Defense officials, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, met with lawmakers last week to discuss the ways in which the United States military is preparing for the future of warfare in orbit high above the earth’s surface.
The United States military has seen a dramatic increase in its reliance on orbital assets for everything from navigation to communication in recent decades, though until recently, very little emphasis has been placed on the defense of those assets against peer and near-peer level opponents.
“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said last month. “And we are the service that must lead joint war-fighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands. We must build a joint, smart space force and space-smart joint force.”
The interim report mandated by the 2018 defense budget, which Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis characterized as only “as comprehensive it can be” provided the short timeline, is particularly critical of the Defense Department’s acquisition programs, laying the blame for the slow progress America has made in orbital defense on the processes mandated by the system.
The biggest challenge we face is the acquisition system, which needs to improve dramatically,” Davis noted. “Congress has diagnosed the problem correctly, and we are making significant changes already on space throughout the government, and within DoD.”
The accompanying report cites the natural barriers created by the structure of the Pentagon’s space efforts, which divides the overall enterprise into four individual mission areas: Precision, Navigation, & Timing, Military Satellite Communications, Remote Sensing, and Space Control/Space Situational Awareness.