In a shocking tweet, last night at 11:09 PM, US Strategic Command calmly informed the world that America may be bracing for a serious nuclear conflict imminently. And, almost simultaneously, US Space Force Commander issued a grave warning to America: “…highly capable competitors realize the extraordinary military and economic advantages that space-based capabilities give to the United States and our allies” What do these two well-planned and striking statements portend for America in the future?
The US Strategic Comand tweet read as follows:
“Posture Statement Preview: The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”
#USSTRATCOM Posture Statement Preview: The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option. pic.twitter.com/4Oe7xkl05L
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) April 20, 2021
A posture review informs Congress on the state of Strategic Command. It is also used to justify its budget requests for 2022.
Commander Charles Richard and US Space Command’s Commander James Dickinson are likely covering this topic during their Senate Arms Services Committee testimony, today at 9:30AM as well as House Armed Services Committee testimony on Wednesday at 4:00PM.
“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state,” the four-star admiral wrote…
The Pentagon must shift from a principal assumption that nuclear weapons’ use is nearly impossible to “nuclear employment is a very real possibility,” he urged in the new survey.
Government and military leaders need to better understand the new dangers of nuclear conflict and fashion new concepts of deterrence and — if needed — nuclear war-fighting strategies.
The deployment of advanced strategic forces by China and Russia calls for greater action by the United States to bolster deterrence in the face of new threats. Deterring both nations through crises or ultimately nuclear war is being tested in ways not seen before, Adm. Richard said.
“Until we, as a [Defense] Department, come to understand, if not accept, what we are facing and what should be done about it, we run the risk of developing plans we cannot execute and procuring capabilities that will not deliver desired outcomes,” Adm. Richard argued. “In the absence of change, we are on the path, once again, to prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face.”
“…In this new era of competition, this will be the first time in our nation’s history that we will have to face two nuclear-capable peers by the end of this decade,” he told The Washington Times.
“We’ve assumed strategic deterrence will hold in the future, but as the threat environment changes, this may not be the case,” he added. “We need to be ready to respond to cross-domain threats to ensure the security of our nation and allies by thinking holistically about strategic deterrence in the 21st century.”
His full statements add much more context. Many of them can be found here.
Yesterday, Dickinson penned a piece in the Hill noting that our forces must “prepare for the war not yet fought’ requiring control and understanding of everything happening in the space around Earth that will no longer remain the ‘peaceful’ place it has been throughout humanities previous eons of existence. Despite the ominous nature of the USStratCom tweet last night, though, his remarks to not list any specific imminent threat.
“…United States Space Command faces a unique dilemma in that we can’t plan for future conflicts based on how we fought previous conflicts even if we were inclined to do so. Rather, we are preparing for the war not yet fought.
Some have suggested Desert Shield/Desert Storm was the first “space war.” To be sure, it was the first major conflict in which space-based capabilities played an integral role, particularly in position, navigation, timing, weather, communications, imagery and tactical missile warning. However, it was not a war which began in space, or a terrestrial war where hostilities extended into space. Such are the wars we must prepare now to deter and, if necessary, to fight and win.
Why do we need to prepare for such a conflict when space has traditionally been a peaceful domain, open to all for exploration, and whose benefits improve the lives of virtually every human being on Earth? As I will soon testify to Congress, the answer is because highly capable competitors realize the extraordinary military and economic advantages that space-based capabilities give to the United States and our allies.
These competitors are determined to deny our advantages in space in favor of their own. China’s space enterprise presents the pacing threat. China is building military space capabilities rapidly, including sensing and communication systems, and numerous anti-satellite weapons. Similarly, Russia’s military doctrine calls for employment of weapons to hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk. Russia has conducted numerous space-based anti-satellite weapons tests.
Overlay this new strategic reality with the exponential growth in the commercialization of space, and it becomes clear that a once-peaceful operating environment is now competitive, congested and contested. Given our extraordinary reliance on space-based capabilities for virtually every aspect of the modern American and allied way of life — everything from mobile communications and internet connectivity to banking and finance, farming, entertainment and travel — we must protect and defend our interests in the space domain as we do in cyberspace, on land, in the air and at sea.
This is why, in keeping with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, the president established a new Combatant Command for space warfighting operations, United States Space Command. It also is why Congress established a new, independent branch of the Armed Forces for space, the United States Space Force, to organize, train and equip those space forces.
Both organizations are singularly focused on their equally critical roles in the mission imperative to protect and defend U.S. and allied interests in space. The current Unified Command Plan is clear in its direction to United States Space Command: We must “conduct offensive and defensive space operations” and “protect and defend U.S. and allied, partner, and commercial space operational capabilities.” The President’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance further emphasizes the need to “ensure the safety, stability, and security of outer space activities.” We must build the appropriate space architecture along with the associated command and control structures to efficiently and effectively conduct these missions.
To that end, our first step is to build a team of space operators who outthink and outmaneuver our adversaries, use space combat power to connect the ultimate high ground to the last tactical mile, and preserve U.S. and allied access to the benefits of space.
My Strategic Vision for United States Space Command provides the formula for how we will win in space. It details how space enables every facet of our way of life, how space makes the superiority of America’s military possible, and how space is the backbone of our global economy. Most significantly, it details a set of key tasks necessary for that victory: Understanding our Competition; Building the Command to Compete and Win; Maintaining Key Relationships; Integrating Commercial and Interagency Organizations, and Maintaining Digital Superiority.
Efforts in pursuit of these key tasks provide the foundation of continued U.S. and allied access to the benefits of space. They give us the roadmap necessary to achieve our ultimate objective of deterring a conflict that begins in or extends into space — the war not yet fought, and the war we aim to win if called upon. They form the basis of our ability to win in the space domain should deterrence fail. The 18,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel supporting United States Space Command’s mission are determined to fulfill these key tasks and meet this new national imperative. I am proud and honored to lead and serve alongside them. “