More work needed on space stability and security

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COLORADO SPRINGS – In the last year, the Defense Department has made progress in responding to the current era of strategic competition, John Hill, who is performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, said Aug. 24 at the 36th Space Symposium here.

More work remains to be done, however, with commercial and international government partners to increase stability and security in the space domain and to “reduce the potential for miscalculations,” Hill said.

The U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency are fielding resilient and assured space capabilities and working to counter hostile space activity. The Space Force also is developing “the doctrinal foundations of military space power and the associated expertise and culture,” Hill said.

In addition, U.S. government agencies are integrating space into national, joint and combined military operations.

“Here, the establishment of the U.S. Space Command as a unified combatant command is particularly important to our ability to plan, exercise and execute joint and combined space operations across the spectrum of competition and conflict in concert with operations across all domains and in coordination with the other combatant commanders,” Hill said.

Hill lauded U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson for helping the Space Command reach initial operational capability.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo in July directing Defense Department to follow five tenets of responsible behavior for space operations.

“These five tenets, which are based on long standing practices as well as existing U.S. commitments, are strictly limited to the activities of the Department of Defense,” Hill said. “In no way are we trying to impose our will and our ideas upon other nations or other space operators. But we recognize that as one of the world’s most experienced and largest space operators and as a military organization, we have a special responsibility to articulate what we mean by responsible behavior and to reflect that in our actual practice.”

It’s important to establish norms of behavior because the Defense Department seeks “to ensure that the domain remains secure, safe, sustainable and accessible,” Hill said.

The tenets are part of a broader U.S. government effort to work with international spacecraft operators “to establish multilateral guidelines, such as those regarding debris mitigation and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Hill said. “As we continue to contribute our ideas and learn from other international space operators, we intend to build on these five tenets to identify more specific behaviors that guide our operations, and that can serve as a point of reference to help other space operators form their understanding of responsible behavior and space.”

At the same time, Hill warned that “the growth of Chinese and Russian counterspace arsenals” is a serious threat to the space activities of the United States, its partners and allies.

“Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate that they view space as critical to modern warfare and see the use of counterspace capabilities as both a means of reducing U.S. military effectiveness and for winning future wars,” Hill said.