There is strategic value in using space systems for military operations, which have changed the American way of warfare. Because of their immense value to security, they require funding for space protection and a responsive launch capability in order to make them more resilient to attack. A new Heritage Special Report offers a guide on how to invest in space capabilities for maximum cost efficiency in the next 10 years.
The Heritage report focuses on the challenges facing the U.S. in space capability due to the proliferation of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) weapons systems (like China’s anti-satellite (ASAT)) to deny critical U.S. security space capabilities while dealing with fiscal constraints. A new iteration of U.S. space capabilities, with a reprioritization of defense needs in U.S. strategic re-orientation and force restructuring, presents an opportunity for a smarter security system in space to do more with less.
To combat the A2/AD threat, the U.S. must prioritize the development of defensive counter-space capabilities such as hardening against jamming attempts (i.e., protecting against electromagnetic pulse attacks) and filters to protect imaging sensors. The Heritage report advocates the U.S. taking the lead in space protection technologies, which would allow it to set the standards for space protection for allied capabilities.
National security space budgets have actually only been streamlined in the past 10 years, decreasing from $15 billion to $8.5 billion and slated for another 22 percent cut in fiscal year 2013, having enjoyed the largest allocations within the defense and intelligence budgets since the time of the Cold War. With every new military conflict since Vietnam, dependence (and thus, budgets) on space systems in military operations has grown into today’s tactical and operational capability.
Clearly, the status quo strategy of a very large budget for large multiple use systems is no longer viable. It will require innovation and political courage to reduce the number of satellites in space. Air Force General C. Robert Kehler, former commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, has described the U.S. national security space enterprise as at a critical juncture because of the rapidity with which China is developing its ASAT capabilities and the growing dependence on the military use of space. The advantage of security systems in space is that it provides global access to provide a strategic early warning of missile launches, and is essential in the new way of warfare for communications in remote and inaccessible parts of the world.
As the Asia pivot calls for a U.S. projection of power in the region, a more discerning system of space platforms will be essential to guide and protect those forces. One way to do more with less in an ever more threatening security environment in the Asia–Pacific is to effect more innovation in satellite systems and make sure protection measures are developed. Their strategic value—in Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions ; hardened satellite communications for nuclear command and control; ballistic missile early warning with position, navigation, and timing (PNT); and the development of responsive launch capability as part of the national Prompt Global Strike—is worth the expense of protecting space security systems.
The new way the U.S. military wages war must be met by funding critical space capability with “credible national security applications,” according to the Heritage report.
Jordan Harms is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.