Space Integral To Pentagon’s Way Of War, Policy Chief Says


By Jim Garamone

Space is integral to the way the United States military fights, and that is why DOD took a top-to-bottom look at the domain, said John F. Plumb, the assistant secretary of defense for space policy. 

Plumb, who spoke at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado, carefully discussed the still classified Space Strategic Review. 

That review looked at the national security environment for space. It took stock of “where we are and where we’re headed,” Plumb said. 

Since the 1950s, the military has been intrigued by the benefits that space provides to defense. “Space is in our DNA for the military,” the assistant secretary said. “It’s absolutely essential to our way of war.” 

This was not a hard sell for military officials, who now ensure the space domain is considered in every decision, he said. 

DOD is focused on China as the department’s pacing challenge, Plumb said. “China is also our pacing challenge in space,” he said. “When we look at that environment, it is very different than it was 10 years ago.” 

What DOD must do is “ensure that we can deter conflict in space,” he said.  

Every military mission relies on space and DOD officials must ensure that U.S. service members have what they need in the domain to carry out their missions. “That means we have to protect and defend our systems and devalue adversary attacks on our systems,” Plumb said.  

Building resilience into systems is standard now in the satellite world, he said. As is developing procedures, tactics and equipment to defend satellites already in orbit. 

Even then, “resilience is never complete,” Plumb said. “It will be a constant back-and-forth. But we are truly investing in becoming resilient, we’re picking off certain mission sets, think missile warning missile trackers.” 

DOD is moving from an architecture that has a few very large and expensive satellites, in geostationary orbits “to a proliferated architecture in low-Earth orbit,” he said.  

That has a couple of advantages, the first being it makes attacking the target harder, and it means DOD can capitalize on the so-called “refresh rate.” 

The large “exquisite” satellites are very expensive and designed to last 20 years. The low-Earth orbit satellites last three to five years and “provide an ability to innovate at speed and not have to look out for my requirements 20 years from now,” Plumb said.  

Planners can make a pretty good guess what they will need for three to five years, but it is far more complicated looking decades ahead technologically. 

“So, there’s a lot of advantages there from a military standpoint, and I think we are all in on getting there,” he said. “But resilience is a kind of never-ending quest.” 

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