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Remarks on Space Policy at U.S. Strategic Command Space Symposium

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III, Omaha, Nebraska, Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thank you General Chilton.

I would like to thank all those at Stratcom who helped organize this symposium—and who spend every day maintaining our nation’s strategic vigilance.  Let me also welcome our partners from industry—and from other nations—who join us here today. 

Before I begin, I would like to say a few brief words about General Chilton.

“Chili,” as he is known, has served his country for over 30 years—on land, in the air, and, of course, in space.  He flew three shuttle missions—then became the first astronaut to pin four stars on his shoulder.  He even got to be a rock-star, playing guitar with the all-astronaut band Max Q. 

Here at Stratcom, General Chilton’s stewardship of space, the strategic portfolio, and now cyber have been exemplary.  As General Chilton enters the home stretch in his command, Secretary Gates and I would like to commend him for his service.

We meet at an important juncture in military space.  At the National Space Symposium in April, I outlined how the space environment we operate in is changing.  In June, the President’s National Space Policy codified several precepts about this new environment and how we as a nation should approach it. 

Today, I would like to share my thinking on how the Department of Defense’s strategic approach to space must shift.

For over 50 years we have derived tremendous benefits from our presence in space.  We have been – and will continue to be – the world’s preeminent leader in space.  But the environment we operate in has changed so markedly that we have reached a historical inflection point.

For the first few decades of the space age, space was the private preserve of the U.S. and U.S.S.R.   The reality of superpower dominance in space was not only borne out in the skies above.  It was also embodied in the thinking and institutional practices of our military space community. 

Rather than working closely with other nations, we chose to go-it-alone on most key space systems.  We also chose to place multiple missions on single buses.  And for the most part, we chose not to let cost restrict our ambitions.  Funding for military space programs was strong, and our industrial base was buoyed by its near-monopoly on global space exports.

These long-standing features of the space environment have given way to far more complex realities. 

A decade into the 21st century, space is characterized by what I have called the three Cs: congested, contested, and competitive.

Congested because 60 nations now have a presence in space.  9,000 satellite transponders will be active by 2015.  And the skies over earth are so cluttered with debris that further collisions could eventually put some usable orbits in jeopardy. 

As I said in April, we are approaching a point at which the limitless frontier no longer seems quite so limitless. 

Space is also becoming contested. 

In today’s space environment we cannot take the stability or sustainability of space—or access to it—for granted.  It used to be that the primary threat to a satellite was launch failure.  Now many countries can hold space systems at risk through kinetic and non-kinetic means.  Some nations are even jamming satellite signals to censor news, illustrating how counter space capabilities can be used for political as well as military purposes. 

The market for space services has also become more competitive.  U.S. firms once captured nearly three quarters of global business.  They now account for 30-40%.

In short, the space environment has fundamentally changed, and probably irrevocably so. 

The President’s National Space Policy, released in June, recognizes these changes, and directs several important shifts in space policy. 

Today I would like to outline four key elements that emerge from the President’s policy that the Department of Defense will carry forward in its military space activities.  These elements will inform the development of the National Security Space Strategy, which we will release jointly with the Director of National Intelligence later this fall.

They are a move toward the sustainability and stability of the space domain; a new emphasis on international cooperation; an expansion of how we protect space systems in a contested environment; and, finally, the improvement of our space acquisition process.

Let me outline each of these developments in turn.

First, the President’s National Space Policy declares that the sustainability and stability of space, as well as free access to it, is a vital national interest.

Fostering a more cooperative, predictable environment with minimal risk of accidents or purposeful interference will enhance, rather than detract from, our national security.  To create this environment, the President’s space policy calls for bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures which will help establish norms of behavior in space.

Along with the right to use and explore space comes the responsibility to be a good steward of it. 

So a key question for the department is how our national security space systems can help enable this vision.

Thanks to the work done by Stratcom and its components to track debris and alert other nations about possible conjunctions between spacecraft, our systems have already helped foster cooperation in space. 

The European Union’s initiative to develop an international “Code of Conduct for Space Activities” is another way to develop norms that reduce mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.  We now need to consider what further measures of transparency, verification, and confidence-building can enhance the stability of space. 

Second, the President’s space policy places a new emphasis on international cooperation. 

Though we have said before that we will pursue international cooperation, this time I am convinced that the need for it in military space is more pressing than ever.  With some exceptions, we have not fully embraced partners in the design or operation of military space systems, or fully extended to allies the battlefield advantages space systems provide.  We will now.

As with terrestrial defense alliances, partnerships in space can add resilience and capabilities, without relinquishing the strategic advantage our systems provide.  At their fullest, these partnerships could consist of completely interoperable systems in which costs, benefits, and risks are shared among trusted participants.

Our partnership with Australia on the Wideband Global SATCOM system is one example of how we can integrate allies into our space architecture.  But we can go further. 

For instance, Stratcom is exploring how to implement concepts such as evolving the Joint Space Operations Center that is a U.S.-only enterprise to a Combined Space Operations Center that has international participation.  Turning our space operations center into a coalition enterprise, with close allies working side-by-side with our own commanders, could bring levels of cooperation to new heights.

We must also explore sharing capabilities, such as missile warning and maritime awareness, with a wider set of partners.  Increasingly, we will want to operate in coalitions in space, just as we do in other domains.

To achieve this, the department will examine all mission areas to identify where shared interests open the door to greater levels of cooperation.  We can and we will utilize partnerships with other nations to achieve our mission goals. 

We must also continue to expand our partnership with commercial providers.  By sharing or exchanging capabilities and data, we can ensure access to information and services from a more diverse set of systems—an advantage in a contested space environment.

Coalitions and partnerships, with both nations and firms, will not only help us achieve our security objectives in space more efficiently.  They will also fundamentally strengthen our space posture.

Third, the new space policy directs the Department of Defense to assure mission essential functions, even when space assets are degraded or disrupted.  

Achieving this will entail expanding how we protect our space systems in a contested environment.

Deterrence has always been a core part of our national security strategy.  But in the contested space environment we face today, we can no longer rely solely on the threat of retaliation to protect space systems from attack. 

Making our space systems more resilient, and our combat power less reliant on their full functioning, will help deny adversaries the benefit from an attack in space.  Just as in the cyber domain, denying the benefit of attack can join retaliatory deterrence as a disincentive to adversaries.

To learn how to operate in a degraded information environment, and thereby lower the benefit of an attack, we are holding training exercises where we experience “a day without space.”  Through these training exercises, we are slowly learning how to “fight through” interference. 

We are also developing technology to help us mitigate the loss or degradation of on-orbit systems.  For instance, we now have ground, air, and naval-based platforms that increasingly can augment or replace space assets.  Responsive space capabilities can also play an important role in reconstituting functionality either during or after an attack.

Alliances in space can strengthen deterrence as well.  Integrating our capabilities with those of our allies and partners can raise the costs of aggression and make it more difficult for a potential adversary to successfully target our systems.  Alliances in space serve the same deterrent function as basing troops in allied countries.  They ensure an attack on one is an attack on all.

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet solution to a contested space environment.  But a strategy which encompasses a broad range of options will have the greatest chance of success. 

At the same time, we need to make clear that the United States views its space assets as a vital national interest.  Consistent with our inherent right of self-defense, we will respond accordingly to attacks on them.

Dealing with a congested, competitive, and contested space environment is not our only challenge.  The fiscal climate our nation faces, as well as the globalization of the aerospace industry, makes it even more difficult to maintain our competitive advantage in space.  We must become better buyers of space systems and work to ensure the health of our space industrial base. 

Let me briefly touch on initiatives in two areas that affect the industrial base.

As you know, Secretary Gates has made export control reform a priority. 

Presently, many items generally available on the global market for space commerce are prohibited from being exported by U.S. companies without government approval.  Our current export policy puts us in a double bind.  We are hurting our own space suppliers in the international market.  But we are not really hindering states of concern from acquiring sensitive space technologies. 

To redress the current state of affairs, the Administration is committed to comprehensive export control reform.  The foundation of this is what we term the “four singles:” a single export control licensing agency, a single tiered list of controlled items, a single coordination center for enforcement, and a single, unified IT infrastructure. 

We recognize that controlling sensitive space exports remains a concern.  But we need a different approach.  We should be building "higher fences" around our most sensitive technologies, while de-listing those items whose export does not threaten our security.

We are currently reviewing space items controlled under the munitions licensing authority of the Department of State, as well as the related category on the Commerce Department’s dual use item control list. 

Our review recommends placing items in tiers according to the importance of their technology and substantially revising how they are controlled.  We are replacing vague, catch-all terms with objective, specific criteria.  Our goal is to clearly delineate what is controlled and what is not.  And we will soon be reaching out to industry to ask for their involvement.

To compliment export control reform, the Department needs to improve its space acquisition process to ensure we maintain world-class space capabilities at affordable costs. 

Space systems have often been among the most expensive platforms we acquire for our defense.  Hard work by industry and by government has begun to yield performance improvements. 

But despite hard won progress, we need to become even more efficient if we are to continue fielding new capabilities at the rate necessary to preserve our technological edge. 

In the military space sector, as in other sectors, transformational development should only be employed in circumstances where compelling reasons exist to do so. 

But in many cases incremental development will be the right approach.  And here, we can gain substantial efficiencies through two innovative techniques:  Block buys of satellites and the deliberate management of the engineering workforce. 

Block buys have the potential to reduce costs and timelines by creating more predictable demand and allowing larger material buys with fewer spares.  Similarly, establishing a predictable demand schedule can stabilize the engineering workforce associated with a project.  Keeping engineers in place allows them to pursue development and production simultaneously, further reducing manufacturing costs while incrementally increasing capabilities. 

Together with export control reform, better acquisition models and practices can help strengthen our space industrial base.  Our intent is to maintain U.S. leadership both in space technologies and in the international marketplace for space goods and services.

In conclusion, the new National Space Policy affirms the centrality of space to our national security and seeks to maintain those advantages in the face of an evolving space environment.  

Today I have identified four precepts established in the National Space Policy that are critically important to military space: a move toward the sustainability and stability of the space domain; a new emphasis on international cooperation; expanding how we protect space systems in a contested environment; and the improvement of space acquisition process. 

These precepts will inform our National Security Space Strategy, which will be released later this fall.

Succeeding in the new space environment will depend as much on changing mindsets fifty years in the making as it will on altering longstanding institutional practices.  The fundamental mission of the Department of Defense to deter war and to protect the security of our country stays the same.  But how we use space capabilities to achieve this mission will change.

As representatives from industry, from across government, and from other nations, all of you will play an important role in building this new future.  We have the most to lose from this changing environment in space, and we have the most to gain if we adapt our strategy and process.  So I challenge you to help bring this new era of cooperation in military space into being, and to ensure we achieve the industrial efficiencies necessary to underwrite innovation over the long term.

Together, I am confident we can preserve our ability to operate in space, and to enjoy the benefits that entails.

Thank you.

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