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American Forces Press Service

Work: Space Domain Presents Challenges, Threats

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 16, 2015 – In a candid and passionate speech, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work yesterday asked members of the space community to help the United States maintain its edge in the space domain in the 21st century.

Work spoke to more than 200 people from industry and government at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The space domain is an increasingly important area for the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people, the deputy secretary said.

'Space Architecture Faces Increasing Risks'

"Space architecture faces increasing threats and together we must think about those challenges," Work said in his speech.

The world is seeing a reemergence of strategic competition, which was dormant since the end of the Cold War, a senior defense official said, speaking on background.

Since the end of the Cold War, space has been a relatively benign environment, but that has changed, the official said. China, for example, tested an anti-satellite capability in January 2007, destroying one of its weather satellites as it traveled more than 500 miles above the Earth, the official said.

Russia also has capabilities that could reach into space, and the United States can no longer assume that space will not be contested, the official added.

Work stressed that the U.S. national security space architecture is resilient, but it is facing increasing threats, and America must think about and act on those challenges.

'Space is Deeply Enmeshed in Our Force Structure'

"Space is deeply enmeshed in our force structure and is central to our way of deterring, assuring and warfighting," the deputy secretary said.

The U.S. military cannot be complacent and must emphasize space control as challenges arise, he said.

Officials said that to maintain dominance in space, the United States "must consider all space assets, both classified and unclassified, as part of single constellation. And if an adversary tries to deny us the capability, we must be able to respond in an integrated, coordinated fashion."

The deputy secretary stated the ultimate goal for the United States is to maintain space capabilities, through all phases of conflict, regardless of actions to deny the ultimate high ground.

The symposium was a perfect place for such a candid talk, the official said on background. Those in the space industry know they are important to the nation, "but it was a call for them to think hard about the future of national security in space."

Work asked the audience to look at how the nation thinks of deterrence and stability in this emerging world where space assets might be held at risk.

"It was a really positive and candid interchange," the official said. "It was not your average bureaucratic speech. [Work] was very animated and passionate about this issue. Space, cyber, [and] nuclear are core issues for us as a nation."

Protecting Space Assets

In an environment where space assets are at risk, "you want to be able to be sure that the [space] community is thinking about how to protect them and the services they provide," the official said. Industry and government must work together on the design and architecture of space systems, the official said, to make them perform better and make them less vulnerable.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Work have consistently stimulated strategic thinking in the department, and this has cut across all domains, the official said, noting a common factor in the domains is the contribution from space.

"You can't be serious about strategic thinking and about deterrence in the 21st century if you are not talking about space," the official said.

Looking at the core elements of what DoD does to defend America, its allies and its interests, it is clear that space is increasingly important, according to the official.

"Strategy dictates that if something is getting more important to core objectives it has to place higher on your hierarchy of needs," the official said. "It's important that we manage it in the right way."

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