On space matters, Biden’s national security strategy adopts a less combative tone

by
Space exploration 'benefits humanity, from creating economic opportunities to developing new technologies and enabling climate surveillance'

WASHINGTON — The White House on Oct. 12 released a long-delayed national security strategy that lays out challenges the United States faces in a tripolar world, with China and Russia as the nation’s key competitors. 

President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan said the United States is entering a “decisive decade” of strategic competition with major powers. At the same time, the U.S. will need to work closely with allies to address transnational challenges like climate change, food insecurity, pandemics, terrorism, energy shortages and inflation.

“We will leverage all elements of our national power to outcompete our strategic competitors; tackle shared challenges; and shape the rules of the road,” the strategy says.

With regard to outer space and its role in national security, Biden’s strategy takes a less combative tone than the former Trump administration’s strategy released in 2017

“Space exploration and use benefits humanity, from creating economic opportunities to developing new technologies and enabling climate surveillance,” Biden’s strategy says. 

“America will maintain our position as the world’s leader in space and work alongside the international community to ensure the domain’s sustainability, safety, stability, and security. We must lead in updating outer space governance, establishing a space traffic coordination system and charting a path for future space norms and arms control. 

“Working with allies and partners, we will develop policies and regulations that enable the burgeoning U.S. commercial space sector to compete internationally. We will enhance the resilience of U.S. space systems that we rely on for critical national and homeland security functions. These efforts aim to protect U.S. interests in space, avoid destabilizing arms races, and responsibly steward the space environment,” the document states.

By contrast, the Trump strategy emphasized the role of space as a domain of warfare. It stated that “any harmful interference with or an attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.”

U.S. national security strategies are mandated by the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. They are written by each presidential administration to communicate its priorities to Congress. The National Security Strategy in turn informs the Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy and more detailed DoD-led reviews on the nation’s nuclear posture and on missile defense. 

The Biden administration had planned to release its National Security Strategy in the spring but the document had to be revised in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sullivan told reporters Oct. 12.