Op-ed | Donald Trump’s “peace through strength” space vision
Editor’s note: Trump policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro return with a second op-ed detailing the approach a Trump administration would take on national-security space matters. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been invited to submit op-eds elaborating on the answers Clinton provided for our Oct. 10 article, “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump weigh in on U.S. space policy.”
America’s space program is suffering from significant under-investment — both the weak Obama-Clinton economy and a lack of strategic vision are major causes. Meanwhile, China and Russia continue to move briskly forward with military-focused space initiatives. Indeed, each continues to develop weapons explicitly designed, as the Pentagon has noted, to “deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy” America’s eyes and ears in space.
To address such emerging threats — and maintain U.S. strategic superiority in space — a “peace through strength” Trump administration will simultaneously strengthen our economy and manufacturing base while significantly expanding our civilian and military space budgets. Trump understands, as Reagan did before him, that without a strong economy, there can be no strong space program. It is not too bold to assert the maintenance of our technological and strategic superiority in space is vital not just to national security but to our very survival.
Today, every aspect of our military force projection worldwide depends on our on-orbit communications, observation, and intelligence gathering capabilities. Our ability to see and understand potential hostile activity and to respond promptly and accurately is ineluctably intertwined with our space capabilities.
While America’s space-based capabilities have made our military the world’s most powerful and effective, an over-reliance on our satellite network to provide situational awareness on the battlefield is now making America highly vulnerable to attack. Chinese and Russian strategists understand this better than our own government. That’s why they are now aggressively targeting our satellite networks – both military and civilian as the very concept of warfare broadens.
Against this emerging strategic chessboard, Donald Trump’s priorities for our military space program are clear: We must reduce our current vulnerabilities and assure that our military commands have the space tools they need for their missions. We must also reduce the cost of space access and create new generations of satellites to deal with emerging threats.
The future military necessity of using smaller force projection into hostile arenas will demand the speed and agility that only space-based assets can supply. Addressing current vulnerabilities will, for example, require new generations of smaller, more robust constellations of satellites.
Because of their sheer numbers, constellations of micro-satellites will be much harder to attack. To maintain and constantly upgrade these constellations, in turn, will require new technologies such as persistent platforms, capable of robotically servicing and refueling satellites in orbit.
A Trump administration will also lead the way on emerging technologies that have the potential to revolutionize warfare. For example, both China and Russia are aggressively moving forward with a range of hypersonic weapons that are very difficult to defend against with traditional air-defense interceptors. A Trump administration will increase the coordination between DARPA, NASA, and the private sector to ensure the U.S. remains well ahead of the technology curve.
To move boldly forward, we must recognize that many of our military needs can be met with commercially available launch, communications, and observation capabilities. This business-oriented approach will reduce costs while accessing new advances on a timeline significantly quicker than current, outdated military procurement procedures.
Such an increased reliance on the private sector will be a cornerstone of Trump space policy. Launching and operating military space assets is a multibillion-dollar enterprise employing thousands, spurring innovation, spinning off civilian applications like GPS, and fueling economic growth. Today’s backward-looking acquisition policies must be immediately and substantially reformed as a priority action.
A key Trump goal will be to create lower costs through greater efficiencies. We must ensure that space products developed for one sector, but applicable to another, will be fully shared, not duplicated. It makes little sense to develop numerous launch vehicles at taxpayer cost, all with essentially the same technology and payload capacity. Coordinated policy could end such duplication of effort and could likely determine where there are private sector solutions that do not necessarily require government investment.
America must continue to be a bright star in space that people all around the world will continue to look up to with admiration, assurance, and hope. No space goals will be more important to Donald Trump than defense of our nation and that a freedom-loving people will lead the way to the heavens above.
Robert Walker is former chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and former chairman of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. Peter Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine and author of “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World.” Both are senior policy advisers to the Trump campaign.