U.S. Space Force’s First Space Doctrine Signals Expansive Plans

 In Land, Sea, Cyber/ICT, Uncategorized, Air, Environment

The U.S. Space Force released its first space doc­trine today, the foun­da­tion upon which future doc­trine will evolve and “serves as a key guide­post for the ethos and values of the nation’s newest armed ser­vice.”  The “cap­stone” doc­trine, Spacepower, envi­sions an expan­sive role for Space Force far beyond Earth orbit.

Since the begin­ning of the Trump Administration, U.S. mil­i­tary lead­ers have been dri­ving home their mes­sage that space no longer is a benign envi­ron­ment, but a warfight­ing domain just like air, land, sea and cyber. The reestablishment of U.S. Space Command and the creation of U.S. Space Force as a sixth mil­i­tary ser­vice emerged from that par­a­digm.  Space Force describes its cen­tral role as defend­ing the space domain.

Eight months after President Trump signed the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act that found­ed Space Force as part of the Air Force, it now has its own doc­trine, sep­a­rate from the other mil­i­tary ser­vices.

Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations for the Space Force and Commander of U.S. Space Command, said the doc­trine explains why space­pow­er “is a vital ele­ment of U.S. pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty” and “guides its employ­ment in mul­tido­main oper­a­tions.”

The basic prin­ci­ples of Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower, are —

  • “The United States desires a peace­ful, stable, and acces­si­ble space domain. Strength and secu­ri­ty in space enables free­dom of action in other warfight­ing domains while con­tribut­ing to inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty. The U.S. must adapt its nation­al secu­ri­ty space orga­ni­za­tions, doc­trine, and capa­bil­i­ties to deter and defeat aggres­sion and pro­tect nation­al inter­ests in space.”
  • “The space domain is the area above the alti­tude at which atmos­pher­ic effects on air­borne objects becomes neg­li­gi­ble. The value of the space domain arises from an abil­i­ty to con­duct activ­i­ties with unri­valed reach, per­sis­tence, endurance, and respon­sive­ness, while afford­ing legal over­flight of any loca­tion on the earth. Because of these attrib­ut­es, space­pow­er is inher­ent­ly global.”
  • “Military space forces are the warfight­ers who pro­tect, defend and project space­pow­er. They pro­vide sup­port, secu­ri­ty, sta­bil­i­ty, and strate­gic effects by employ­ing space­pow­er in, from, and to the space domain. This  neces­si­tates close col­lab­o­ra­tion and coop­er­a­tion with the U.S. Government, Allies, and part­ners and in accor­dance with domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al law.”
  • Space oper­a­tions are not only global, but multi-domain — “ter­res­tri­al, link, or space.”
  • The U.S. Space Force values “orga­ni­za­tion­al agili­ty, inno­va­tion and bold­ness.”

Inherent in DOD’s expo­si­tion of the impor­tance of space, and space­pow­er, is a recog­ni­tion of how depen­dent not only the mil­i­tary, but soci­ety as a whole, is on satel­lites. While it has been true for a very long time, the gen­er­al public and many gov­ern­ment offi­cials seem large­ly unaware of the role satel­lites play in every­thing from weath­er fore­casts to cell phones to auto­mo­bile nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems. The doc­u­ment lists mass com­mu­ni­ca­tions, finan­cial and eco­nom­ic infor­ma­tion net­works, public safety, weath­er mon­i­tor­ing, and mil­i­tary tech­nol­o­gy among the ben­e­fits of space sys­tems that make access to space “essen­tial to U.S. pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty.”

“National space­pow­er,” there­fore, “is the total­i­ty of a nation’s abil­i­ty to exploit the space domain in pur­suit of pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty.”

The space domain is described as having three dimen­sions: phys­i­cal, net­work, and cog­ni­tive. The phys­i­cal dimen­sion com­pris­es three nested orbital regimes: the geo­cen­tric regime where Earth’s grav­i­ty dom­i­nates, which is nested within the cis­lu­nar regime where the com­bined Earth-Moon grav­i­ty dom­i­nates, which is nested within the solar regime of the Sun’s grav­i­ta­tion­al field.

With that def­i­n­i­tion, Space Force appar­ent­ly sees itself as having domin­ion over space through­out the solar system as pro­tec­tor of U.S. gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sector enti­ties engaged in space explo­ration and the exploita­tion of resources.  NASA and U.S. com­pa­nies already are plan­ning such activ­i­ties in cis­lu­nar space (between the Earth and the Moon) and on the Moon.

The United States is a sig­na­to­ry to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that declares space is for peace­ful pur­pos­es. The doc­trine acknowl­edges that, but adds a caveat.

… no domain in his­to­ry in which humans con­test policy goals has ever been free from the poten­tial for war.  In keep­ing with inter­na­tion­al law, the United States acknowl­edges that the use of space is for peace­ful pur­pos­es, while prepar­ing for the real­i­ty that space must be defend­ed from those who will seek to under­mine our goals in space.

Spacepower is “a crit­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of the high ground in modern war­fare” that must be har­mo­nized “with other instru­ments of power to pro­tect, defend and main­tain U.S. strate­gic inter­ests in space.”

To that end, the doc­trine iden­ti­fies three “Cornerstone Responsibilities of Military Space Forces.”

Source: U.S. Space Force. Space Capstone Publication: SPACEPOWER Doctrine for Space Forces. August 10, 2020,

The doc­u­ment has a com­bat­ive tone in parts, saying, for exam­ple, that “mil­i­tary space forces must stead­fast­ly pre­pare to pros­e­cute the appro­pri­ate amount of vio­lence against an oppo­nent sub­ject to strate­gic objec­tives, legal and policy restraints.” Asserting that “space war­fare is a vio­lent clash of oppos­ing wills,” the doc­trine argues that the adver­sary is “never a space­craft or some other inan­i­mate system.” Instead the target is “the mind of an adver­sary and seeks to neu­tral­ize their capa­bil­i­ty and will to resist.”

Thus, mil­i­tary space forces must pre­pare to outwit, out­ma­neu­ver, and dom­i­nate think­ing, com­pe­tent, and lethal aggres­sors who are attempt­ing to thwart U.S. actions.

Military space­pow­er itself cannot win wars, but “its suc­cess, absence, or fail­ure could prove cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly deci­sive in war.”

Raymond observes in a Foreward that the doc­trine is sub­ject to the “poli­cies and strate­gies that govern its employ­ment.” Spacepower pro­vides inde­pen­dent options for National and Joint lead­er­ship, but “achieves its great­est poten­tial when inte­grat­ed with other forms of mil­i­tary power.”  Only through inte­gra­tion and inter­de­pen­dence with the other mil­i­tary ser­vices can Space Force hope “to unlock spacepower’s full poten­tial.”

The doc­u­ment reflects work over the past year by a vol­un­teer team of Air Force per­son­nel rang­ing from Technical Sergeant to Colonel, as well as one Army space pro­fes­sion­al. Some inter­na­tion­al input was gath­ered through a Space Force summit in February that includ­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Victoria Samson, Director of the Washington Office of the Secure World Foundation, told SpacePolicyOnline.com that she likes the prin­ci­ple that space is a “peace­ful, secure, stable, and acces­si­ble space domain,” but is unsure whether this doc­trine will lead to that “as its focus on threats tends to under­cut that some­what.”  She agrees, how­ev­er, that anti­satel­lite tests dating back to 1959 demon­strate that space “never has been a benign envi­ron­ment” and Space Force does need its own doc­trine.

Source: Space Policy Online

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