There comes a point at which tomorrow becomes today. For the U.S. national security approach to space that moment is now.
We are into the second decade of the 21st Century and the U.S. is at a critical point in its evolution as a space-going nation. The Space Shuttle program has ended and civilian satellite technology and sensors are catching up to military counterparts.
Yet the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community are more dependent on government and private-sector space-based assets than ever. With that dependence comes vulnerability. Unfortunately, it is getting easier, not harder, to thwart America’s battlefield edge by targeting its satellites giving an adversary an asymmetric advantage over the world’s most powerful military.
In this light, the Defense Department and policymakers need to consider a national space strategy that develops a faster rate of launch than the U.S. currently is capable of. It also needs to pursue a more affordable approach. Private-sector interest in space launch is growing, as are government’s options to shake up the way it contracts with newcomers as well as the companies whose names are intertwined with America’s historic successes in space. For industry, it means being open to longtime customers turning to alternative contracting models in order to get better value for taxpayers and higher capabilities for warfighters.
This is a moment in the defense community for innovation and adaptation. Sticking to the status quo will not work when it comes to national security and space. Our adversaries know that already.