The U.S. military’s Space Force is looking to develop partnerships with European countries to counter threats in orbit from the likes of Russia and China, according to General John W. Raymond, the Pentagon’s chief of space operations.
“We have seen what China and Russia have done in developing a suite of capabilities designed to deny our access to space,” Raymond told journalists Thursday following meetings in Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands aimed at building support for measures to provide “stability” in orbit.
Raymond said Beijing and Moscow had both developed jamming systems, targeted energy weapons and satellites installed with offensive weaponry, along with Earth-based missiles capable of taking out spacecraft.
“The space domain shifts from a peaceful, benign domain to [one] that is much more congested, much more competitive and much more contested,” he said.
He said the intention of the U.S. Space Force — launched at the end of 2019 — was simply to deter conflict from “beginning or extending into space,” but added that team-ups with countries are necessary to “stay ahead of a growing threat.”
France and the U.K. have also launched military space units over the last few years and Raymond said the U.S. already has a dialogue with both countries. The plan is to now widen that cooperation to include other friendly nations.
This month, Germany also officially opened its own space military unit.
“Partners are important to us, and there are opportunities for like-minded nations,” Raymond said.
The U.S. Space Force currently has 6,400 active duty staff — all officially dubbed “guardians” — helping to operate and defend military satellites along with navigation and observation systems such as the Global Positioning Service.
Below is a full rush transcript of the press conference by Special Briefing via Telephone with General John Raymond Chief of Space Operations U.S. Space Force.
General Raymond: I want to start off by saying I’ve been in Europe throughout this week, and I know – I’ve obviously been watching the headlines – about the flooding that has occurred throughout the region. And I just want to say that my thoughts and prayers are with those that have been impacted by these tragic events. So again, let me just start with that.
It’s been a really good week of meetings. I am – as Justin said in the introduction, I’m the Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Force, a service that stood up back in 2019, in December of 2019, committed to making sure that the domain is safe and secure for all to operate in. And one of the key – one of our key priorities from day one has been to facilitate and encourage partners – partnerships with like-minded nations. And so in this trip to Europe, I’ve had the privilege of being able to visit the Netherlands, Brussels, Luxembourg, and now I’m here in Madrid, Spain.
I think international partnerships are really important. It is clear that we are stronger together. But what we have seen is the domain, the space domain, shifts from a peaceful, benign domain to a domain that is much more congested, much more competitive, and much more contested. And we want to evolve those partnerships with likeminded nations in ways that provide mutual benefit and provide stability for operations in this domain.
We also are working very closely with NATO, and we continue to build on the already great relationships that we have with NATO and the NATO countries who we partner with. NATO is absolutely essential to deterrence and to defense, and I was really pleased last year when NATO identified space as an operational domain. NATO has also established, or named the establishment, of a space Center of Excellence, and also NATO has established a C2 center, a command-and-control center, a space center, in Ramstein. And we’re working very closely with each one of those.
The conversations this week have been really good. We have partnerships with each one of the nations that I visited. We’re expanding those partnerships, and look to expand those partnerships in ways, again, that are mutually beneficial. They’ve been focusing on space situational awareness, on the need to have – develop norms of behavior. We’ve talked about development of personnel. I’m really excited about where we are and where we’re headed. It’s a really, really exciting time to be in space.
And as I look at the challenges that we face, again with a very congested, very competitive, and very contested domain, I think there’s even more opportunities. And the opportunities stem from a commercial industry that’s thriving, that’s innovative, with technology that’s developing rapidly, and with international partnerships that allow us to protect and defend this domain and to establish safe and professional ways to operate in this domain, and primarily to deter conflict and to make sure that the domain is safe for all so economies can flourish, information can flow, and our nation’s security remains intact.
So with that as kind of opening comments, again, I’m really, really privileged to be here with you today. I’m excited about the discussions we’ve had this week, and I look forward to your questions.
Question: I think a lot of people remember when Space Force was stood up, but obviously, in the intervening year and a half, the world has been focused on COVID and other things. So could you just remind us of where Space Force is after a year and a half of its existence as a service?
General Raymond: We’ve made incredible advances in that short year and a half. And as you said, over the entire year and a half, largely over an entire year and a half, we’ve been under this global pandemic. The United States, because of the changing nature of the domain, decided and took an opportunity to elevate space in a couple of areas, one on – by standing up U.S. Space Command in August of ‘19, and then a couple months later in establishing an independent service, United States Space Force.
And the first year of our existence has really been focused on building this service. And so that’s – we’ve completely reorganized the national security space to be able to operate more effectively in the domain that we find ourselves in today. It’s a very flat, very agile, very small organization that can go fast. We’ve designed it purposefully to do that because the domain which we operate in requires that.
We have developed all the processes to bring people into our service and to – and what started out with one person in the Space Force back in December of ‘19 now has over 6,400 active duty guardians that are a member of our force. And we have about an equal number of civilians that are assigned to us as well. We’ve written the first doctrine for independent space power, and we’re proud of that document and it’s generating great conversations across the United States space enterprise.
We also have worked very hard to develop partnerships, as we’ve talked about, that I talked a little bit about in my opening comments, partnerships with the Intelligence Community, partnerships with other interagency partners in the United States, partners with commercial industry. And I think, as I mentioned up front, that’s a significant advantage that we have with an industry that’s flourishing. And then partnerships with our allies, and again, I’ll focus more on that as we go through the discussion.
So where we find ourselves, then, after 18 months as an independent service, we’re up and running, operating all the space capabilities that we had in the Air Force. And this year, the second year of our existence, we’re beginning to transfer capabilities in from other services, like the United States Army and the United States Navy. We’re bringing other people in from the other services, like all the other services in our Department of Defense. We now have individuals coming from the Marine Corps and the Navy and the Army into the Space Force. We’re focusing on integrating – integrating in a more effective way with the Department of Defense, with our interagency partners, with our allies, and, as I said, with commercial industry.
So I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress that we’ve made. It’s hard to believe it’s only been 18 months, with the amount of work that we’ve gotten done. And I’m convinced that we are better postured today than we were back in December of ‘19 to be able to operate in this domain, and to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space, and to respond to what it is that we see today and that we see on the horizon.
Question: You said there were 64 active duty guardians. Did I get that number right on the call just now?
General Raymond: That’s 6,400, six thousand four hundred.
Question: You said that you’d visited the Netherlands, Brussels, Luxembourg, and Spain. That doesn’t include France, which has also set up a space force, or the UK, which has also outlined plans for a similar initiative. I wonder why that is the case.
And the final broader question, General, is just when you come on a trip like this to Europe, what are you asking your European allies to do? Do you need more from them to team up with the U.S. Space Force?
General Raymond: So first of all, we have very strong partnerships with the countries that you mentioned. We work very, very closely with the UK. We work very closely with France. In fact, as you said, after the United States set up a Space Command in 2019, France stood up a space command. In fact, France is now developing that Center of Excellence for NATO. The UK has elevated space in their organizations. I have visited those countries in the past – in this past year. And so we have a very close relationship with them, and we continue to have that.
In addition, Germany just announced that they’ve established a space command this past week. We see Japan elevating space in their country. We see Australia elevating space. And so we’ve got a broad set of partnerships. The partnerships that I’m focusing on this trip are really new, emerging partners where we have a partnership, but we’re also eager to do more. And so the focus on this trip were those countries that were NATO countries that are emerging partners with emerging capabilities.
The discussions that we have are looking for ways to take our partnerships to a new level. We partner today in – for example, in allied communications. We partner today in having space situational awareness. We partner today with data-sharing, really looking now to develop those partnerships to other areas as well. And so the conversations that we’ve had are sharing information about the domain that we operate in, talking about the capabilities that these countries have and are developing, talking about the capabilities that we have, and where we have synergies, where we may be able to partner even more.
It is really important that we are stronger together. We have a group of partners, of likeminded nations, and it’s probably the thing that I am most proud of as we look over the course of the first 18 months of our existence. We have taken significant steps in elevating these partnerships from one-way partnerships to really robust partnerships. It’s so important to deter conflicts from beginning or extending into space and to keep the domain safe for all.
Question: This question has a couple of quick predicates. One is obviously there’s a lot of innovation in the space sector with very little agreement on what, as that innovation unfolds, on what qualifies as a weapon. Is a satellite that has those – that is capable or repairing, with a robotic arm that can repair another satellite a repair satellite or a hostile one? And then we’ve also seen recently a lot of really interesting statements out of the Japanese defense ministry about Russian and Chinese coordination in various ways, naval exercises, et cetera, and their defense white paper also flagged that those countries are working in the electromagnetic domain.
So I wondered, with that in mind, do you think we’re functionally in an arms race already in space, and to what degree do you think or perceive Russia and China as coordinating in that?
General Raymond: First of all, let me just say our goal is to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space. We do not want to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space. We want to operate in the manner – we want to deter that from happening. That’s why these partnerships are so important. We – it is clear, and in fact, we, the United States, have operated in a very transparent manner, shared data broadly across the globe, again, have global partnerships. And so we see what others are doing. I mean, it is clear. We have seen what China has done with – and Russia – has done in developing a suite of capabilities denied to – or designed to deny our access to space, everything from reversible jamming of communications satellites and GPS satellites, to directed energy weapons, to satellites on orbit that are designed to destroy U.S. satellites on orbit, to missiles that are being launched from the ground to destroy satellites like China demonstrated – Russia has the same type of program – and to cyber threats.
And so the best way we know how to deter conflict from beginning and from extending into space is to do so from a position of strength. We’re prepared to protect and defend our capabilities today, and I will – we will remain prepared to protect our capabilities into the future, and with partnerships that we enjoy with likeminded nations, like the countries that I talked about and like the other partners that we have, I’m convinced that we’ll be able to do so.
Question: Which new challenges is the Combined Space Operations Initiative facing amid the growing number and diversity of space actors?” And then, second: “Azerbaijan is a member of the Space Club. The country has already launched its third satellite and cooperates with its international partners for building a stronger space industry. How can the U.S. and Azerbaijan cooperate in this sphere?
General Raymond: Well, first of all, the Combined Space Operations Center is a command that we stood up – I’m sorry, the Combined Space – the Combined Space Force [sic] Component Command with the Combined Space Operations Center, we stood those – that organization up and that C2 center up back in August of 2019. It is a really important center for the United States. It’s the center where we provide command and control of – operational command and control of our capabilities. Its focus, its main focus, is on keeping the domain safe for and having the awareness of the domain, the space domain awareness, necessary to keep the domain safe.
We are also focused on making sure that our joint and coalition forces stationed around the globe have the space capabilities that they need to accomplish their mission. There’s nothing that we do today as a joint or coalition force that isn’t enabled by space.
The thing that we did back in 2019, we made it – we transitioned it from a joint force to a combined force, and that, again, is because it’s an organization that has partners embedded into it, and that provides us great advantage. So although the challenges are great, the opportunities that we saw, as I mentioned earlier, was to make this a combined operations and to capitalize on the partnerships that we enjoyed, had shared data broadly across all of our partners, and it’s providing – it’s providing us great advantage. I’m really pleased with the progress that they’ve made.
So I see – I see way more opportunities than I see challenges. But the domain is challenging. I mean, obviously, as I’ve talked about throughout this conversation, the domain is changing. It’s transitioned from a peaceful, benign domain – that’s based on the results of largely China and Russia – to a domain that is contested. And this center provides critical capabilities to allow us to operate the capabilities that are so necessary for – and not just our military in the United States and around the globe, but also for the average citizen of the world who, for example, relies on GPS. And so we’re committed to keeping this domain safe and the Combined Space Operations Center is a critical linchpin for us to be able to do that.
For countries that want – we want to work with likeminded nations. As I said, partners are important to us, and there are opportunities for likeminded nations that are committed to the peaceful use of space and for operating in a safe and professional manner to partner with us.
Question: Here. Thanks, General, again for doing this. I want to ask you a question about the budget process as that sort of rolls out. Lawmakers have expressed some frustration with what they believe is a failure to deliver timely reforms to space acquisition, with one lawmaker calling it just – the Space Force’s efforts so far as just minor tweaks around the edges. How do you respond to that and do you think the Space Systems Command that you’ve proposed will address their concerns?
General Raymond: We’ve made significant – so first of all, let me just start by saying it’s really important, and one of the main reasons why we established the Space Force, was to go fast and to stay ahead of a growing threat. We have – and what we’ve done over the course of the last 18 months is build a capability development process that includes much more than just acquisition. It starts with force design. We’ve established an organization to do that force design, and that work is seminal work that is really, really good and already delivering advantage for us.
We also then tackle the requirements, and we have the Joint Staff designated the Space Force as the department lead for requirements, for joint space requirements throughout the department. Again, that’s elevating the voice of requirements and all of it to go faster. On the acquisition side, we are very close to establishing the Space Systems Command, again, driving unity of effort across the department and having a tighter relationship with disruptive innovator organizations like the Space Development Agency and with other organizations that go fast, like the Space Rapid Capabilities Office. We’ve also established the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, which has also had some great, great successes in moving fast this first year.
Now, finally, we have brought unity of effort across the department inside the Pentagon. We’ve established forums – one that was designated in the National Defense Authorization Act called the Space Acquisition Council, and one that we established on our own called the Program Integration Council – to bring organizations together in the Pentagon, and the term that I use is get everybody rolling in the same direction. That’s paying dividends.
We have also, over the course of this year, defined and designed a space test program, an integrated test program focused on integrating contractor tests, developmental tests, and operational tests into an integrated test capability, and that’s, again, been designed. So I couldn’t be more happy with the work that is going on. There is still significant work to do, but we’ve got the pieces planned out and in place, already making a difference. And I will say that we are focused and committed to moving fast and developing the capabilities and the tactical timelines that we need to stay ahead of this growing threat and remain the best in the world.
General Raymond: First of all, let me just say thanks again to everybody for coming up. I do really appreciate the opportunity to talk about a – our Space Force, to talk about a really exciting and critical time in the space business and to focus our efforts on developing the partnerships. We enjoy great partnerships today, and in the conversations that we’ve had over the course of the week and that we’ve had previously, since the establishment of the Space Force, with a number of our partners; we see great value in working together, we’re stronger together, and I couldn’t be more excited. I think it’s one of the – I think as I said earlier: one of the most significant things that we’ve done is further the partnerships across the globe. And so with that, again, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and thanks, everybody, for taking time out, taking time from your day to be here.
General Raymond: I mentioned I had been there this year – I think it was a little over a year ago when I visited. I just wanted to get the timeframe right on that. And we just had France came to the Pentagon and visited with me, as did the UK, here recently. So we have routine dialogue with those, but I just wanted to clarify that. I think the visit that I had to both the UK and France was a little over a year ago, but I just wanted to clarify that.