabilities and joint force employment to more effectively deter aggression, protect our interests and enhance our lethality,” Rapuano said.
Recall that in late February, President Trump signed a decree on the creation of the Space Forces and establishment of US Space Command as a unified command to repel aggression and protect national interests in space.
Russia said that by doing so, the United States creates the prerequisites for the militarization of outer space with its intentions to use outer space for military purposes and Russia will have to respond to possible threats with mirrored and asymmetric measures. Speaking at a conference on disarmament, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "in the US an allotment has been made for the creation of a space segment of the air defense and the deployment of strike weapons in near-earth orbit. Apparently, this segment of missile defense will have the ability to hit objects in space. In this way, a real-life combat structure will be built, ready at any moment to clear outer space from the orbital property of countries that disagree with Washington."
In turn, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gen Shuang said that the United States, accusing China and Russia of allegedly creating threats in outer space, is actually looking for a pretext to justify its desire for military superiority and the development of advanced weapons.