By Joe Lacdan, Army News ServiceJune 8, 2019
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Growing threats from U.S. adversaries in space could make the Army vulnerable in future conflicts, leaders said Friday.
"Our adversaries know that our military technologies depend on our assets in space," said Maj. Gen. John George, deputy director, Army Futures and Concepts Center. He spoke at an Association of the U.S. Army symposium in Southern California on space and the network.
As he saluted the heroism shown on D-Day, George also contrasted the physical scale of that operation with what we may be challenged with in the future operational environment. "Even on a tactical level, our Soldiers rely on capabilities from space and the (Army) network. China doesn't need 7,000 ships. Its ability to launch satellites which could disrupt our equipment or even destroy our satellites gives them the capability to move from the competition phase to conflict almost unnoticed."
A 2017 Russian cyberattack on an American construction company in Oregon showcased how easily a U.S. communications system could be attacked, George said. He added the U.S. has also suspected Russia of sending ships off course and disrupting military exercises.
"Space isn't the final frontier anymore," he said. "We're there. Russia is there. China is there. It's not just space; it's contested space."
"To defeat our adversaries' efforts to create standoff, the Army must continuously and rapidly integrate space and cyberspace capabilities into the fight," he said.
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Army Missile and Space Defense Command, cited two concerns as the Army tries to position itself for future space dominance in multi-domain operations: the first, emphasizing the importance of assured access to space capabilities and applications. And the second, how that access relates to the service's continually-evolving warfighting concept for growing adversarial threats.
Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, said that the Army's growing dependence on GPS navigation for its communications and ISR systems could leave formations vulnerable should the GPS system fail. He said the service should consider developing alternative options to the satellite-based system.
"Our current dependence on GPS is so high, that a loss of confidence in that capability could be catastrophic," George added.
To help prepare for the growing threats in space, the Army recently stood up the first I2CEWS Battalion or Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
In addition to providing for defenses against offensive and defensive cyberattacks, the battalion conducts intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by using special multi-domain sensors. I2CEWS also leverages joint and national assets that identify, detect and locate enemy communications and weapons systems.
The end result: I2CEWS' space capabilities provide greater maneuverability for U.S. forces and its allies while preventing adversaries from hacking into U.S. networks, Dickinson said. He added the Defense Department is "working to rapidly meet" President Trump's intention of establishing a space force should it receive Congressional approval.
"(The space force) will fundamentally transform our approach to space from a combat support function to a warfighting domain of competition and potential conflict," Dickinson said. "It will institutionally elevate space relative to its role in national security."
Should a space force become established as the sixth military branch, the Army will retain its space capabilities that directly support its ground combat forces, he said.
In March, the Pentagon established the Space Development Agency to develop next-generation space architecture that will enable U.S. military operations to build a technological advantage and accelerate space capabilities.
The establishment of the multi-domain operations concept has helped offset potential adversaries' ability to achieve standoff by covert means in space and cyberspace, Dickinson added.