Some recent space leadership phrases to ponder…

One of my goals for RealSpaceStrategy, was to ensure that my readers have more of the context than is provided in the standard press and speeches to aid in understanding and developing better and more realistic strategy for American spacepower. One of the main themes of late has been on senior government officials and commercial sector leaders making comment on issues of the day with certain rhetorical devices. I would like you all to take a look at two and think about them a bit…ask yourself if they make sense….?

  1. “A War that Extends to Space”
  2. “Contested, Degraded and Operationally Limited Environment (CDO)”

First, I have heard and read that many leaders such as General Hyten have used the phrase “A war that extends to space” to describe what the United States “must prepare for”. Recent SpaceNews articles have quoted him and others on this through various Congressional hearings and meetings. I have personally heard Gen. Hyten (and others) state that “there is no such thing as space war, just a war that extends to space”. The thought to ponder is…what is the difference from a space war to a war that extends to space? In this phrase could be a focus on the geopolitical (Earth centric political) issues, in other words, as Colin Gray would put it, war is an extension of politics and politics involves people. Where do people live (currently…not counting ISS)? On Earth. So…wars that include spacepower are really wars that are about and on Earth. Ok….if that’s the argument, I can accept that. However…does this line of thinking still apply when the wars first shots are in space as many writers and analysts seem to be predicting? What of the argument that given an “attack” in space varies across a spectrum of counterspace that includes reversible means as well as destructive means…could that be labeled a space war that extends to Earth or is it still a war that extends to space because the objective is still geopolitical in nature?

It can also be suggested, for means of discussion, that the phrase “war that extends to space” could be a means to deflect from the issue at hand, namely the lack of true deterrence and protection of our nation’s critical space infrastructure. Given most of the infrastructure that is critical to our instruments of national power and our way of life are ground infrastructure that operates and maintains space operations, could it still be considered geopolitical as it supports people and improves their lives here on Earth? By extension, could we say that spacepower in all its segments (Ground, space, electromagnetic) is a countervalue target?

Second, Air Force space leaders have been using the phrase CDO to describe the “current space operating environment.” If this is true, I wonder if the folks that created it have thought of the following: Saying that we are in a contested, degraded and operationally limited” means that our deterrence strategy as enumerated in the National Security Space Strategy has failed. If our space systems are degraded and operationally limited it means we are not at 100% capacity. It means we have been taking hits and have sustained damage by an adversary or adversaries who have “contested” our right of freedom of maneuver in space. Something that treaty supporters might say is supposed to be the “status quo”. If it has been degraded and our deterrence has failed, one would think that we would do something to correct it, or have corrected things before it came to this. Instead, the Air Force has put out a White Paper (and several others have followed at the tactical level) that imply that the way to fix this is through improved training, tactics and a battle management command and control system. My question is this: how can you call it a battle, when we don’t have the capacity to inflict similar damage to a KE ASAT or a laser platform? How is it a battle when the only one getting hit is us? More to follow but something to ponder…



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