SPACECOM Warns Adversaries in New Strategy Overview

U.S. Space Command in its new strategy paper warns of a future with “increasingly capable competitors” and a “long-term security threat” posed by Russia and China, claiming the right of self-defense as America and its allies expand their space economies and look to permanently return to the moon.

The U.S. military argues it needs to bolster its offense and defense in space to protect the satellites and radars that enable GPS guidance, ATMs, ballistic missile warning, and more. SPACECOM also uses those assets to direct weapons and troops, send information around the world, and collect intelligence—making them targets for those who want to disrupt American military operations.

“By developing, testing, and deploying counter-space capabilities and evolving their military doctrines to extend into space, our competitors seek to prevent our unfettered access to space and deny our freedom to operate in space,” reads the paper, dated Feb. 1.

This is the latest document to warn that the United States will hit back if its satellites, radars, and other space systems are endangered. It also broadly outlines goals for training, partnerships, and cybersecurity. SpaceNews first reported on the strategic vision Jan. 28.

“The United States, along with our allies and partners, will champion and promote the responsible, peaceful, and safe use of space,” according to the strategy. “However, should our nation call, United States Space Command will always remain ready to prevail against any foreign space-related aggression.”

The document echoes earlier blueprints from the Pentagon and the Space Force, the branch of the military that supplies most systems and personnel to SPACECOM for daily operations. But the 12-page paper, comprised largely of pictures, lacks the detail of previous strategies.

“It reads more like an ad brochure full of chest-thumping assertions than a serious strategic document,” Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, said on Twitter.

He suggested the strategy may miss the mark because the military is not yet comfortable with discussing often-classified space operations in a public forum.

“There is something to be said about the lack of sophistication for space doctrine relative to the other domains because we haven’t had any actual combat in space to draw on,” he told Air Force Magazine.

SPACECOM was revived in August 2019 after being disbanded for 17 years, and is gradually integrating its work with the other combatant commands that rely on and defend space assets. Its new iteration must “sustain a warfighting culture and adapt to a dynamic and changing strategic environment,” SPACECOM boss Gen. James H. Dickinson said during a recent AFA Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. That goes hand in hand with building a space enterprise that draws on the experience of the other armed forces.

Video: Mitchell Institute on YouTube

“We have folks that are relying upon years of experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, on how we do land, sea, and air operations,” he said. “[They] are able to bring that expertise … into the command. That generates combat power almost immediately.”

“Job One is making sure that we maintain and continue to attract that type of talent, so that we can continue on our path, in terms of becoming a fully operational combatant command,” Dickinson added.