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Hyten: Our Job is to Ensure No War in Space, But ...

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Apr-2017
Updated: 07-Apr-2017 06:38 AM

General John Hyten (USAF), Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), said today that "our job is to make sure war does not extend into space" if possible.  At the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, he repeatedly invoked the Command's motto "Peace is Our Profession," but added there is an implied "dot dot dot" at the end of that phrase for those who want "to go in another direction."

Hyten assumed his current post after serving as Commander of Air Force Space Command so is completely versed in national security space matters.  He testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Tuesday, the same day that Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow and Air Force Chief of David David Goldfein announced organizational changes to "reflect the reality that space is a joint warfighting domain" as Disbrow phrased it.

At USSTRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for all U.S. strategic forces, including nuclear command and control.  At the hearing and today, Hyten stressed that his first priority is strategic deterrence, but that a 21st Century approach to deterrence is needed that moves beyond the focus on nuclear weapons to incorporate space and cyberspace.  "If deterrence fails," however, "we will be prepared to deliver a decisive response."

For that, space systems are essential -- from early warning to communications to weapons delivery. Thus it is critical to know what is going on in space -- space situational awareness (SSA) -- which requires an integrated approach encompassing allies and the commercial sector.

The Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base includes personnel from all the U.S. military services plus Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada, Hyten explained, adding that a new Multinational Space Collaboration (MSC) program is underway to bring in other close allies, starting with Germany.  Another U.S. organization was created to merge the military JSpOC with the intelligence community.  Originally called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC), Hyten announced at the hearing and today that it was just renamed the National Space Defense Center to better convey its purpose -- to facilitate decision making "if we ever see a threat scenario" in space.

The commercial space sector also must be involved in SSA, he continued.  Companies working with JSpOC today, however, "come on their own dime" and because there is no contractual relationship, it is difficult to share information. "I asked the Senate for help" with that, Hyten said, but did not provide details on what remedy he requested. It was not discussed during the open hearing on Tuesday, but he also met with SASC during a closed session on Wednesday.

"There is no such thing as war in space.  There is just war," Hyten stressed.  The goal is to prevent conflict from moving into space, but if it does, the United States and its allies need to deal with it. 

Hyten's speech today was livestreamed on USSTRATCOM's Facebook page.


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