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ASD Space Policy Keynote Address for the 2024 Space Policy Symposium (As prepared)

Good morning.  Thanks to the Space Foundation for this incredible platform to communicate to the world the importance of space to national security.

Intro: The Four C's

I was sworn in as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy in March 2022, shortly after Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  My role as I saw it then and continue to see it now is to ensure the United States and our allies are utilizing space to strengthen integrated deterrence.  

The conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated to the entire world the essential role of space in modern warfare.  Russia and China both know that space is essential to the U.S. way of war, and they have developed a variety of means to attack our satellites. The United States Department of Defense is focused on China as our pacing challenge; space is both essential to deterring a potential conflict with China and prevailing if deterrence fails. 

Meanwhile, the commercial space sector is innovating at a pace and scale that is unmatched in our history.  

We are clearly in a time of rapid change in the space strategic environment, one which does not favor the slow or those resistant to change.  Recognizing this, since my first day in office I have hammered away at three priorities, which I have referred to as my “three Cs”: space control, space cooperation, and space classification.  Over the past year a fourth “C” has emerged: commercial space integration.  There is an urgency to these priorities.  This morning, I will update you on the significant progress we have made on all four.

Space Control

The first C is for space control.  When I first arrived in the Pentagon in spring 2022, the DoD and the IC were just beginning a Space Strategic Review at the behest of the National Security Advisor.  The SSR (“scissor”), as we called it, brought together stakeholders from across the national security space enterprise to assess how we matched up against the growing threats in the space domain.  It was a collaborative but difficult process. 

Our SSR analysis confirmed that China is the Department's pacing challenge in the space domain.  The SSR also confirmed that space is in fact an operational domain, one in which U.S. national security interests need to be defended, and one in which space-enabled adversary threats to U.S. service members need to be countered.

At the end of the process, and after many consultations between the Department and the National Security Council, the White House concurred with our analysis. As a result, last June, the President issued his Space Security Guidance, affirming the takeaways from the SSR, approving the Department's strategic direction on space, and focusing our efforts.

As we implement that guidance, our primary means of deterring conflict in space will be through resilience.  Because space is essential to our way of war, our adversaries may be incentivized to strike us in space.  With resilient architectures, we can withstand strikes against our satellites and degrade gracefully— perhaps not even noticeably— and continue to provide the critical space-based services the Joint Force relies on.  Resilient architectures should reduce the adversary's incentive to strike US satellites in the first place. 

But resilience can only get us so far. Our intelligence community assesses that, today, China's architecture could support tracking and targeting U.S. and allied forces across the Pacific. That capability challenges our ability to conduct joint operations in the Indo-Pacific region. No amount of resilience in our own satellite constellations can protect a carrier strike group from a long-range missile attack enabled by an adversary's satellites.

The United States will protect and defend our men and women in harm's way from space-enabled threats, just as we do for threats from land, sea, or air.  This may require the Department to take action to ensure that our potential adversaries are unable to rely on their space systems to find and strike U.S. and allied forces.  As part of the U.S. Government's integrated deterrence strategy, the United States may leverage counterspace options across all operational domains if necessary. In doing so the Department will continue to be a leader in the responsible use of space to ensure that the domain remains safe, stable, secure, and sustainable.

Space Cooperation

The second C is for space cooperation.  By working together with our allies, we broaden the number of systems collectively available for space operations, both on orbit and on the ground; we strengthen resilience; we expand our options for diplomatic and military responses; and we complicate an adversary's decision making. 

Space cooperation strengthens integrated deterrence, but only to the extent we can successfully work together in the space domain.  Today, combined military operations in space are a relatively new idea.  So for the past two years we have been working hard to fix this.

A leading example is the Combined Space Operations Initiative, or CSpO for short.  CSpO was formed ten years ago around a vision of improving cooperation, coordination, and interoperability to sustain freedom of action in space. Over the last two years, I have worked hard to take CSpO to the next level, expanding membership to Italy, Japan, and Norway, and focusing on the necessary groundwork to one day soon conduct true combined military operations in space. 

For that effort, U.S. Space Command is now leading the way with Operation Olympic Defender, and I am confident our Allied by Design approach will be successful.

The Department is also investing in bilateral space cooperation around the globe. Last year, my team conducted the first bilateral space cooperation dialogue with the Indian Ministry of Defense. We advanced discussions with our Japanese partners on finalizing our unique space domain awareness hosted payload partnership.  U.S.-Norway collaboration enabled the integration of U.S. payloads on two Norwegian satellites to provide 24/7 protected SATCOM for forces operating in the Arctic. And the list goes on.

Not Just Allies and Partners

But space cooperation is not only about working with allies and partners. It is also an important tool we use with our competitors to navigate challenging issues, avoid misunderstandings, and maintain stability. Since President Biden's summit with President Xi last year, my team has been part of several lower level bilateral exchanges with their Chinese counterparts on space security.  Both the United States and China have a vested interest in a safe, secure, stable, and sustainable space domain, and both parties will benefit from continuing to talk. 

As for Russia, the United States and Russia continue to operate the International Space Station together despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  That alone is a testament to the value of space cooperation, and to the shared responsibility spacefaring nations have to each other.

The Department also supports the Administration's work to advance space cooperation in the form of verifiable norms at the United Nations, including our commitment not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, and we hope that more countries will make that same commitment.

We also strongly support the proposed U.S.-Japan UN Security Council Resolution, which includes reaffirming the Outer Space Treaty obligation not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons, or any other weapons of mass destruction. We believe all nations should support this UN Security Council Resolution as well.  A nuclear detonation in space would have indiscriminate, devastating effects for all space systems and all space users across the globe. 

Such a weapon is completely unable to discriminate between military, civil, or commercial systems, and it is completely unable to discriminate between nations.  No country should pursue such a capability.  It is in no nation's interest to do so, and puts all space-faring nations' interests at risk.

Space Classification

The third “C” is for space classification.  Our ability to work closely with allies and partners in the space domain, and our ability to use our space capabilities to protect and defend the Joint Force, requires the right information getting to the warfighter at operationally relevant speeds. But that information flow continues to be significantly hampered by the overclassification of space activities.

My office has led the charge on fixing this.  We started by illuminating the problem to the entire national security space enterprise, hosting a summit to identify what issues were limiting our ability to conduct operational cooperation in space with allies.  The number one culprit?  Overclassification of information.  

We then spent more than a year completely rewriting a 20-year-old legacy space classification policy, which reflected priorities of a different time and a different security environment.  That legacy policy limited our ability to share information within the Department, limited our ability to cooperate with our Allies and partners, and limited the ability of our industry partners to provide cost effective and timely solutions to difficult problems.  It limited our ability to adequately plan and train for conflict.  The truth is that over the past 20 years that policy has cost the Department both time and money, two scarce resources we cannot afford to squander. 

After a herculean effort by my team, in close collaboration with DoD and Intelligence Community stakeholders, Deputy Secretary Hicks approved our entirely new space classification policy in December.

Across the Pentagon, there is now a concerted effort to decrease the siloed nature of space activities. Services are reviewing programs to reduce their classification to a level that benefits the warfighter. And we are leaning forward on how much we can share with our Allies and partners, including industry, to allow more meaningful cooperation.

Our goal is to enable better integration of space in joint and combined operations, and to ensure that classified capabilities are accounted for in war plans and exercises.  That does not mean reducing things all the way to the unclassified level— apologies to the reporters in the audience!  But over time, the new policy should dramatically improve information flow and reduce the time and money required to build future systems.

Commercial Space Integration

Our fourth and newest “C” is for commercial space integration.

From launch to space domain awareness to satellite communications and more, over the past several years the commercial space sector's ability to innovate at speed and scale has been nothing short of breathtaking.  The Pentagon is keen to harness that innovation. And we are also keen to harness the speed and cost effectiveness the commercial sector promises, two areas the Pentagon could certainly use help in!

In order to drive the Pentagon to take better advantage of the innovative commercial sector, on April 2nd—just last week!—we released the Department's first ever Commercial Space Integration Strategy, signed by the Secretary of Defense.

The degree to which commercial space capabilities and services can benefit U.S. national security will ultimately be measured by how well the Department can actually integrate commercial solutions into the way we operate, not just in peacetime, but also in conflict.  To accomplish this, as Secretary Austin wrote in the forward to the strategy, the Department needs to eliminate the structural, procedural, and cultural barriers to overcoming legacy practices and preconceived notions of how the commercial sector can support national security.

Over the last year, my team engaged directly with space stakeholders across the Department and the interagency as well with commercial space entities of all sizes. We hosted roundtables, tabletop exercises, and informational sessions to better understand how commercial space solutions could support the Department, while taking into account the commercial sector's interests as well. Informed by that body of work, our new strategy directs the Department to pursue four lines of effort for commercial space integration:

  1. First, we will work to ensure access to commercial solutions across the spectrum of conflict: not just in peacetime, but also in crisis and in conflict.
  2. Second, we will work to achieve integration prior to crisis. By integrating commercial space solutions in our day-to-day operations, we will be ready and able to rely on those solutions during crisis or conflict.
  3. Third, we will work to establish the security conditions necessary to integrate commercial space solutions and help commercial providers reduce risk. While the Department will always maintain the option to use military force to protect and defend commercial assets, our primary approaches will be to: (one) create and support norms that enhance safety for all; (two) generate and share actionable threat information with commercial partners; and (three) explore different forms of financial protection, if required. Underpinning all of this is the Department's commitment to be a responsible actor in space.
  4. Fourth, we will support the development of new commercial space capabilities that have the potential to support the Joint Force. The Department has a number of tools at our disposal to help commercial companies scale where our interests align.

The strategy is deliberately unclassified to be transparent about what we are trying—and need—to achieve, and to hold ourselves accountable to the strategy we have signed up for.  I am confident it will pay dividends for the Department for years to come.


So there you have it: space control, space cooperation, space classification, and commercial space integration.  Today's security environment demands action and decisions, and each of these four urgent priorities has been met with significant progress in the past two years, made possible by tremendous effort, focus, and teamwork.  And a sense of good humor all along the way.

On a personal note, it is now public news that I will be stepping down from my role in the next few weeks.  It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.  I will be deeply and forever proud of the work my team and I have done to both lead and push the Department forward at this critical time in history. 

Thank you.