Air Force Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, and Air Force Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of the Joint Functional Component-Space for the U.S. Strategic Command, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this week to testify on the state of national security as it pertains to America’s orbital and space-based assets.

The generals made clear their position that orbital assets like surveillance and communication satellites play a vital role in every operation conducted by the United States and its allies, and that defending those assets must be made a priority in the years to come.

“Today there is nothing we do, and I repeat, nothing we do as a joint force that isn’t enabled by space,” Raymond said. “Integration has been our strength [but] we find ourselves at the intersection of high reliance and vulnerability in the space domain.”

General Raymond explained to the Committee that space is a “warfighting domain” just like the air, land, and sea we’ve long become accustomed to thinking about it in a strategic and defensive way.  Potential adversaries like China and Russia have already begun working to develop equipment designed to “deny the United States access to and benefits of the space domain,” which calls on the United States to take action in order to prevent that from occurring.

“Let me be very clear; we do not want a conflict that extends into space,” Raymond said, “but one way to keep that from happening is to make sure that we’re prepared for it and [can] fight and win that conflict if it were to occur.”

The general laid out a series of short-term goals the United States needs to prioritize in order to ensure it remains strategically viable in the event a conflict reached the orbital space above our heads.  Included in those goals is to operationalize the National Space Defense Center, improve our situational awareness of space, design our space architecture with defense in mind, and to continue to professionally develop Air Force Space Command airmen.

“This is a challenge because our national security space architecture and processes were largely conceived to provide services or commodities during an era when our most significant orbital threat was debris,” General Buck told the panel.

Buck then called on the House to help to ensure that the United States continues to strive to improve our space presence in order to deliver “next-generation battle space awareness and command-and-control capability.”  He also recommended a review and update of authorities pertaining to space-based warfare, including the rules of engagement for space operations.