News   Lethality

Dunford: Spacecom Allows U.S. to Retain 'High Ground'

Sept. 9, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone
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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presided over the presentation of the colors of U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said at today's ceremony that reestablishing Spacecom is supremely important, allowing the United States to retain the high ground in this new world of warfare.

Logo with an eagle and a globe
Spacecom Logo
U.S. Space Command logo
Photo By: Spacecom
VIRIN: 190909-D-ZZ999-101

Space is now contested, and for security's sake, the United States must retain its leadership in that domain, the chairman said.

Dunford looked back in history, noting that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, in 1957. In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. The United States correctly felt the nation was "falling behind in technological capability," the general said.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy energized the nation, saying the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The cooperation of all branches of government and industry saw that goal succeed with Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" on July 20, 1969.

Neil Armstrong stands on the moon next to an American flag.
Man on the Moon
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
Photo By: NASA/ Kennedy Space Center
VIRIN: 690720-D-ZZ999-003A

The U.S. military is facing another "Sputnik moment" today, Dunford said. 

After decades of uncontested access to space, Russia and China pose challenges — developing electronic, directed energy weapons, as well as anti-satellite capabilities and more. 

"The reestablishment of Space Command should be understood as part of a broader effort to maintain our nation's competitive advantage in space," the chairman said. 

A large rocket stands next to a launch tower against a deep blue sky.
Satellite Launch
Space and Missile Systems Center’s Advanced Extreme High Frequency 5 encapsulated satellite mated with an Atlas V launch vehicle rolls out in preparation for launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug 6, 2019.
Photo By: Van Ha, Air Force
VIRIN: 190806-F-DC888-004

U.S. Space Command is an integral part of today's National Security Strategy. Great power competition with Russia and China has returned. Iran and North Korea pose lesser, but still dangerous, challenges. Space Command must deter enemies from challenging U.S. space capabilities, and, if that fails, be able to soundly defeat any threat.

We formed this command as a foundational element of more effective joint warfighting."
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"The competitive advantage we enjoyed after the Cold War has eroded," Dunford said. "For the last two decades, our adversaries have studied us and developed capabilities designed to exploit what they perceive to be our vulnerabilities. That dynamic has been particularly evident in space." Space is key to military command and control, missile warning, navigation, targeting and overall military capabilities. 

Maintaining dominance in space means the United States will be able to fight and win on future battlefields. "We didn't reestablish Space Command simply to compete in space," Dunford said. "We formed this command as a foundational element of more effective joint warfighting."

In his remarks, Spacecom Commander Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said this is a strategic inflection point for the military. "There is nothing that we do as a joint force that isn’t enabled by space, and yet we can no longer have the luxury of assuming space superiority," he said. The new command will focus on retaining and maintaining that superiority, he said.

Raymond said the new combatant command is built on the frame of the first U.S. Space Command, which was formed in 1985 and deactivated in 2002. But it is not the command of 2002, he added, because the world has changed. The command has been built "to compete, deter and plan in an extremely complex and quickly evolving strategic environment," he said.

Stars illuminate the sky over a domed structure.
Deep Space Surveillance System
The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The system falls under the Air Force's 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90-minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.
Photo By: Photo illustration by Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri
VIRIN: 171030-F-TM170-190
Air Force Academy cadets and civilians look at a computer console.
Faculty members and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy wait to receive “first contact” from the cadet-designed FalconSAT-6 satellite after its successful launch into space, Dec. 3, 2018. The satellite was attached to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene-based fuel, and is one of 64 satellites aboard the rocket as part of Space Flight Industries’ SSO-A SmallSat Express mission.
Photo By: Joshua Armstrong, Air Force
VIRIN: 181203-F-NH566-0011

The command will deter conflict from beginning in or extending into space, Raymond said, and it will defend U.S. and allied interests. "To meet the new National Defense Strategy, the new Space Command has a much sharper focus on offensive and defensive operations," he said.

The command will deliver space combat power to the joint and combined force, the general said, and it will develop ready and lethal space forces.

"A warrior ethos is a combat enabler," he said. "We will take our existing space warfighting culture — established in the original Space Command, honed in the Cold War, hardened in the many conflicts since, and adapted to today's strategic environment. We will further embed that warfighting culture in our greatest resource: our people," he said.