What the new National Security Space Strategy Should Have Addressed

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
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The new (January 2011) National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) has been signed by the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. The overarching theme is this: DoD and the intelligence community (IC) like what they’re getting from space and want to preserve this position. In fact, DoD and the IC even have the stated objective of enhancing the national security advantages space gives the United States despite the fact all the current trends are moving us away from these goals.

These current trends acknowledge that space is congested (crowded with debris, satellites, and radio frequency interference), contested (potential adversaries can mitigate the benefits the U.S. receives from space through space warfare), and competitive (others are catching up to U.S. space systems and capabilities).

So what does the NSSS suggest to sustain our unprecedented advantages and address these trends?

No brainers: enhance U.S. space situational awareness (SSA); improve our ability to attribute events in space; strengthen our space resilience; improve space acquisition.

Flashing yellow lights: support code of conduct-type efforts; U.S. provides more SSA-type information, largely as a ‘global utility.’

Missing in action from the NSSS is specificity:

  • Definitions and terms. What does it mean to ‘enhance our space capabilities,’ to ‘energize’ and ‘foster a healthy’ U.S. space industrial base?
  • Partnering. Who will we partner with that we’re not already: China and Russia? Are they ‘responsible nations’ per the NSSS?

The NSSS’s unclassified summary is chock full of “we will” and “we will continue to” type statements.

But instead of “we will” statements, a strategy would be better served to offer “how we will” statements. For example, what will DoD and the IC be doing differently to energize the industrial base? How will resources be applied differently than they are today towards U.S. space capabilities? What will DoD and the IC do to get export controls reformed?  How will they develop current and future national security space professionals, and “support an entrepreneurial ethos” that encourages “initiative, collaboration, resourcefulness, and resilience”?

Sadly, the "we wills" are most of what the NSSS is: boiler-plate, soft, squishy language that describes goodness and goals. What’s missing is the hard work of strategy which will revise the methods and resources we use to achieve all these inherently desirable outcomes and will show us if we’re getting better in space…or worse.

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Comments
  1. Coyote says:

    Space Farmer,

    I had a very interesting discussion this weekend with a very high-vis leader in the civil space community (so high vis that I can’t say NASA). He or she shared with me his concern that we were already doing most everything talked about in the new space policy and strategy in the last administration. He commented that the authors of the NSP and NSSS were fighting an unfounded stereotype of the last administration. “It is as if they believed their campaign rhetoric vilifying the last administration and deifying their own.” They seem oblivious to the fact that most of the “change” they seek was resident in the last administration’s documents–and actions. International partnerships and cooperation were already well ingrained in our security and civil space programs. There may not be much room for additional “change.”

    So, when the administration sends their inspectors out, he thinks all we need to do is show them what we were doing and tell them how much we like the new NSP and the NSSS. They are inclined to believe their own rhetoric.

  2. […] What the new National Security Space Strategy Should Have Addressed – Songs of Space and Nuclear War […]

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