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Shanahan, making pitch for Space Force, warns U.S. falling behind rivals

April 9, 2019 GMT

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is warning that space has become a warfighting domain and the U.S. military is not moving quickly enough “to stay ahead” of rivals such as China and Russia.

Speaking at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Mr. Shanahan rolled out the department’s plan to consolidate space defense into three parts: the U.S. Space Force, U.S. Space Command and the Space Development Agency.

“We are not going to sit back and watch we are going to act,” he said Tuesday. “We are going to deter conflict from extending into space, and ensure we can respond decisively if deterrence fails.”


Mr. Shanahan said rivals such as China and Russia “have weaponized space with the intent to hold American space capabilities at risk.” The threats include GPS-jamming systems, directed-energy weapons, ground-based laser systems and hypersonic weapons.

The U.S. is not currently “capable of tracking” some of these weapons, he said.

The acting defense secretary said that the Space Force, an idea that President Trump has pushed aggressively, is the “largest change,” and will be responsible for organizing, training, and equipping a military force.

A small force, the newest branch will initially be comprised of 15,000 to 20,000 people drawn from existing forces, Mr. Shanahan said

He echoed what many critics of existing space efforts within the Pentagon have argued for years, that today’s space experts “go through a professional military education system focused on either air, land or seapower. Space is an add-on, a supporting effort, not the focus.”

The Space Force will cost each American about $1.50 per year, an additional cost about a tenth of 1 percent of the Pentagon’s budget, Mr. Shanahan said.

The Pentagon has been defending its budget proposal on Capitol Hill as it called for an increase of about 3 percent. Mr. Shanahan called on lawmakers, many of whom have been skeptical of the need for a separate new force, to pass the proposed budget on time.

“With help from Congress, we will create the Space Force and ensure the focus is on growing warfighter capability not bureaucracy,” he said.

“We are starting now because we refuse to fall behind,” he added. “We can outpace our competitors and make it impossible for them to contest our dominance in space.”