ASD Space Policy Keynote Address Unveils Strategic Vision for 2024 and Beyond

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April 10, 2024 — Secretary of Defense John F. Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, outlines a bold strategy for the U.S. in space during the 2024 Space Policy Symposium.

In a significant keynote address at the 2024 Space Policy Symposium, Secretary of Defense John F. Plumb, the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, provided a comprehensive update on the United States’ space defense strategy. His speech, delivered on the heels of aggressive space and terrestrial maneuvers by global adversaries, emphasized the critical role of space in national security and outlined the strategic vision underpinned by what he referred to as the “Four C’s”: space control, space cooperation, space classification, and the newly added, commercial space integration.

Context of Urgency

Appointed in the turbulent times following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, Secretary Plumb has witnessed firsthand the escalating tensions and the burgeoning role of space in modern warfare. Both Russia and China have made clear their recognition of space as pivotal to the U.S. way of war, developing various means to threaten U.S. satellite systems. This backdrop sets the stage for the U.S. Department of Defense’s focus on China as the primary challenge in space, highlighting the dual necessity of deterring potential conflicts and prevailing should deterrence falter.

Innovations and Adaptations

The space sector’s rapid innovation, particularly in the commercial domain, has not gone unnoticed. The U.S. is facing a strategic environment that is rapidly evolving and does not favor the unprepared or the inflexible. Secretary Plumb emphasized that his tenure has been marked by significant efforts towards adapting to these changes, focusing on the integration of commercial space capabilities which promise not only innovation but also cost-effectiveness and speed—qualities that are much needed within the Pentagon.

Detailed Strategic Updates

Space Control

The keynote delved deep into the progress made in space control since Secretary Plumb’s appointment. Following a Space Strategic Review initiated by the National Security Advisor, the U.S. has sharpened its focus on establishing resilient space architectures to deter adversaries. This resilience is aimed at ensuring that U.S. and allied forces can continue to rely on critical space-based services despite potential attacks on satellites. The address highlighted the pivotal June issuance of the President’s Space Security Guidance, which aligned with the review’s outcomes and set a strategic direction for space defense efforts.

Space Cooperation

On space cooperation, Secretary Plumb outlined the expansion and strengthening of international partnerships under initiatives like the Combined Space Operations Initiative (CSpO) and Operation Olympic Defender. These efforts are geared towards enhancing interoperability and operational capabilities with allies, thereby strengthening overall space defense.


TABLE 1 – Advancing Space Cooperation: Insights from the CSpO Annual Event

The annual event, held in December 2023, brought together DOD political and military space leadership from the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and also welcomed three new members of CSpO: Italy, Japan and Norway. The 10 members of CSpO discussed opportunities to further advance both operational cooperation and information sharing for the space domain.

Established in 2014, the initiative is a multinational partnership. Its stated mission is to generate and improve cooperation, coordination and interoperability to sustain freedom of action in space, optimize resources, enhance mission assurance and resilience, and deter conflict. Defense leaders discussed the emerging security challenges and explored ways to cooperate to prevent conflict in space.

The nations’ representatives emphasized the need to continue to promote a rules-based international order and responsible behavior in space, while collaboratively addressing challenges to the safety and security of space-related operations. Participants from the U.S. included John Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Space Force Gen. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations; and Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command.

“Cooperation with our allies and partners is essential to promoting responsible space operations and protecting our interests in the domain. Expanding this cooperation in the space domain is one of my top priorities, and I was extremely proud to have Italy, Japan and Norway participate at the principals’ board for the first time. Through CSpO, we will collectively work to reinforce the safety, security, stability and long-term sustainability of space,” Plumb said.

“The CSpO Initiative is an important forum for improving coordination and integration while striving toward combined space operations. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with our allies and find avenues to optimize resources and build resilience,” Dickinson said.

“The U.S. Space Force is committed to deterring conflict and reinforcing the security of the space domain,” said Saltzman. “Our partnerships are strengthened through CSpO, and this coalition of like-minded nations enhances our ability to address the complex challenges we collectively face.”


Space Classification

A major thrust of Secretary Plumb’s address was the issue of overclassification within space activities, which hampers operational cooperation. His office has spearheaded efforts to rewrite legacy policies that restricted information sharing, aiming to enhance cooperation with allies and streamline the integration of space strategies into defense operations.

Commercial Space Integration

The newest focus, commercial space integration, was highlighted as a critical area, with the Pentagon looking to harness the commercial sector’s rapid innovations. The recently released Commercial Space Integration Strategy outlines efforts to incorporate commercial solutions into defense operations, emphasizing peacetime and conflict readiness.

Looking Forward

As global dynamics evolve and the importance of space in warfare and security becomes ever more evident, the U.S. is poised to adapt and lead under the strategic vision outlined by Secretary Plumb. His address not only reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to maintaining space as a safe, secure, and stable domain but also set a clear path forward for integrating advanced commercial technologies into national defense strategies.

This keynote marks a pivotal moment in defining the future of U.S. space policy, with implications that will likely shape the international security landscape for years to come.


TABLE 2

To present the detailed information from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy in a structured and comprehensive manner, I’ll create a scheme table. This table will categorize the key points under the framework of the Four C’s: Space Control, Space Cooperation, Space Classification, and Commercial Space Integration, providing an organized summary of the initiatives, challenges, and strategic directions mentioned in the text.

CategoryDescription
Space ControlObjective: Ensure U.S. and allied capabilities to deter conflicts in space and prevail if necessary.
Space Strategic Review (SSR): Initiated to assess U.S. capabilities against growing threats, particularly from China, confirming space as an operational domain needing defense.
Resilience: Focus on developing resilient architectures to withstand potential attacks, reducing adversaries’ incentives to strike U.S. satellites.
Counterspace Options: Consideration of counterspace capabilities to protect U.S. forces and allies from space-enabled threats.
Space Security Guidance: Presidential approval of strategic direction on space, focusing efforts on resilience and deterrence.
Space CooperationObjective: Strengthen integrated deterrence through international partnerships.
Combined Space Operations Initiative (CSpO): Expanded to include new members like Italy, Japan, and Norway, moving towards combined military operations in space.
Operation Olympic Defender: Led by U.S. Space Command, aimed at enhancing cooperation and operational capabilities with allies.
Bilateral Dialogues: Engagements with countries like India and Japan to enhance space domain awareness and cooperation.
U.S.-Japan UN Security Council Resolution: Support for norms against placing WMDs in orbit.
Space ClassificationObjective: Enhance operational cooperation in space by reducing overclassification.
Policy Revision: Comprehensive rewrite of outdated space classification policies to reduce barriers to information sharing with allies and industry.
Operational Integration: Ensuring that classified capabilities are integrated into war plans and exercises to improve joint and combined operational effectiveness.
Commercial IntegrationObjective: Leverage commercial space innovations for national security.
Commercial Space Integration Strategy: Released to outline the Department’s approach to integrating commercial capabilities into military operations across all conflict spectrums.
Integration and Security: Focus on pre-crisis integration and establishing security conditions to enable seamless operational reliance on commercial solutions.
Support for Commercial Development: Strategies to assist commercial space entities in scaling operations where interests align, including financial protections and support for safety norms.
Transparency and Accountability: Strategy maintained unclassified to ensure transparency.

This table encapsulates the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy’s comprehensive approach to enhancing the United States’ space capabilities and readiness through the outlined strategic priorities. It also highlights the commitment to cooperation, both with allies and commercial partners, to ensure a secure and resilient space domain.


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