[Defense in Brief] U.S. running out of time to win in space

There is an arms race accelerating in space, and while the U.S. currently leads in terms of capability, that is rapidly changing as China and Russia accelerate development of technologies that can defeat American systems.

That warning was made by Air Force Gen. Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, who said the United States is losing its edge in a very strategically important domain.

“The strength we have today is based on the sheer mass and numbers of capabilities we put up over the years. It dwarves any adversary we face,” Hyten said Dec. 2 at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

He said the U.S. can win in space today but “it’s not prepared to fight in the future.”

“I’m worried about the future. Somehow this country lost the ability to go fast. I don’t know how that happened,” he said. “We take four years to study a problem before we do anything. We do four years of risk reduction on technologies we built 50 years ago.”

He noted that peer competitors are building anti-satellite jammers and lasers, which they will use to eventually target American satellites.

“They are building this to change the balance of power in the world. We can’t allow that to happen,” Hyten said.

Worse, he said many in the Pentagon do not understand the nature of the emerging threat.

“We don’t have that much time anymore. We have to change the way we do business. If we don’t do something differently, our advantage in five years may be gone. Ten years from now we could be behind. That is unacceptable,” he said.

He also lamented that it could take as many as 12 years for the Air Force to procure a new missile-warning constellation to succeed the Space-Based Infrared System, or SBIRS.

“All I need is a commercial bus that we can buy from anybody, I don’t care. I want it to fit in the current ground system so I don’t have to buy a new one,” he said, adding that existing commercial satellites could do the job in 36 months. [source]

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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