U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses San Francisco's Commonwealth Club of California. Credit: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbe

WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said March 1 the Pentagon will spend $22 billion on space in 2017, a figure more than double what the Air Force said last month it expected to spend on unclassified space efforts next year.

Carter cited the $22 billion figure during a trip to California’s Silicon Valley to promote cooperation between the Defense Department and the storied high-tech hub.

“One of my core goals in this job has been to build and rebuild bridges between the Pentagon and America’s wonderfully innovative and strong technology community,” Carter said during a March 1 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

The following day, DoD announced the formation of a Defense Innovation Advisory Board to be chaired by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

The space-related section of Carter’s speech, titled “Securing the oceans, the Internet and space: protecting the domains that drive prosperity,” appears below:

As we work together to protect the free flow of commerce at sea and online, we must also recognize the opportunities – and threats – to the free and open domain of outer space.

Many companies in this community are now exploring the frontiers of this domain, and nearly every business depends on it to some extent, even if just for things like communications and GPS. In DoD, we rely on it just as much, and we have for quite some time. From secure communications, to reconnaissance satellites, to allowing for precise navigation and targeting, space is integral to our operations. Indeed, space enables great things here on Earth for security and prosperity – from financial companies with global presence, to the remote street vendor conducting business on a satellite phone. GPS, first developed in partnership with the Defense Department and maintained for decades by us, is now woven into every aspect of our lives…from hailing a car service on the Embarcadero, to finding and targeting terrorists in the Middle East. And decades ago, we pioneered space together. It was the innovation of this region that led to the cutting-edge satellites that have quite literally changed how we see the world today.

Today, many companies are going to space on their own, with ambitions for greater commercial imaging, micro-satellites, and even aspirations for tourism. Just as government-led efforts in space have benefitted both our security and society, private-led efforts are already doing so too – one recent example being that the public disclosure of China’s surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea was due to it being discovered in commercial satellite imagery.

However, this emerging marketplace is leading to a reemerging challenge. Space can get crowded, particularly with many companies and many nations seeking to operate there in ways we’ve never seen so many do before – including some that can pose threats to safe, global order in space. To give you just one example of the dangers we would face if space turned from universal benefit to unrestricted battlefield, consider the longevity of space debris, which can cause great harm if it impacts a satellite or a spacecraft mid-orbit. When a Chinese anti-satellite test destroyed a defunct weather satellite in 2007, it dispersed over 3,000 pieces of debris, expanding the amount orbiting Earth by 15 percent. The remnants of that satellite are still there, and will remain for over a century – just as 100 years after the battle of Verdun, French farmers still encounter unexploded ordnance in their fields. A kinetic battle in space could leave behind a legacy that would last far longer, and make this common domain hazardous for commercial applications for generations. And make no mistake, both Russia and China have developed such anti-satellite systems.

Just like with the maritime and cyber domains, it’s in the self-interest of every nation to advance the common interest of a free and stable environment in space.

While in the past some may have thought of space as a sanctuary, DoD must now prepare for, and seek to prevent, the possibility of a conflict that extends into space. And in our budget, we’re continuing to invest more in space, totaling more than $22 billion in 2017, including with investments to enhance our ability to identify, attribute, and negate threatening actions in space.

DoD has a responsibility to protect its assets and interests in space, and to ensure this domain remains available for both security and commercial applications. This too requires working together more with the private sector. Commercial space needs must be considered and protected to realize the continuing promise of this remarkable domain, and the only way to do that is through effective partnership and communication. We believe strong rules of the road that grow out of commercial and civil interest in space will benefit all nations. They will propel American space entrepreneurship, which directly benefits national security, and they will allow us to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behavior in space.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.