Former President Donald Trump founded and funded the U.S. Space Force as the sixth arm of the military in 2019, noting that “American superiority in space is absolutely vital.”
The current administration evidently agrees with Trump on at least this: To deter aggression in this present age, America will need to “control the ultimate high ground.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration submitted to Congress a 2024 budget request of $842 billion for the Department of Defense, representing a $26 billion increase over the fiscal year 2023 budget and $100 billion more than in FY 2022.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin noted in a March 13 statement that the “FY 2024 budget is the most strategy-driven request we’ve ever produced from the Department of Defense.”
“As our National Defense Strategy makes clear, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is our pacing challenge,” said Austin.
“This budget seeks to meet this critical challenge today, tomorrow, and into the future by providing the resources today to continue to implement our National Defense Strategy and keep our nation safe while delivering a combat credible Joint Force that is the most lethal, resilient, agile, and responsive in the world,” added Austin.
With the nearly $842 billion, the DOD hopes to defend the homeland and keep up with the “multi-domain threat” posed by communist China; deter strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies, and its partners; deter aggression, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region; and build a resilient joint force and defense ecosystem.
Extra to modernizing military equipment, locking down a full complement of hypersonic missiles, and ensuring traditional forces are ready for a showdown with a possible Sino-Russo military alliance, the DOD wants over $30 billion for Space Force — roughly $3.9 billion over what it received in FY 2023.
According to Austin, this is will cover “vital space capabilities, resilient architectures, and enhanced space command and control.”
The Pentagon wants an additional $3.3 billion (an 11% increase of FY 2023) to ensure Space Force core readiness.
To this end, the spending request includes plans to train the Space Force’s Guardians, ensuring they are ready for battle, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal noted “training will be critical. The physics and the mechanics of steering objects through space at more than 17,000 miles an hour give attackers the advantage they lack on the ground.”
$350 million has been requested for simulators and other facilities so that Guardians can hone their skills waging cosmic battles remotely.
Readiness will ultimately mean the capacity to handle both threats from space and threats to space assets.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15, “Both China and Russia continue to develop, field, and deploy a range of weapons aimed at U.S. space capabilities.”
“The spectrum of threats to U.S. space capabilities includes cyber warfare activities, electronic attack platforms, directed energy lasers designed to blind or damage satellite sensors, ground-to-orbit missiles to destroy satellites, and space-to-space orbital engagement systems that can attack U.S. satellites in space,” Saltzman added.
The DOD’s budget overview notes that the U.S. also faces a threat from the anti-satellite weapon capabilities that “have made a resurgence in the past decade, with a number of different Russian military ‘Cosmos’ satellites believed to be designed to kinetically kill satellites in low Earth orbit.”
To provide American forces and equipment protection on Earth and beyond, Saltzman said, “we are accelerating the pivot towards resilient satellite constellations, ground stations, networks and data links.”
While the U.S. presently has the advantage in space, its superiority is not guaranteed.
According to a 2022 Defense Intelligence Agency report entitled, “Challenges to Security in Space,” the combined operational space fleets of China and Russia grew by roughly 70% between 2019 and 2021.
“China and Russia … are developing various means to exploit the perceived U.S. reliance on space-based systems and challenge the U.S. position in the space domain,” said the report. “Beijing and Moscow seek to position themselves as leading space powers., intent on creating new global space norms. Through the use of space and counterspace capabilities, they aspire to undercut U.S. global leadership.”
China’s 2020 “Science of Military Strategy” document from the country’s National Defense University stated, “Space has already become a new domain of modern military struggle; it is a critical factor for deciding military transformation; and it has an extremely important influence on the evolution of future form-states, modes, and rules of war. Therefore, following with interest the military struggle circumstance of space and strengthening the study of the space military struggle problem is a very important topic we are currently facing.”
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