By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 03, 2023) -- The assistant secretary of defense for space policy told senators yesterday that his office is "laser focused" on three priorities: space control, space cooperation and space classification.
"On space control, the department will protect and defend our national security interests from the growing scope and scale of space and counterspace threats, and we will protect and defend our service men and women in harm's way from space enabled threats," said John F. Plumb in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on strategic forces.
Also critical for success in space is breaking down the barriers that prevent the efficient sharing of critical intelligence gathered from space -- including within the DOD, within the U.S. intelligence community, and among partners and allies.
"The department is working at the highest levels to remove barriers to sharing information with our allies and to strengthen our ability to communicate really with ourselves across the U.S. government," Plumb said.
Plumb said challenges involving cooperation with allies often comes down to the ability to share classified information with them, and that this is something the department must work on more closely.
"A lot of classified information is not actually DOD-originated; it often originates from different parts of the intelligence community," he said. "We need to be able to collaborate very closely with our partners in the IC to kind of break down these legacy barriers, that really are legacy systems not designed for fighting or for operationally-relevant speeds and find a way to be able to share those portions of those types of classified information that are needed for combined space operations."
When it comes to space cooperation, he said, the U.S., partnerships and cooperation with like-minded nations will be necessary if space is to remain both free and open.
"We are investing in relationships with allies, partners and commercial space," he said. "These partnerships are an enduring strength and an asymmetric advantage that our competitors cannot hope to match."
An example of how the department is strengthening those partnerships is with the Combined Space Operations Initiative. That forum, hosted by Plumb, includes defense leaders from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In written testimony submitted to the Senate, Plumb said participants in that forum work together to identify ways to improve cooperation, coordination and interoperability in order to sustain freedom of action in space, optimize resources, enhance mission assurance and prevent conflict.
The fiscal year 2024 presidential budget submission included some $33 billion for space operations, Plumb said. That includes, among other things, $5 billion missile warning systems; $1.3 billion to support position navigation timing and the Global Positioning System; and $3 billion to fund 15 launch vehicles and to provide for launch range upgrades.
"Our competitors have watched us, they have learned from us, they have stolen from us, and they have developed capabilities to hold us at risk," Plumb told lawmakers. "But they are not ready for us .... and with Congressional support for the national security space investments in the president's budget, they will not be ready for us tomorrow."