March 14, 2014, WASHINGTON (AFNS) – If potential adversaries are to challenge the United States, they must do so in the space domain, the Defense Department’s top space policy official told Congress here March 12.
Douglas L. Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, joined by Gen. William L. Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee on the department’s space program posture.
“Over the last 15 years, other nations have watched us closely,” Loverro said. “They have recognized that if they are to challenge the United States, they must challenge us in space. And they are endeavoring to do so. The United States has successfully addressed such challenges before in air, sea and land domains, and now we must, likewise, respond in space.”
This must be done against the backdrop of decreasing budgets that challenges both the ability and speed with which the United States can act, he said, adding that this in no way diminishes the importance of successfully sustaining the crucial advantages that space provides.
“Our strategic approach for these issues remains consistent with what we outlined in the 2011 National Security Space Strategy and reaffirmed in DOD space policy in 2012,” Loverro said.
While Loverro acknowledged he is concerned about the contested nature of space, he said it remains important to national defense.
“Space remains, and will continue to remain, vital to our national security,” he said. “It underpins DOD capabilities worldwide at every level of engagement, from humanitarian assistance to the highest levels of combat. It enables U.S. operations to be executed with precision on a global basis with reduced resources, fewer deployed troops, fewer casualties and decreased collateral damage.”
Space empowers U.S. forces and allies to win faster and to bring more warfighters home safety, he said.
“It’s a key to U.S. power projection,” Loverro said, “providing a strong deterrent to our potential adversaries and a source of confidence to our allies.”
But the evolving strategic environment increasingly challenges U.S. space advantages, he said, because space no longer is the sole province of world powers — it is a frontier that is now open to all.
Space has become more competitive, congested and contested, Loverro said, referring to that condition as the “so-called three C’s.” As an American, he said, he welcomes the competitive aspect of today’s space environment.
“I’m highly confident that, with the right policies, the U.S. is well positioned to remain ahead in that environment,” Loverro said.
The changes Congress authorized two years ago on export control reform, Loverro said, coupled with changes NASA and DOD have embraced on commercial launch, are just two of the many reasons he isn’t concerned with the competitive nature of space.
“On the second ‘C,’ congestion, I am not quite so welcoming,” he said. “But I am optimistic. Congestion and debris in space is a real issue, and it threatens to put our use of space at risk.”
Loverro praised efforts such as the Air Force’s Space Fence program that are aimed at reducing this risk, as well as the work DOD, the State Department and the United Nations are doing internationally to set “rules of the road” for outer space. The space situational awareness sharing that U.S. Strategic Command is leading, he said, also is aimed at bringing a similar focus on this issue to the community of space-faring nations.
Shelton voiced similar concerns regarding the contested margin of U.S. advantage in space.
“Our nation’s advantage in space is no longer a given,” he said. “The ever-evolving space environment is increasingly contested, as potential adversary capabilities grow in both number and sophistication.”
The general said providing budget stability and flexibility in the dynamic, strategic space environment is necessary to maintain and bolster the viability of the nation’s space capabilities.
“Given this new normal for space, I believe that we are at a strategic crossroads,” he said. “It is a reality that requires us to address how we protect our space systems, challenge traditional acquisitions practices and consider alternative architectures that are more resilient and more affordable.”
Shelton thanked the committee for supporting the military space policy program. “I look forward to working with the Congress to keep you abreast of our efforts to provide resilient, capable and affordable space capabilities for the joint force and for the nation,” he said.