Partnerships key to success in space, policy chief says

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported the Ascent Abort-2 test flight launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, July 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by James Rainier)

Stephen L. Kitay, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, spoke Sept. 30 at an Atlantic Council event in Washington.

The nation is at a strategic inflection point for space, and at that inflection point, officials are looking at the reliance on space systems that are at an all-time high and expanding, Kitay said. “This is both for our way of war and our way of life,” he added.

The threats the United States faces in the space domain also are at an all-time high and expanding, Kitay said.

“The threats are real, serious and growing,” the space policy chief said. “China and Russia, in particular, are pursuing counter-space capabilities which are serious, and the department is really preparing to make sure that we can respond to these threats.”

The world is changing, and DOD needs to change with it, he noted — changing to preparing for space not only as a support function, but also as a domain that must be viewed from a deterrence and competition perspective while preparing to assure, protect and defend U.S. capabilities.

Such a transformation is a profound change for DOD, Kitay said, adding that actions in space will affect the outcome of future conflicts and crises. And the department can no longer just think about sending satellites into space, he added, without thinking about key concepts such as resilience and preparing for affecting those outcomes at the start of the programs.

A key element of these changes is the U.S. Space Command, which activated in August as the nation’s 11th combatant command and is focused on deterrence and operations. Kitay said that’s a starting point. “But next is the Space Development Agency, and this is an agency focused on providing capabilities rapidly to our warfighters, and then the Space Force,” he said.

The United States has a strategic imperative to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, and it will be focused on the capabilities, people and doctrine of the domain, Kitay said. And partnerships are part of the equation, he added.

“There is a new energy on partnerships,” he said. “In the past, space was a domain of relatively few actors, and … that has also changed. So not only does the [United States] depend on space for its security and its way of life, but so do our allies and partners. In other domains — air, land and sea — we have learned to work together in coalitions, and different countries bring different capabilities, different authorities, different people to those coalitions. But [what] is common is a common vision.”

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