Of the 11 Defense Department combatant commands, the U.S. Space Command has the largest area of responsibility — starting at 100 kilometers above the earth and expanding into infinity, said its commander.
Army Gen. James H. Dickinson said each of the other combatant commands — as well as the commercial sector, allies and partners — rely on the space-based assets and capabilities that Spacecom defends.
Space-based interests are under significant threat by adversaries determined to negate the advantage space brings to the United States, Dickinson said today at a live, virtual Aerospace Nation event hosted by The Mitchell Institute.
“The space domain is competitive, congested and contested. Our competitors, most notably China and Russia, have militarized this domain and that requires us to proactively engage to protect and defend our interests there. That proactive engagement must be on our terms, so that we can operate fully and freely in the domain when, where and how we need to,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson provided a preview of five tasks he called the “commander’s strategic narrative,” which will be published later this week. The list outlines key concepts for how to ensure U.S. space superiority.
The first is to understand the competition, he said. Within that task is educating joint warfighters on adversary threats to space capabilities. “We have to train those warfighters to outmaneuver our enemies, and we have to innovate using bold approaches like disruptive thinking.”
The second key task requires building the command to compete and win and get to full operational capability. Sustaining a warfighting culture and adapting to a dynamic and changing strategic environment is part of this, he mentioned.
The third task is maintaining key relationships. “The complexity of operations in the largest and most challenging warfighting environment requires us to strengthen our alliances and attract new partners,” he said. “We must enhance interoperability through a joint combined and a partner approach to space warfighting operations. And we must unite around a compelling narrative focused predominantly on the concept that we work actively to retain and strengthen our space superiority. That narrative must also promote responsible behavior, responsible behaviors in space, over long periods of time, so they gradually become international norms.”
The fourth task is to maintain digital superiority, he said. “We must innovate to achieve and maintain our competitive advantage. We must evolve cyber operations in order to maintain an agile and resilient posture. And we must invest in game-changing technologies to include artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
The final task is integrating commercial and interagency organizations, such as what has been done at the National Space Defense Center, which is part of Joint Task Force-Space Defense, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. “This integration will help us promote responsible behaviors in space, advocate for greater space capabilities, and collaborate to solve mutual challenges with all elements of national power.”
On a different topic, Dickinson said the secretary of the Air Force made the decision to locate Spacecom’s headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
“The secretary selected Huntsville, out of a pool of extremely strong contenders, because it compared more favorably across a number of factors used to determine the best host city for headquarters. Those factors included mission, infrastructure, capacity, community support, and, quite frankly, cost to the Department of Defense,” he said.
For now, the headquarters will remain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on a provisional basis. Locating Spacecom to Redstone will take a number of years, as facilities need to be constructed, he noted.