WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 —
Space capabilities are at the heart of American military capabilities, and the Pentagon and private industry must innovate to maintain those capabilities, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said at the GeoInt Symposium here today.
The event is sponsored by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and held at the D.C. Convention Center.
Work told attendees that the next 25 years are going to be far more challenging to the United States military than the past quarter century.
End of 'Unipolar World'
“Our space capabilities are going to be contested in a way they haven’t been before and we need to be prepared for that eventuality,” the deputy secretary said.
Geospatial intelligence is going to remain crucial to U.S. space capability and the national security apparatus, Work said.
“Because of the things coming along, we are going to have to embrace innovation and change,” he said.
Work said the unipolar world of the past 25 years –- where the United States was the world’s only superpower –- is ending. Other nations are emerging as great powers, which he defines as “one that possesses enough military assets to put up a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the most powerful state in the world. And possesses a nuclear deterrent that can survive a nuclear strike.”
Both Russia and China meet this definition or soon will, Work said.
Russia’s actions in its illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued actions in eastern Ukraine are worrying, the deputy secretary said. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling also concerns global leaders, he added.
“Russia represents a clear and present danger,” Work said. “It comes after 25 years of the United States and Europe working very hard to include Russia in the European community and partner with it on a variety of issues.”
The United States still wants Russia to come in from the cold, renounce its current course and work with the West, Work said.
But Russia is trying to undermine NATO, dominate the Arctic and challenge many of America’s broader global links, the deputy secretary said.
China is a rising power that will present “a significant and varied challenge over the next 25 years,” Work said.
“This doesn’t mean to suggest in any way, shape, or form that China and the United States are destined to become adversaries,” he added.
There will be areas where the two sides will agree and cooperate and other areas where they disagree and won’t, Work said. The two nations’ militaries, he added, will continue to work together and expand military-to-military relationships.
Still, the department must take into account capabilities and behave accordingly, he said.
The best response to any challenge from wherever they may come, is strong conventional and nuclear deterrent capabilities, Work said.
Conventional deterrence posture requires three things, he said.
“First, we have to overmatch the technical capabilities of any potential adversary,” he said. “Second, we have to maintain the ability to project power across transoceanic distances and defeat any adversary's attempt to project power across inter- or intra-theater distances. Third, we have to routinely demonstrate both capabilities.”
Key to these is technological superiority to provide overmatch on any battlefield, Work said. Key to the overmatch, he said, was “our unparalleled space capabilities.”
America’s space architecture built during the Cold War “provided us with an instant ability to set up theater-wide guided munition battle capability, enabled by space-based targeting navigation capabilities,” he said.
The capabilities allowed the United States “to project more power, more precisely, more slickly, with less cost and less force structure and with fewer casualties,” Work said.
A Shrinking Lead
The security environment is changing and the U.S. military technological lead is shrinking, he explained.
“Many countries -– including Russia and China –- are pursuing levels of weapons development that we haven’t seen since the mid-1980s,” Work said. “Second, over the last 14 years our focus was where it should be -– with the men and women fighting our nation’s battles.”
Both combined to shrink the amount of money available to maintain U.S. military technological superiority, the deputy secretary said.
The U.S. military once considered space as an uncontested area of operations, he said.
However, adversaries recently have focused on space systems as a potential chink in American armor, Work said.
“Space must now be considered a contested operational domain, in a way we haven’t in the past,” he said.
Doubling Down on Geo Intel
DoD officials recognize the importance of protecting U.S. spacesystems and making them more resilient, Work said. The department has increased its funding in space more than $5 billion in the next budget. And, DoD, the intelligence community and private industry are working together to build in resilience to satellite constellations.
“Together we must and will develop command centers which will help us fight through attacks, and together we must counter an adversary’s capabilities -- especially their [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets,” the deputy secretary said.
And the U.S. military wants more capabilities developed from its investments in space, Work said.
“We are going to double down on geoint in the future,” he said. “We want to establish patterns of life from space. We want to know what the unusual looks like. If all of a sudden a lot of cars show up in the parking lot of an adversary's missile plant, we want to know about it -- and quickly.
“If small boats are in the [Persian] Gulf or pirates are congregating off Aden -- we want to know,” Work continued. “If soldiers are snapping pictures of themselves in war zones and posting them to social media sites, we want to know exactly where those pictures were taken.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)