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March 15, 2023

Chairman King: “We Owned Space for a Long Time,” Now We Need to Compete in Space

Watch Senator King’s opening statement HERE and questioning HERE

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, is urging the Space Force to invest in capabilities that will deter and confront Russian and Chinese aggression in growing areas of space competition. In a hearing of the Subcommittee, Chairman King questioned the Space Force Chief of Space Operations, General Chance Saltzman, on efforts to prepare for a potential conflict in space, counter anti-satellite technologies, and develop international space norms.

In his opening remarks, Chairman King warned that a modern war will see conflict across every domain, including space.

“There is no such thing as a conflict in space by itself,” said Senator King. “Any conflict will involve all domains, the land, the sea, the air and now space – all together – at once.”

Questioning General Saltzman, King stressed the need to develop counters to Russian and Chinese anti-satellite technologies.

“[Space aggression] is a relatively new concern. We owned space for a long time,” said Senator King. “But the Russians and the Chinese have been very active in anti-satellite technology, so we need to be developing counters to that in order to maintain credible deterrent. Is that correct?”

“Absolutely and I think it’s about how fast can we go,” General Saltzman replied. “My weak analogy is converting the Merchant Marines into the U.S. Navy. We have a bit of a ways to go before we can take our legacy platform that we've got so much utility out of and some much capability from but convert them to providing the same or better capabilities while being able to perform in contested domain. We’ll have to make that transition as rapidly as possible.”

The Chairman also asked the Space Force Chief about the possibility of developing international norms around space.

“Several times you've mentioned the possibility of norms, developing international norms. Expand on that, is it a realistic possibility?” asked Senator King. “Will the Chinese and the Russians talk about international norms in space?”

“Unfortunately, the norms they are talking about are not norms we would support. They have kind of shown a propensity to not support the ones we want to support – this is a battle of narratives of international norms,” declared General Saltzman. “What I can tell you is when I talk to my counterparts in the other nations, they are interested in this. The Secretary of Defense issued his tenets for responsible behavior and U.S. Space Command followed up with even more details. Those are all widely viewed from my peers as helpful in establishing what it means in a like-minded set of nations with responsible behaviors in space. We have an initiative called the Coalition Space Operation Initiative which is seven countries that have also detailed what responsible behaviors means; very consistent with the Secretary of Defense's tenets. I think this is a widespread understanding that we have to behave a certain way in order to maintain a safe, secure, sustainable space domain. I believe there's widespread agreement for that.”

“Is the State Department engaged in this discussion as well?” Senator King continued.

“They are,” confirmed General Saltzman:

“I think that would be an important aspect of moving this forward. Very important initiative,” concluded Senator King.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, Senator King is recognized as an authoritative voice on national security and foreign policy issues. He recently pressed the Commander of United States Space Command on the threat of GPS systems being targeted in a conflict and the need to train forces on alternative navigation methods like celestial guidance.

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