Time to Revive Space Defense!


"[S]pace capabilities are critical for effective deterrence, defense, and force projection capabilities. . . Due to the critical importance of these assets, the national security strategy states, ‘any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.'" Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood

After less than a month on the job in the Pentagon's top policy position, John Rood made clear in a House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, hearing last Wednesday that the United States must prepare for war should  China, Russia, or other adversaries attack vital U.S. satellites and other space systems. He said U.S. space systems are essential for "our prosperity, security and way of life."

More specifically, he said our "space capabilities are critical for effective deterrence, defense, and force projection capabilities. . . Due to the critical importance of these assets, [our]  national security strategy states, ‘any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.'"

This new declaratory policy is a sharp break from the Obama administration's policies that emphasized transparency and arms control initiatives that sought to limit space weapons and conflict in space.  It, no doubt, will be opposed by China and Russia - who are exploiting the benefits of space operations while seeking to limit U.S. responses by such arms control constraints. 

Rood was joined in this important hearing by USAF General John E. Hyten, Commander of US Strategic Command - and a previous Commander of US Space Command.  In addition to being an outspoken advocate for major modernization of our aging strategic and space systems, he also is an outspoken advocate for dealing with the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat. Click here for my October 10, 2017 discussion of some of his very important publicly articulated views. 

Click here for additional information in an important related article by Bill Gertz, which discusses the current state of our ability to deter, recognize and/or defend our key satellites from attack, including an ability to rapidly replace or restore satellites after attacks or other disruptions. Without mentioning EMP, he notes the Defense Science Board last year warned the vulnerability of U.S. satellites to electronic attack was "a crisis to be dealt with immediately."

In particular, Gertz notes that General Hyten reported that the Joint Staff intelligence directorate warned earlier this year that China and Russia will have fully developed space attack weapons in place by 2020 that will threaten all U.S. satellites in low earth orbit - 100 miles to 1,200 miles in space. 

He also reported that our adversaries will deploy hypersonic strike vehicles - that can travel at more than 7,000 miles per hour in the next few years. China has conducted at least seven tests of hypersonic vehicles and Russia as well has conducted several hypersonic missile tests. Click here for an informative article on the related race for hypersonic weapons.

Click here for my discussion last week of Russia's President Vladimir Putin's related claims, which I believe should mandate that we expedite our efforts to deter and defend against such hypersonic vehicles, as General Hyten urged in his testimony. And he stated his interest in developing missile defenses capable of knocking out missiles in the early stages of flight - as well as cyber attacks.

Undersecretary Rood said U.S. missile defenses currently are configured for countering missile threats from North Korea and Iran and are not capable of stopping strategic strikes from China and Russia, and that China and Russia are now the "central challenges" for the Pentagon in an increasingly complex military threat environment. "Both Russia and China are seeking to reshape the world order," he said.

In answer to a direct question about deterring Russia and China with the U.S. doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, General Hyten said: "I don't think we have to worry about that for at least a decade."

Countering the hypersonic threat is the top priority for Dr. Michael Griffin, the new Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering - as he told the former Directors of the Missile Defense Agency immediately after being sworn in a couple of weeks ago, for or with whom he has worked since Ronald Reagan's March 23, 1983 speech that launched his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) thirty-five years ago next week.

Griffin's bono fides for his new post are legion, beginning when I first heard of him in the early SDI days of the mid-1980s, when he was at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and led the SDI team that accomplished award winning Delta 180 experiment in space.

Click here for a detailed discussion of the first experiment in space that provided "proof of principle" that SDI could in time provide the basis of building truly effective space-based interceptors to shoot down ballistic missiles in their accelerating "boost phase" while their rockets still burn. 

I remember it well, because it and others of the Delta series of space experiments gave us great negotiating leverage in Geneva, leading to the first arms control agreements in history actually to reduce nuclear arms.  And America's clear leadership is such matters led Ronald Reagan's strategic partner, Britain's Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, to say: "SDI ended the Cold War without firing a shot." Click here and here for my previous discussion of her contributions, including her speech just after Saddam Hussien went into Kuwait on August 2, 1990, when she notably said:

"I firmly believe that it was the determination to embark upon that SDI program and to continue with it that eventually convinced the Soviet Union that they could never, never, never achieve their aim by military might because they would never succeed." ~ Margaret Thatcher, August 2, 1991 at SDI's National Test Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado

She no doubt was reflecting on the fact that President Reagan walked out of the October 1986  Reykjavik Summit because Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev's demand that we restrain our experiments involving space-based defenses to the laboratory - which would have killed our most important SDI efforts, such as the Delta Space experiments that Mike Griffin led. See the Time Magazine below.

Griffin has held many other important positions in the private and public sectors since leaving SDI as Deputy for Technology on my watch as SDI Director, including as NASA Administrator and CEO of private high technology companies.  He is eminently qualified to lead the Pentagon's research and engineering activities and will no doubt pay particular attention to the key role of space in countering the missile threat to the United States and our overseas allies and friends. He and John Rood should make a most impressive team, and with top priority given to the hypersonic threat.

Click here for a Defense News report based on a related speech that Griffin gave at the McAleese/Credit Suisse conference last Tuesday, in his first public comments since taking office, elaborating this view. He argued that he will be looking to invest more in both offensive hypersonics capabilities and ways to defend against the threat, with new budget items likely to appear in the fiscal 2020 budget. In emphasizing that the goal is to leapfrog the work of China and Russia, he stated:

 "I didn't take this job so that we could regain parity with our adversaries. As I've taken to saying: ‘I want to see their hand and raise them one. I want to make them worry about catching up with us again. . . Any American, any ally or partner that we have who doesn't see it that way, I don't have time for you.'"

The necessity, in Griffin's mind, comes from the way hypersonic weapons can put at risk America's ability to project power. He is quoted to have emphasized that,

"When the Chinese can deploy [a] tactical or regional hypersonic system, they hold at risk our carrier battle groups. They hold our entire surface fleet at risk. They hold at risk our forward-deployed forces and land-based forces. . .  Without our ability to defend and without at least an equal response capability on the offensive side, then what we have done is we have allowed a situation to exist where our deployed forces are held at risk and we cannot do the same for them. . . And so our only response is either to let them have their way or to go nuclear. And that should be an unacceptable situation for the United States."

USAF Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is reported to have also expressed concern over where the U.S. is on hypersonic technology development, although he noted that gap is not yet fatal. "We have lost our technical advantage in hypersonics," Selva said Jan. 30. "We haven't lost the hypersonics fight."

USD(R&E) Griffin will have additional Pentagon allies. USAF LGen. Samuel Greaves, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the pace at which Russia and China are "researching, developing, testing, delivering weapons systems" requires his agency to take the hypersonic threat seriously - so defense will be a player, as evidenced by Griffin's first previously mentioned visit with present and past MDA Directors.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) budget for hypersonic weapons has increased steadily over the last two years, and more funding will inevitably be welcomed by supporters of the technology - as I am sure Mike will advocate.

Moreover, click here for a March 1, 1018 Space News article emphasizing that "DARPA sees a clear path to faster, cheaper space technology," music to my ears to possibly revive the space-based interceptor system concept that was the first fully approved Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) during Reagan's SDI era - cancelled by the Clinton administration and since remained dormant. And the DARPA Director reports to Mike Griffin.

So we have a great leadership team in the making in top Pentagon  positions and they can lead a revival of the best of the SDI era and move beyond those earlier advances, based on all that has happened since it ended a quarter century ago. 

Bottom Lines.

As noted last week in reacting to Putin's bluster, remember "Forewarned is Forearmed!"

Now is the time to "Go back to the future!" by following the model set by President Ronald Reagan. 

How the detailed substance of the Trump administration's Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review executes the President National Strategic Strategy will tell the tale!    

The next shoe to drop will be the Missile Defense Review, that is led by USD(P) John Rood.  And we'll be watching with great interest for reports of related progress led by USD(R&E) Mike Griffin.

Stay tuned . . .  

What can you do?

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all "powers that be" to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Ambassador Henry F. Cooper is Chairman of High Frontier and a former Acquisition Executive for all U.S. ballistic missile defenses.  He also served in several other senior USG acquisition and policy positions, including as President Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union. He is currently focused on helping local, state and federal authorities protect against the natural and manmade EMP threat by building effective ballistic missile defenses and hardening the electric grid. Otherwise, loss of the electric grid would freeze America's "just in time" economy, leaving most Americans without means for survival.


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