DENVER – The US Space Force plans to request funding in the 2024 budget for space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, US Space Force deputy chief of space operations. USA on April 27 at the GEOINT 2022 Symposium here.
After decades of focusing on collecting geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) from space, the US military looks to GEOINT to track objects and activities in space.
“I imagine many of you would describe our appetite so far as insatiable,” said Saltzman. “I can tell you that it is only going to grow in the future. We will continue to be demanding clients and what we need from GEOINT is persistence both on the ground and in space to be able to position ourselves in the event of possible encounters or conflicts”.
During a keynote address near the conclusion of the GEOINT Symposium, Saltzman spoke about the growing threat to US spacecraft and the services they provide, such as GPS.
Specifically, Saltzman cited the Russian antisatellite test, the Chinese test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, radio frequency interference, cyberattacks on ground nodes, and “provocative in-orbit antisatellite demonstrations, such as firing projectiles.” In addition, potential adversaries “have developed advanced space-based targeting capabilities that put our joint force at risk,” he added.
To combat these threats, Saltzman called for training and equipping US forces to challenge irresponsible or aggressive behavior in space and to improve space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).
“Protecting and defending our space-based capabilities and defending our joint force from irresponsible or hostile use of space-based capabilities is why your Space Force was established,” Saltzman said. “Our Guardians must be trained and equipped to operate and prevail in a contested space domain against a thinking adversary. Failure to maintain our ability to attribute actions and deny threats and protect interests diminishes our leadership, our ability to deter aggression, undermining norms of responsible behavior and increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and conflict.”
While serving as a US Air Force officer in the Middle East, Saltzman recognized the importance of attribution.
“I’ve seen firsthand how the ability to attribute activities changes adversary behavior before activities are even executed,” Salzman said. “In short, the ability to attribute deters adversaries or at least constrains their behavior.”
Saltzman described how “bad actors” in the Middle East would “dismantle their attack systems and disappear because they saw us looking and didn’t want to be connected to the attack.”
If the Space Force takes over attribution as a military mission, there would be budget and resource trade-offs, “but I think it’s worthy of a community-wide discussion,” Saltzman said.
Whether or not the Space Force adopts attribution as a new mission, the service intends to improve space-based ISR.
“We are currently looking at what our potential role in space-based ISR will be,” said Saltzman.
Saltzman recognized the work of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office in working with commercial firms that provide data and services in this area. “We want to make sure our efforts don’t compete with, but rather complement, the work that’s already being done to identify, integrate, and make available commercial products and data to meet national security needs,” he said.
Before establishing the requirements for space-based ISR, the Space Force will seek industry input.
Traditionally, military agencies examine mission needs and write requirements before issuing a request for proposals that says, “Be creative and innovative within this container,” Saltzman said. “That’s not unlocking the potential of what the industry can offer. That does not help us to be at the forefront of technology.”
For space-based ISR, the Space Force will describe its operational challenges and desired outcome.
“Part of the work that our Space Warfare Analysis Center is doing is intended to … engage in a conversation with industry about the process,” Saltzman said. “So when we receive requirements, we already agree on what the innovation solution is or what we are going to do.”