Ep. 17: Out of this World: US Space Policy with Brookings Senior Fellow Frank Rose

In this episode, we talked with Frank Rose, Brookings Senior Fellow and co-director of the Security and Strategy team, about US space operations and the establishment of the Space Force. We dove into the thinking of space as a military domain, existing international frameworks regulating (or not regulating) the use of space and space weaponry, and how space will factor into great power competition between the United States, and Russia and China. We also dig into the commercial space race, and how public-private partnerships may be an avenue for future space operations as the US Government continues to advance its interests in space, parallel to the success of companies such as SpaceX. Before working at Brookings, Frank Rose previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, and prior to that was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy.

Ryan Rosenthal: Welcome to The Burn Bag Podcast. My name is Ryan Rosenthal. 

A’ndre Gonawela: My name is A’ndre Gonawela. 

Rosenthal: And today we are joined by Brookings senior fellow and co-director of the security and strategy team. Frank Rose. Frank spent over 15 years in the US Government and on Capitol Hill where he served at the Department of Defense House, Intel and Armed Services Committees, and the Department of State. Now our conversation today will largely focus on US Space Policy and Space Force, the newest branch of the US Military. At the State Department, Frank was Assistant Secretary of Arms Control Verification and Compliance, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defense policy. So we are very excited to talk with someone who knows this area well.  Frank, it’s nice to talk to you again. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Frank Rose: A’ndre, Ryan, it’s great to join you today.

Rosenthal: Let’s dive right in. Let’s begin this conversation by providing some context to our listeners about space as a military domain. So how and why did space become seen as a military domain? It’s kind of akin to air, land and sea. And now in recent decades, cyber has become a domain. Could you kind of lay it out for us?

Rose: Yeah, Ryan, again, it’s great to be with you today. Let’s spend a little bit of time unpacking this history because it’s really important and it really sets the baseline for the rest of our discussion today. I think the seminole moment in the “space race” was the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik. The first satellite ever placed in orbit and shortly after the Soviets placed their satellite in orbit, they were followed by the United States. So by the early 1970s space was becoming a very critical military domain for a couple of reasons. One, the satellites in orbit are allowing the countries to talk to their military forces around the world. The satellites are also providing important intelligence and reconnaissance information about global military developments. And the third, and this is critical to our story- space assets are becoming increasingly important to nuclear command and control, especially detecting missile launches.

Now that said, throughout this kind of militarization of space, there’s a certain amount of strategic restraint between the United States and the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War with regards to space. Now that’s not to say that the US and the Soviet Union didn’t come up with some crazy ideas with regards to nuclear weapons in outer space. There’s one story about a plan for the United States to deploy nuclear weapons on the moon. They did do significant research on anti-satellite weapons, but you don’t really see a large scale deployment of these capabilities. Why US well, I would argue it’s for two primary reasons. First and foremost, we need to protect the long term sustainability of the space environment. And let me take you to 1962. In 1962, the United States had this great idea, and they said, why don’t we test a nuclear weapon in outer space?

Known as the Starfish Prime Test, again, this happened in 1962, the US detonated a 1.4 megaton hydrogen bomb, 248 miles above the Earth. Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but the electromagnetic pulse from that explosion severely damaged or destroyed six satellites, one American, four American one British in one Soviet. So we said, oh, maybe that’s not a good idea. And had we continued to test nuclear weapons in outer space, there’s a good chance we would have made up, put so much radiation. The ionosphere that manned space flight would not have been possible. So in 1963, the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed the limited test ban treaty. And one of the provisions in the limited test ban treaty was you could not test nuclear weapons in outer space.

Additionally in 1967, the United States, the Soviet Union, and a number of other nations sign, the Outer Space Treaty. One of the key provisions in the Outer Space Treaty is that you cannot deploy new weapons of mass destruction in outer space. So that’s one piece in the second piece I alluded to a little earlier, and that’s the close link between nuclear command and control and space systems. The concern being, if one side’s a space asset were attacked by the other side, the other side may think that that was the precursor of a nuclear attack. Therefore there was a concern you could create an unnecessary nuclear war. So again, through the rest of the Cold War throughout the early to the 1990s, though, the United States and the Soviet Union are doing limited testing of ASAP weapons there’s this strategic restraint. Now early 1990s Cold War ends at the same time, the Cold War ends, we’re starting to see rapid advances in space technologies, especially systems like the global positioning system, which allows the United States to more accurately target bombs in there.

The United States is no longer using space just for the nuclear command and control mission or primarily for the nuclear man command and control mission. We’re now using space to advance our conventional war fighting capability. And you see this on display during the 1991 Gulf War where the United States and its partners used precision guided munitions to take out the entire Rocky Air Defense System within a couple of days. And you see it in the war, in the Balkans, and the Russians and Chinese seeing the United States using space so effectively for conventional military operations, they get very concerned and it’s probably by the late 1990s that Russia and China are starting develop their own anti-satellite capabilities to deal with America’s global military power. Typically that ability of space to be used for conventional warfighting capabilities. And the real kind of, I would say shock to the system comes in 2007, when China conducts an anti-satellite test with a kinetic energy interceptor against one of its satellites blows that satellite up in space and creates thousands of pieces of debris.

This is a real wake up call. And throughout the 2010s, Russia and China continue to invest money and resources into the development of these ASAP capabilities. So by 2019, here’s what the Director of National Intelligence at the time, Dan Coats is saying, quote, we assess that China and Russia are training and equipping their military space forces in fielding new anti-satellite weapons to hold us in allied services, space services at risk, both countries recognize the world’s growing reliance on space and view the capability to attack space services as part of their broader efforts to deter an adversary from or defeat one in combat. So what we’ve seen over the last say 60 years now is space initially during the Cold War was used for military purposes, but there was a certain amount of strategic restraint based on the need to maintain a long term sustainability of the space environment, prevent debris, prevent electronic magnetic pulse, and also that close link between nuclear command and control and space, but where we are today we don’t see that same level of strategic restraint, and we are facing increasing threats to the long term safety and sustainability of the space environment from a orbital debris. Much of that orbital degree has been created by anti-satellite tests like China’s 2007 ASAP test. So let me stop there.

Gonawela: Certainly that’s very interesting and it brings up a lot of questions for me, but before I dive into some of the more military questions, I actually had some questions about the idea of international sovereignty in space. So as you said, for throughout the Cold War, the figuring out of how to put weapons in space and all of those fears and so on by largely I guess, the major powers, but nowadays, we see a lot of commercial ventures in space as well. In addition to those military aspects, for our listeners, could you tell us if there have been any ideas or implementations of international law or even sovereignty over space. Or for example, is space largely seen in this first come first serve sort of realm. And I know you had mentioned some of those treaties that have been signed earlier, but I think dive a bit deeper into that before we move on to those military aspects. 

Rose: Yeah. Andre, that’s a great question. You know, I would say the baseline international treaty is the outer space treaty of 1967. That treaty is a very broad treaty, but a couple of the key provisions are one, no one owns outer space. Everyone should have free access to use outer space. No one has sovereignty in outer space. Additionally, we should not deploy, or we are prohibited from deploying weapons of mass destruction in outer space. And furthermore, through the outer space treaty, there were a number of other agreements that came into force such as the liability convention, the Moon Treaty though, the United States never signed the Moon Treaty in a couple of other treaties. However, those treaties were signed in the 1960s and seventies. And as you know, you mentioned in your question, the space environment has changed fundamentally since the 1960s and 1970s. in 1967, when the Outer Space Treaty was signed and you had basically two new actors in space.

The United States, the Soviet Union, and a few others like the European Space Agency, and the Japanese now you have about 60 countries- numerous commercial actors. And on top of that, we’re facing all of these new challenges, like the growth of orbital debris, the rise of mega satellite constellations. So I think there’s generally a view across the international community, that the regime, the international legal regime that is, needs to be updated in order to take into account the change environment we operate in outer space. Over the past several decades, we’ve had some limited success. In 2007, the UN General Assembly agreed to the UN debris mitigation guidelines. These guidelines called on nations to follow a set of procedures to the growth of debris in outer space in over the past several years the UN Committee on Peaceful uses of Outer Space has approved a number of other voluntary guidelines known as the long term sustainability guidelines focused on again, things the international community can do to improve the safety and sustainability of the space environment.

We probably need, I would argue a more robust set of norms to deal with many of the security related aspects of outer space. But that’s been very difficult. You have disagreements between the United States and its partners on the right approach. For example, the United States worked closely with the European Union in an effort to develop an international code of conduct to create kind of global standards for responsible operations that are in outer space. On the other hand, the Russians and Chinese have their own proposal for a legally binding treaty called the Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space Treaty, also known as the PPWT, which is really more focused on space, space weapons. We have made some progress over the past several years to improve the safety and sustainability of the space environment, but there are some significant differences amongst the nations on what further steps should be taken.

Gonawela: And now you had mentioned that earlier treaty about weapons and certainly let’s dig a bit into arms control. In the 1980s, or I think this is very much still present in the public memory for those who are alive at the time. The Reagan administration’s a strategic defense initiative, otherwise known as Star Wars. While the idea of laser shooting down missiles from space was somewhat ridiculed at the time in the media, SDI ended up being this pivotal, bargaining ship and the arms controls negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev towards that tail end of the Cold War, at the Reykjavik conference and so on. This idea of broader arms control, do you foresee arms control being easily implemented when it comes to space? Do you think it’s possible to really implement those treaties and come to agreements on those?

Rose: The quick answer is no. The reason I say that is primarily due to the channel of verifying an arms control agreement in outer space. That challenge in many ways of coming from the fact that so many of these capabilities that we put in space, are dual capable. And let me give you an example of that. During the 1980s, the United States deployed on its space shuttle, a mechanical arm built in Canada. That could go grab satellites and bring them into the shuttles bay so they could be fixed or brought back down to earth. The Russians, or at that time, the Soviets claim that that was an anti-satellite weapon. So it’s really, really hard to verify these things. That’s why in the past, the United States has focused more on norms designed to produce good behavior in outer space.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Chinese and the Russian have a very different approach. They in 2008 dropped a draft treaty in Geneva called the Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space Treaty, also known as the PPWT. What are the Russians concerned about and what are the Chinese concerned about? Well you hit the nail on the head A’ndre. What concerns the Russians and the Chinese the most is that the United States in the future, we’ll deploy space missile defense capabilities that will allow the United state to potentially negate Russia and China’s strategic deterrent. That’s what really keeps them up at night. So their whole approach to space diplomacy through, through the PPWT and others diplomatic measures is to try to constrain the ability of the United States to the boy space-based weapons in the future.

Now what’s the US approach? We don’t like the treaty. For a couple of reasons, one, the PPWT treaty does not put any limitations on a terrestrial based anti-satellite weapon like the one China tested in 2007. It doesn’t define what a space weapon is. Even the Russians and Chinese agree, it’s not verifiable with current technology. 

What do I think that the United States should do moving forward? Well, I think the United States needs to work with the international community, including Russia and China on issues of mutual concern, instead of the PPWT treaty. What I would recommend is that the United States work with Russia, China, and other international partners to enhance mechanism, to prevent the creation of long lived debris in outer space, because debris in outer space is a threat to the space systems of all nations.

And we have a mutual interest in trying to protect the space environment so we can all operate there. My hope is that the Trump administration would take a more proactive stance on, the role of diplomacy and advancing space security. But unfortunately, while I agree with much of what they have done with regards to, the military side of space, such as reestablishing US Space Command, they have been pretty much sitting on the sidelines when it comes to diplomacy. And my view is when we look at the challenges to the space environment, the rise of the anti-satellite threat, the growth of orbital debris, the emergence of these new actors, you’re going to need to have a comprehensive strategy that brings to bear all levers of national power to include diplomacy. Unfortunately, I think the Trump administration has not done a very good job on the diplomatic side.

Rosenthal: You hit on something that I want to kind of dig into deeper and that being a space debris. You’ve laid out the argument of why it’s so important to deal with this. But there’s also the private sector that is attempting to take on a larger role in the monitoring and the dealing of space debris. I’m just curious how you think the United States should deal with this. Should it be a public private partnership, or should the US government take the leading role?

Rose: I think it needs to be a public-private partnership. First and foremost is because of this point. The United States has a very, very good space tracking and surveillance system that can track objects in outer space. The people who know the most about where a satellite is at any given time is the actual operator. So if you can find a way to better integrate that operator information into the US Space Tracking Network that improves our ability to track objects in outer space, and more importantly, prevent a potential collision like occurred in 2009, between a commercially operated Iridium satellite and a defunct Russian Cosmos Military Satellite. Now the good news A’ndre is that over the past several years, the private industry has stepped up. They created an organization called the Space Data Association, and I know that they have been working with the US government to better integrate their data with the government.

But I think more work needs to be done in this will become increasingly important as we see the rise of these mega satellite constellations. I don’t know how familiar you are with the SpaceX Starlink constellation, but at the end of the day, when the entire constellation is deployed, it will consist of something like 42,000 sites. So if we don’t have good coordination in good regulations in place to manage the rise of these mega constellations, it is going to make it very, very difficult for us to maintain the long term sustainability and safety of the space.

Rosenthal: Well, thank you for that. Again, I think you’re really emphasizing an important point and we’ve been circling around this idea of US space operations and kind of carving out as its own body. Now of course, we have the Space Force. So Frank, there’s been many developments with US Space Operations. I’m just curious, kind of how we got to a space force, right? Why did the U S believe that it was necessary to create a new branch in the military?

Rose: Well, that’s a long sorted story, but let me give you the five minute version of that. Now my personal opinion is this: I’m agnostic with regards to whether the space force was a good idea or a bad idea. I haven’t come out one way or the other, but let me share with you what I think the key arguments war in favor of the creation of the space force. First and foremost, as we’ve talked a little bit earlier today, there’s this growing threat from Russian and Chinese anti-satellite capabilities, and there was a view, and I would say this is a BI partisan view is we could no longer think of space as quote a sanctuary, where strategic restraint would call, but we had to think of space as more of a contested domain. And as a result, we needed to reorganize our national security space forces.

Secondly, there was a view amongst many members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican that the Air Force really was not taking the space mission seriously. The argument goes that the Air Force is run by fighter pilots. So as long as you keep, the space mission in the Air Force space is always going to be second fiddle to the pilots in the airplane. Again, some truth to that. Thirdly, and this is related to the previous point is, there was a view that you needed to develop a unique space, warfighting culture amongst space operators, and that wasn’t necessarily going to take place under the umbrella of the Air Force. And finally there is a concern amongst many, and again, I think this is a valid concern that the space acquisition process is broken. It takes too long to feel space capabilities, and they are too expensive.

My general view is again, most of those concerns are valid. The question is whether the Space Force will solve those problems. We don’t know. In my view, the ultimate success or failure of the Space Force will depend on the answer to three questions. First, does the Space Force increase space interoperability across the US joint force i.e. with the Air Force, the Navy, the Space Force? Does it allow us to use space to conduct more effective military operations across the joint force? Secondly, does it increase integration and interoperability with our allies and partners? Third, does it improve the resiliency of the US national security space architecture? The jury is out at this point as to whether the Space Force will be able to achieve those goals. That said, I think one thing that the space force has going for it is excellent leadership at the top.

I’ve worked pretty closely with the current leadership of the Space Force, including Chief of Space Operator Operations General John Raymond, and Vice Chief of Space Operations, General Dave Thompson. These are really smart military officers who understand the role that space plays in enabling global military operations. They understand the important role that space plays and working with our allies around the world. And they have credibility with Congress, both on the Republican side of the House, in the Democratic side of the House. So that’s one thing I think the Space Force has going forward as they stand up. And I think over the last eight months or so, they have made some tremendous progress as they have stood up.

Rosenthal: Of course, you know, the Space Force now has this new role within the US military, but they’re really kind of two questions that come to mind when we talk about the relationship, both within the military and with NASA, the civilian independent agency. How does space for us kind of compete for resources, right? We have, you know, limited, although it’s seemingly increasing military budgets in this country and the space for us was set to receive $15 billion in fiscal year 2021. So will we see space for us competing with the Air Force and probably the other branches of the military for these scarce resources. And then what about with NASA? mean, we largely think of NASA when we think of space exploration and US Operations in Space. How do you think this relationship will play out?

Well, let’s start with the NASA point. As you noted, NASA is primarily a civil space organization, but there will be areas that NASA and the Space Force cooperate on very much like today where the Air Force operates with NASA, though, most of those air force missions are transitioning to the space force. But I don’t really see a budgetary competition between NASA and the Space Force. I think the key objective or challenge that they will need to achieve going forward is making sure there’s good coordination between the space force and NASA on issues of mutual concern, like little debris space, traffic management, and launch capability. And that will, at the end of the day, come down to good connections between the leadership. As I’ve said, just before this, I mean, I think they’ve got the Space Force has very good leadership, and what I have read and I’ve not been involved in any of these meetings is that as the Space Force has stood up to the NASA administrator, Mr. Ryden Steen and the Chief of Space Operations General Raymond have been in close contact. And indeed, I believe that, they once test note, it was a, sorry, it was someone else, but, the bottom line is there appears to be close coordination between NASA and the Space Force. And that will be key, especially in those areas where they need to work together like orbital debris, in space traffic management now with regard to competition within the defense budget. There’s no doubt that regardless of who is elected president three weeks from now, the defense budget is on likely to rise, next year or the year after that. So there will likely need to be some cuts. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think the Space Force is going to be the victim of significant cuts. If anything, I think the Space Force will likely get budget increases.

Why is that? Well, it’s very simple space is the connective tissue that allows the United States to conduct effective global military operations. If we lose access to outer space, our ability to conduct military operations would be significantly derailed. So again, if I were making a recommendation to the next Secretary of Defense, one of those areas where I think priority priority needs to go to in the defense budget is ensuring that our space capabilities are developed in a deployed in a way that they can withstand an attack and operate in a degraded environment, and that’s going to require money. So of all the areas in the defense budget, I think space is going to have priority even in a Democratic administration. And I want to be clear here, when it comes to outer space, I think both Democrats and Republicans understand how critical spaces are to US military capabilities. And I would argue despite the numerous differences between the Trump administration and the Obama administration, one of the areas of real continuity between the two administrations is the focus on space security, indeed 95% of what the Trump administration is doing on space security, the origins are in the Obama administration.

Gonawela: So you made a really, I think, vitally important point about space being this connective tissue that allows the United States maintain, access to global reach, to an extent. And as you said, the space idea of space security has been continuous between the Obama and the Trump administrations. And I just wanted to ask you sort of a dual pronged question. I think the first about deterrence. As we’ve talked about deterrents before, how’s the creation of space for us itself, functioned and served well as a deterrent against, the interests of Russia and China. And then number two, while we talk about resources being allocated for the Space Force, and someone who’s willing to go resources as a creative creation of new weapons systems through creation of new transportation technologies and so on. But I think another big resource, and certainly one of the ones you’re probably going to be talking about a lot is the idea of recruitment. I mean, recruiting, the future soldiers and the future workers and staff members who specialize in space, it’s going to be hugely important. How do you think that Space Force has, how do you think the space for us has performed so far with regards to both of those, deterrents and recruitment?

Rose: I think the jury is out on both of those issues. It’s not clear to me that what we’re doing with the standup of the space force has necessarily deterring the Russians and the Chinese. I just know A’ndre, the Russians and the Chinese are well ahead of us in their thinking about the role of outer space and strategic technologies in future warfare. For example, the Chinese back in 2015 set up a new organization called the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. It’s essentially a military service designed to better integrate space, cyber and electronic warfare. They’re ahead of us in many ways we’re kind of catching up. What do I think we need to do over the long term to deter Russia and China in space? Well, I think there are a couple of key things. First and foremost, we must enhance the resiliency of our space systems. Russia and China are developing their anti-satellite weapons because they believe that space is the achilles heel of the American war fighting machine. And if they can deny us access to space, then they can achieve victory. So we got to put the money into the systems we need to enhance the resiliency of our space architecture. But I also know the competition that we’re in with China and Russia is not strictly a military competition. It is a whole of government/ political competition. As I noted earlier, I think one of the things where the Trump administration has not been good on is the role of diplomacy. So we have to, as part of a comprehensive US strategy for competing with Russia and China in outer space  it has to not just be a military solution. But a whole of government solution. 

On recruitment, I’ve seen some really interesting advertisements for the Space Force. But I think it’s just too early to make a call one way or the other, quite frankly. I think the focus right now within the Space Force is transferring the space operators from the Air Force to the Space Force. And that’s a process that will take a couple of years, but you’re absolutely right in the future. One of the keys to the success of the space force is recruiting and retaining good, effective talent. And based on what I’ve seen about the space forces law, a long term vision, that is part of it again, we’re pruning and retraining and retaining excellent space operators.

Gonawela: So now I’m going to reach way back to the beginning of this interview and the session to a point you made earlier about public private partnerships. So we’ve seen a lot of commercial space activities recently, and there has been some extraordinary growth in recent years due to companies like SpaceX, Virgin, Galactic, and Blue Origin. I mean, some of these companies are just getting substantially more coverage and at least on the public appear to get a bit more success than NASA is currently at least in publicity. And, uh, you know, when we’re looking at companies like SpaceX, how do these private companies currently work with the US Government? And what are the profound benefits of these public private partners?

Rose: Well, let me go back to a point I just made. We are in a competition with Russia and China, globally. The days of us trying to integrate, Russia and China into the US led international order are probably over for the foreseeable future. So in that competition, we have to look at and identify what are America’s asymmetric advantages. The key asymmetric advantages that I see the United States has in space is it’s strong base of private companies who are doing amazing things in outer space. such as these mega satellite constellations. So I hope as the space force stands up over the next couple of years, one of the key objectives that guide this thinking is integrating its operations with support that can be provided from the private sector, because  in many ways, if we can do that effectively, we can solve a lot of our problems with regards to resiliency. I mentioned that one of the reasons that they decided, or the proponents argued for the Space Force was because the government space acquisition system was broken. What we’re seeing from SpaceX, Blue Origin and other space companies, is that they’re moving rapidly with good results. The question I have, and I hope the Space Force is asking is how can we work with the private sector on space acquisition, to ensure that we can develop more resilient space architectures at a reasonable price?

Rosenthal: Certainly I think one of the challenging pieces of this commercial space race is the fact that the United States, our companies are going up against companies in Russia and China that are backed by the government more or less, right. China is fully in Russia. You know, it’s largely companies that are part owned or almost fully owned by the Russian government. This commercial space race does this, you know, reignite a space race among the world powers where we see other, maybe lesser powers get involved and use their commercial space companies to kind of rejigger this race.

Rose: Well, what I would say is this race took place long before the companies came. I mean, it’s one element of that competition. I don’t think the companies themselves are driving the race. The race was on the question for the United States, is this, can we effectively leverage the private sector, one of our asymmetric advantages to advance US national security in space? I hope so, but, but we, we do have some challenges. As you know, in Russia, China is really not a private industry. Those entities are either government owned or government influence, Where in the United States, most of these companies are private companies. So you have to have a way you have to be able to integrate them. One of the challenges that I’m a little bit concerned about, and you saw that with Google a couple of years ago, that some of these people in Silicon Valley don’t want to work with the Pentagon. That’s a potential challenge though. That’s kind of gone into the background, but the bottom line is I think for the United States to operate effectively and compete effectively in outer space, there needs to be better coordination and integration between the Space Force and the private space sector. That will be key for the US to compete effectively.

Gonawela: And as you mentioned, actually about how there perhaps might not be the existence of this private industry, you know, countries like Russia and China, I mean, in the telecommunications industry, we’re seeing a lot of controversy about companies like Huawei and so on. So when it sort of comes to, perhaps Chinese parallels to SpaceX. For example, one of these companies, one of these Chinese companies, set up a Martian colony, right. Would that be a profound security risk to the United States? And at that point, is it more like first come first serve or is there a way for the US to advance its interests and work to prevent this to an extent?

Rose: What I would say is under international law countries are responsible for companies that are under their jurisdiction. I don’t see that as a big issue, but, but let me make a broader point. Andre, you mentioned 5G, I think where we have to look at space from a broader perspective space, cyber, nuclear, under seat communications, cable, they’re all interconnected. For example, you can attack a satellite numerous ways. One of the most effective ways to go after a satellite is through cyber means. Much of the data from space systems goes back over cyber means and through undersea cables. So they’re all kind of integrated in Russia in China don’t view space as separate from the other elements of the information infrastructure. And they have been developing their armed forces in a way to try to deny the United States and its allies access to the entire information infrastructure.

And I talked a little bit earlier about the strategic support force. Well, the strategic support force, yes, it does space, but it’s also focused on cyber and electronic warfare. My concern is that in the United States, we tend to view space, cyber, and nuclear issues, as well as issues associated with undersea communications cables as separate. But in reality, they are all interconnected. So one of my key recommendations for the US government going forward is we need to put in place mechanisms so that we address these strategic capabilities in a holistic way. And they’re not siloed where we have the space operators, in their silo, the nuclear people in their silo, the cyber people in their silo. We have to have an approach that integrates across the domains. I’m not a hundred percent sure how we do that, but I think that is an issue where the US government, but also the independent think tank, a community would be wise to put some time in it.

Rosenthal: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. The U S government it’s contractors, these think tanks, they’ve done quite a good job in many of these other areas, and I think space will become even more important as we go forward. It’s putting these mechanisms to address these capabilities in place. It’s certainly something that is needed. And this kind of leads me to, again, a broader question about defense contracting, right? I mean, when we typically think of defense contracting, we think of maybe Lockheed Martin, Boeing, these big companies that, you know, make missiles and satellites, and rockets all these different technologies. How do you see the defense contracting landscape kind of play into the development of us space operations, whether it’s, you know, using individual contractors to work on projects or, you know, producing technologies and systems for the U S government?

Rose: Well, I think it’s kind of unclear where things will go. But what I would say is this: as the Space Force stands up, I think they will be, there’s a desire to keep the footprint of the actual members of the service as small as possible and not create too many billets. So I think there will be opportunities to bring in and use contractors more. And that’s actually a good thing because one of the issues that I see with space, it’s very, very dynamic. So there’s a lot more dynamism in the private sector with regards to space sometimes than in the government. So being able to tap in and bring that expertise to support the space force, I think will be important. Second, yes, we will continue to build hardware for outer space, outer space, some of the big satellites but with a lot of these information technologies that are coming online, it’s not so much about the hardware as it is about the software.

Figuring out how we can leverage the private sector again, to support that I think would be useful. I mean, I think the bottom line kind of going back to my earlier answer on the role of private industry, I think they are going to be key. So we’re going to our success in space and the success of the Space Force. So as they stand up the space for us, again, I think it’s going to be critical for a, establish seeing those links between the private industry industry, so we can bring their best practices into the Space Force, number one. Number two, their energy and expertise. 

Gonawela: So as we sort of close this great conversation, and we look back over, you know, many of the points that you’ve made in terms of space operations, in terms of space for us, how central, and actually, how quickly do you see Space Force and space operations, becoming central to a US military strategy as technology advances?

Rose: A’ndre, the future is now. I believe as I mentioned earlier, that outer space capabilities are the glue that allows the United States to project military force globally going forward. I think it’s going to become even more important. So what do we have to do? Well, one, I think we, again, have to improve the resiliency of our space systems that is going to be key. But secondly, as I noted a few minutes ago, we’ve got to think about space in a more holistic way that better integrates space with, with other strategic capabilities. I was on a panel not too long ago at Brookings, and we were talking about this technology race between the United States and China. And it reminded me of one of the great British strategic thinkers from the beginning of the 20th century Helford Mackinder, he had a theory called the Heartland theory and he basically argued that whoever controls the Heartland Eurasia in his view, will dominate the world. As we move into the 21st century, I think the argument now is whoever controls the world information infrastructure: space, cyber, electronic warfare, under sea communications, cable infrastructure, and can deny others access to that infrastructure will dominate the world.

Therefore, I think we need to take a space in these other strategic capabilities very seriously, because I assure you Russia and China are taking these domains very seriously, and they have been doing it for some time,

Rosenthal: Hard to argue with that and on that note, Frank, thank you very much for a fascinating conversation. Your insights and analysis on these issues is very useful. I know our audience will appreciate them. To our audience, I really encourage you to check out Frank’s work at Brookings, as he said, he’s been on many panels and I’m sure he’ll be on panels in the future. He’s written extensively about these issues. Frank again, we appreciate you coming on the podcast. Thanks so much. 

Rose: Right. And Andre, it was a real pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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