A Cold War Carryover

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler, No. 2 at US STRATCOM, told lawmakers Wednesday, “Some of our systems are very well protected … and have been so since the mandates of the Cold War.” He was referring to Milstar communications satellites, which employ nuclear hardening. And, he indicated that satellites in higher orbits, such as GPS satellites in geosynchronous orbit, are more secure against a wide array of threats, but he said that those in low Earth orbit are more vulnerable, “if someone was to detonate a nuclear device properly in the appropriate places and in the appropriate orbits.” Kehler acknowledged, “It’s something we’ve gone back and taken a look at.” He also pointed out that the vulnerability extends not just to space assets in orbit but also to Earth-bound space assets—ground stations and communications links.