Op-Ed | Striving for security in space
An attack on America’s space assets would deal a devastating blow to our everyday way of life. When we think about satellite technology, many think first about satellite television or the Global Positioning System we use to help navigate around town. Cellphone towers are dependent on the timing signals sent from GPS satellites to correctly synchronize and ensure our access to the network. Likewise, those same timing signals are used by computer networks, financial markets, and even some electrical power grids around the country. Other technologies housed in space are responsible for things like weather forecasts, ATM access and credit card usage. Without satellite networks, nearly every form of digital communication would be severely degraded as bandwidth limitations in ground-based communication pipes would reduce speed and reliability almost instantly. In other words, our way of life is dependent on consistent and assured access to satellite-enabled technology.
For our armed forces, access to space may be even more important. U.S. military forces rely on space domain capabilities for everything from intelligence gathering, remotely piloted aircraft operations, and weapons guidance to verification of arms control agreements and logistics.
Unfortunately, while space was once a safe haven for our force-multiplying assets, it has become a contested domain in which our near-peer competitors are aggressively seeking to close the capability gap in space and neutralize our military overmatch. China is developing and deploying a number of counter-space technologies including both kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities. Its emphasis on space is reflected in its reorganization of its space forces and military strategy which defines space as the “new commanding heights in strategic competition.” Not to be left behind, Russia also continues to add to its considerable arsenal with new weapons specifically designed to counter U.S. space capabilities.
During World War II, Air Force Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold made the case to Congress that “the United States required a peacetime military establishment designed and structured to deter war.” He recognized that securing our way of life and ensuring our national defense meant maintaining a strong, capable military force, even in times of peace. At the time, Arnold made this case in order to highlight the need for an independent Air Force able to quickly and decisively respond to and deter threats around the globe.
Today, the Trump administration recognizes the same need to ensure our security through strength in the space domain as Gen. Arnold recognized for the air domain. Lawmakers in the House passed reforms to the national security space enterprise, including the creation of a Space Corps, in our FY18 defense bill. The legislation received broad bipartisan support in the House, so it will be interesting to see how Democrats treat the issue. Is their support for these reforms predicated on whether or not they’re endorsed by President Trump? Whatever the future holds for defense space, Colorado’s 5th Congressional District is sure to play a major role.
Colorado Springs is home to the National Space Defense Center, the Joint Force Space Component Command, Air Force Space Command, the 21st and 50th Space Wings, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command-U.S. Army Strategic Command (Forward), the National Guard’s 100th Missile Defense Brigade, the National Security Space Institute, and over 70 tenant units throughout the Defense and Intelligence communities, all conducting space operations and support functions.
As the state with the nation’s highest concentration of aerospace jobs — with more than 26,000 employees and a payroll of $3.3 billion — and largest aerospace economy on a per capita basis, Colorado’s contributions to the space industry are ingrained in its culture. The entire national security space enterprise benefits from the expansive space industry talent pool found throughout our state, both government and civilian. The many engineering and space-related programs throughout the state’s college system, the space situational awareness missions and space launch industry in Denver, the defense space industrial base in Colorado Springs, and a robust network of technology incubators and accelerators create a unique ecosystem of innovation throughout the Front Range.
The president has recognized the serious threats to our nation’s space capabilities and has responded with bold proposals to ensure our country’s well-being. As Gen. Arnold once said, “our security can in the future be threatened suddenly and with terrific destructive power.” Congress will continue to work with the administration to provide the resources and organization necessary to deter such threats and safeguard our interests. Whatever the future holds for national security space reform, I am proud to know that the vast resources found in the Colorado Springs area are already working to protect our nation. As the Department of Defense prepares to defend our interests in space through warfighting operations, no community is more prepared to help lead that effort than our own. Simply put, Colorado Springs is the epicenter of national defense space activities.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.