Space and the Joint Fight

T

he world first saw the power of space to transform warfare in the 1991 Gulf War. In the years since, the U.S. military has come to depend heavily on space throughout its peacetime and combat operations.

Satellites acquired by the Department of Defense (DOD) principally provide protected communications; data for position and timing, terrestrial and space weather, missile launch warning and tracking, and space situational awareness; and experiments and other research and development activities. Satellites for reconnaissance and surveillance are the domain of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Today’s capabilities emerged over five decades of changing technologies and threats, factors that are now forcing earlier plans for legacy systems to be reconsidered. Technology has extended space progressively deeper into warfare, while potential adversaries are developing capabilities that could extend warfare into space. The former demands finding new arrangements to provide tactical space reconnaissance; the latter demands seeing more clearly how space is essential to the emerging joint fight. Exploiting the advances in technology calls for new capabilities, authorities, and processes; countering the advances in threats calls for assessing architectures, plans, and options to set priorities for mission assurance.

This article appeared in the National Defense University’s Strategic Forum, No. 275, February 2012.

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