The Fragility of U.S. Space Supremacy

Doug Loverro, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, penned an excellent editorial late last month in Space News. In it he makes a strong and cogent point that our nation’s space assets are critical to our warfighting strategy yet are not designed to survive in hostile situations. The supremacy of the United States in space is both overwhelming and increasingly fragile.

And the nation is not doing much about that vulnerability. As Loverro writes:

“In all candor, the Department of Defense’s response to this reality has been halting. Not because of a disagreement over the facts; they are accepted and undeniable. Nor is the struggle one of administration or departmental intent — both the National Space Policy and National Security Space Strategy emphatically direct DoD to consider warfighting survivability, or more specifically resilience, in the design and fielding of future defense space architectures. We know we have to restructure space forces for the environment they are likely to face. The struggle is over how one does it — if it can be done at all, how to afford it, and whether or not the non-space DoD majority should even care.”

Loverro’s piece echoes themes talked about frequently at SatCom Frontier. Where he talks about tapping into “the entrepreneurial and commercial competitiveness that differentiates the United States from other nations,” Skot Butler of IGC wrote about a new kind of collaboration between industry and government to address new space challenges.

When Loverro says “We must realize that, in fact, the system that can be dismantled by a foe with a single shot is the least cost-effective solution you shouldn’t buy,” he is talking about disaggregating our space assets, discussed in detail here by IGC President Kay Sears.

One vulnerability Loverro highlights in the piece is being addressed by the Space and Missile Systems Center under Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). He talks about jammable UAV links on commercial communications satellites as a potential security liability. In this story from Defense News, AFSPC’s executive director David Madden is quoted on the successful testing of the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW). The PTW greatly improves existing anti-jam protection and has been successfully tested on the WGS system as well as the Intelsat system.

Loverro was also quoted recently in Reuters about adopting more commercial industry practices to address military space challenges. This kind of open thinking and debate regarding space solutions is very encouraging, and exactly what the United States needs today. There is no question space is becoming a more competitive and possibly combative environment.

Working together, government and private industry can fashion the right responses to protect and maintain U.S. supremacy in space.