Strategic competitors China and Russia have watched the Defense Department's way of projecting power for at least two decades, if not longer, the commander of U.S. Northern Command said.
"They understand if we're allowed to project that force forward, that won't turn out well. So, they've developed capabilities below the nuclear threshold to hold us at risk with the idea that they can delay, disrupt our force flow, or destroy our will, so that we don't project power into their regional crisis or regional conflict," Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck said today at the 2022 Air Force Association Warfare Symposium.
"My concern with that is they're eroding our decision space and our deterrence options for the homeland especially. And it's decreasing our senior leaders' decision space," he said.
The threat today demands that that the United States must think differently about how it's going to defend the homeland, he said.
That doesn't necessarily mean putting air and missile defense batteries all over the place, he said. "It's figuring out what we must defend that could bring us to our knees in a crisis or conflict."
That's a policy decision that DOD has been working on for a while, and that's a broad decision that must be made across agencies. It requires significant analysis and determination of what key critical infrastructure areas need to be protected, he said, mentioning finance, energy and economics as critical infrastructure.
The key strategy for DOD is integrated deterrence, which creates options for decision-makers. Integrated deterrence involves every combatant command in every domain, the whole of government, and allies and partners, he said.
"Integrated deterrence is a whole of government approach," said Army Gen. James H. Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander.
Unlike during the Cold War, the threat is no longer clear and consistent, Dickinson said. It's important to leverage all levers of national power to improve capabilities, understand regional security, and grow partnerships as part of integrated deterrence.
Dickinson also mentioned the importance of space capabilities — not only for military use, but also for the economic well-being of the world economy.
It is troubling that China and Russia have employed weapons that threaten the space domain, such as space vehicles that can be used to grapple and disable other satellites, he said.
Spacecom supports both Northcom and the North American Aerospace Defense Command by providing early, rapid and accurate missile-warning data via on orbit assets as well as with radars and electro-optical sensors around the world, he noted.