Six Space Questions the Senate Asked Gen. James Dunford

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WASHINGTON – As part of his Senate confirmation process to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford said the protection of the military’s satellites should be a higher national security priority.

Dunford submitted 75 pages of answers to questions submitted by lawmakers in advance of his July 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The responses were posted on the committee’s website as the hearing got underway.

Excerpted below are all the lightly-edited, space-related questions and answers:

What do you consider to be the most significant challenges you expect to face if you are confirmed?

The current security environment is extraordinarily complex and volatile. We face challenges from state actors including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. We are also engaged in a long- term fight against violent extremist organizations. We are in the midst of a critical transition in Afghanistan. While dealing with these issues, we face the need to modernize the Joint Force in the context of fiscal challenges and budget uncertainty. Particular areas of concern are our cyber capabilities, space capabilities, modernizing the nuclear enterprise, and assuring all domain access for the Joint Force. We must navigate this environment while maintaining our flexibility to deal with the unexpected.

If confirmed, what changes, if any, would you propose to the capabilities, structure, roles, and missions of the defense establishment?

The defense establishment is extremely complex. If confirmed, I will work with the Service Chiefs, Combatant Commanders, and Joint Staff to identify needed change to the capabilities, structure, roles, and missions of the defense establishment. Our cyber, space, and nuclear capabilities will be areas of particular emphasis.

In your view, what have been/will be the impacts of the reduction of $115 billion in projected spending in the FY 2015 budget, in line with the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review?

The FY15 budget request assumes higher risks in some areas, but this budget helps us to remain the world’s finest military—modern and capable even while transitioning to a smaller force and resetting readiness over time. The $115 billion reduction refers to the difference between the PB15 (FYDP) submission and the BCA sequestration levels across FY15-19. Funding to the sequester levels removes the flexibility to respond to emergent challenges (i.e., increasingly contested space and cyber domains, a resurgent Russia, the Ebola response, and the rise of ISIL), while also being able to execute our defense strategy.

China’s test of an anti-satellite weapon in 2007 was a turning point for the United States in its policies and procedure to ensure access to space. As a nation heavily dependent on space assets for both military and economic advantage, the United States has to make protection of space assets a national priority. Do you agree that space situational awareness and protection of space assets now has the appropriate level of national security priority?

No. Both are in need of attention in order to securely and effectively project U.S. military power.

In your view, how should China’s continued development of space systems inform U.S. space policy and programs?

China is rapidly developing space capabilities of its own that both mirror U.S. capabilities and could threaten our access and use of space for national security purposes. If confirmed, I will review our efforts to address China’s developments in space, and will coordinate closely with the Secretary of Defense.

If confirmed would you propose any changes to National Security space policy and programs?

If confirmed, I will continue to review our policies and programs to ensure U.S. warfighters can continue to depend on having the advantages that space confers.