- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

On Friday, the Obama administration released its strategic framework for cyberspace, providing a unified approach from the president to unite and protect our nation’s cyberspace capabilities. This was a significant strategic event for the United States, one that has potential to preserve the American way of life as cyberspace enables many aspects of our lives: business, health, communications, government, defense, education, recreation and space.

As the president acknowledged America’s dependence on cyberspace, the administration should also develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for protecting space capabilities, another integral component of American life.

Like cyber, space is a key enabler for many elements of the national infrastructure. Commercial and military satellite operators have enhanced agriculture activities, urban development and education through the use of satellite imagery with less than one meter resolution. Weather data is provided from Earth orbiting platforms, available to all via Web sites or through local and national forecasts. Americans even benefit from space technologies during leisure time while enjoying television and radio signals beamed from satellites.

The entire world has access to the Air Force Space Command-operated constellation of Global Positioning System satellites, or GPS. The services provided by GPS have permeated all aspects of life: driving, hiking, flying and even tracking packages to determine if they have reached their destination. Financial institutions and our electric grid use the timing function on GPS to precisely perform their functions. Emergency services rely heavily on GPS to quickly respond to 911 calls. The integration of space capabilities with cyber capabilities has enhanced our lives by enabling more effective responses to natural disasters and emergency services.

Space capabilities have enabled not only the American way of life, but the American way of warfare. A modern revolution in American warfare occurred thanks to our space capabilities. American and coalition troops use on-orbit assets to navigate desolate terrain, communicate with command centers thousands of miles away, and call in precision air strikes from aircraft at 30,000 feet while being protected by early warning sensors.

All of this capability is provided directly to the joint warfighter, embedded within the systems carried into battle, easy to use and always ready. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines rely on system availability at all times, providing advantages unparalleled in the history of warfare. I recently visited Air Force Space Command and I am confident our joint warfighters are provided space capabilities required for mission success.

Without space, military advantage is lost, communications are severed, financial systems grind to a halt, and our emergency services are hindered. Just like cyberspace, America depends on space more than any other nation; therefore, it is imperative we develop a national strategy to protect our investment in space.

Due to the complexity of the space environment, this is not an easy task. First and foremost, space is vast. The space environment that extends from the geostationary belt 22,400 miles away down to Earth’s atmosphere is more than 6,000 times the size of the atmosphere below it. Objects are always in rapid motion; the satellites in the lowest Earth orbits travel at about 17,000 miles per hour or 4.7 miles every second.

It is quite simply the most dynamic environment in which the human race has ever operated. National policy relating to space dates back to the Eisenhower administration, 10 presidents ago. During that time, only the government was involved in space ventures. Now there are multiple sectors of space activities: commercial, civil, intelligence and defense. While there are many entities operating in space, there is no national-level enterprise to oversee and guide actions across the sectors.

Establishing a clear, streamlined authority within the executive branch may provide the appropriate direction and guidance across the space enterprise to enhance and protect America’s space capabilities. Development of a national space strategy, focused on preservation and development, would serve as a guide for the entire government on how to further pursue space capabilities. A synergistic approach would vector resources and priorities among the various entities and create responsibility and accountability to accomplish the goals outlined in a national space strategy. All the elements of governmental power - diplomatic, informational, military and economic - must be readily available to enhance strategic partnerships and deal with any threats.

Leadership and investment on the national level are required for stronger, more robust space capabilities that further enhance the American way of life. Preserving these capabilities should be a high priority due to their importance to the American people. Precedent will be set as a national cyberspace strategy is revealed; let’s do the same and establish a national space strategy and structure to maintain our advantage.

• Richard B. Myers is a retired Air Force general and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005.

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