Space

The Defense nominee by Biden supports the concept of space as a war domain

Summary

President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin informed lawmakers on January 19 that China is the “most concerned competitor” of the United States and described space as an increasing national security issue in written testimony. Austin stated in […]

President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin informed lawmakers on January 19 that China is the “most concerned competitor” of the United States and described space as an increasing national security issue in written testimony. Austin stated in a statement sent to the Committee in charge of Senate Armed Services, “If approved, I will ensure that the space domain is considered carefully across the spectrum of impending strategic assessments.” The day before the inauguration of Biden, the SASC conducted a nearly 4-hour confirmation session in Austin. He will be the first secretary of defense who is an African-American for the country.

To be approved, Congress needs to grant a waiver because, as required by statute, Austin has not been excluded from the military for 7 years. Though several legislators have said they are resistant to having such a waiver, it is predicted that Austin will be confirmed. Austin labeled space “an area of great power rivalry” in written remarks. He supported the prevailing thought in the national security space community which United States platforms must be more robust and survivable against the anti-satellite weapons. “Major and growing risks to United States national security interests are present in Russian and China space activities,” Austin said. “While Russia is a key opponent, China is a growing threat.”

Austin did not discuss whether it was a smart idea to set up the United States Space Force as well as the United States Space Command, both actively championed by the government of Trump. He said independent committees, policymakers and several governments had proposed a military space restructuring for years. “If approved, I will evaluate the existing structure to ensure that defense space enterprise is positioned to most efficiently support our national security goals,” Austin affirmed. He acknowledged that the Department of Defense space enterprise “still not well aligned with other services as well as terrestrial commands and that there are many other challenges that will have to be tackled.”

More generally, he stated, considering the significance of space as an engine of global competitiveness, “it is important to strive to establish best practices, standards as well as international standards of space behavior.” Austin cautioned that, because of turbulence and the risk of crashes in orbit, commercial operations in space are a problem for the military. He acknowledged that thousands of the modern satellites would be sent to space in the coming years, most privately owned and controlled. In the way that the government wants to guarantee that they do not clash with costly and exquisitely capable government properties, this poses a challenge to the United States.

Neither of the senators questioned Austin on some space policy concerns during the session. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has referred to the Trump regime’s latest plan to relocate United States head office Colorado-to-Alabama Space Command. Heinrich reflects one of the sites that contested to house Space Command, the Kirtland Air Force Base. Austin questioned the recruitment process, and Heinrich was asked to “look more closely” at how the selection was made.  He will do so, Austin stated.

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