American military involvement in space will
become more critical to national security in coming years, said U.S. Space
Command’s top officer.

“Most anyone involved in military operations, whether military or civilian,
would tell you space is becoming increasingly important,” said Gen. Ralph E.
Eberhart, SPACECOM commander in chief.

U.S. Space Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.,
coordinates the use of U.S. military and civilian space assets to support,
enhance and control space operations and computer-network defensive and
offensive missions. It is one of the nine unified commands in the Department
of Defense that have operational control of U.S. combat forces.

Satellite imagery, missile warning and targeting information that
space-based systems provide have proven their military worth to U.S. defense
planners throughout the past decade, Eberhart said. That data, for instance,
contributed to victory during Operation Desert Storm and the 1999 Kosovo air

“Look back to how we leveraged our space assets in Desert Storm, compare
that to Kosovo — or how we can leverage them even today as we have made
advancements since Kosovo — and I think it is obvious how important and how
much we rely on capabilities that are resident in our information that moves
through space,” he said.

Sometime in April, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is expected to
provide his formal response to recommendations in a report issued Jan. 11 by
the Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and
Organization. Prior to his nomination to be secretary, Rumsfeld chaired the
commission, which, among other things, sought to determine if any changes
need to be made to improve the United States’ national security posture and
capabilities in space.

Six months of research and interviews with the country’s leading space
experts, including Eberhart, convinced the commission that space should
become a top national security priority.

“We’d be kidding ourselves if we said we couldn’t do it better, (and) our
goal ought to be to do it better tomorrow,” Eberhart said.

For example, DOD space specialists could make more effective use of
available communications bandwidth, and become better at processing and
disseminating information “to get inside the enemy’s decision-cycle,” he

“We gather data,” Eberhart said. “How can we change that data to information
which can lead to decisions? That is the real key. We’re working hard, we
have some wonderful people out there, and we have a great partnership with
industry, with commercial suppliers.”

A Rumsfeld space commission news release called the likelihood of future
conflict in space “a virtual certainty.” Because of this, the commission
noted, the United States should take immediate steps to develop superior
space capabilities.

Some critics say the United States will not need such enhanced capabilities
for 25 years or more, when a peer may arise to challenge America militarily
in space. Other critics say there should be no military use of space, but
Eberhart said he believes this has already occurred.

“We have, in fact, militarized space,” he said. “We use space assets, space
information for military applications. “We’ve been doing that for decades.
The trend is increasing, not just the United States of America, but also
other countries, friends, and possible foes.

“So, I think we’ve crossed that bridge,” he said.