Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood recently previewed the Pentagon’s plan to answer President Trump’s call to create a space force as a separate branch of the military.
“There are significant reasons why we in the United States are more concerned about the threat that we face in that domain, and the need to have a very vibrant, capable set of not only physical capabilities, but obviously the way that we organize and train and equip our force to respond to that,” Mr. Rood said.
The Pentagon has a deadline of Aug. 1 to submit a report to Congress outlining the organization plans for a space force. The report will discuss the ways the U.S. military can speed up development and deployment of space forces and the doctrine and organization for how the forces will defend space satellites or wage war in space.
The Pentagon is seeking ways to fit the new space force into Defense Secretary Jim Mattis‘ marching orders to make the U.S. military more agile and more lethal.
Organizing a space force that will minimize bureaucratic inefficiencies is “still something that’s a challenge for us that we’re working through,” the undersecretary said. “But the goal is to have the ability to move capabilities to the field sooner, to do that obviously in a more cost-effective way.”
Mr. Trump ordered the Pentagon to create the separate space force in June.
The Pentagon’s Joint Staff J-2 intelligence directorate warned in an alarming internal report earlier this year that China and Russia have built anti-satellite missiles, lasers and other weapons that in the near future will be able to damage or destroy all U.S. satellites in low Earth orbit.
The report states that “China and Russia will be capable of severely disrupting or destroying U.S. satellites in low Earth orbit” over the next several years, according to a defense official familiar with the report. The satellite-destroying attack capabilities could be in place as early as 2020.
Satellites in low Earth orbit travel between 100 miles and 1,242 miles above the Earth. Many of the satellites at that altitude supply key military data used in American operations. Other critical intelligence and military satellites orbit elliptically and are currently vulnerable to Russian or Chinese attack.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sounded a similar warning in March during testimony to Congress.
“Russian and Chinese destructive ASAT weapons probably will reach initial operational capability in the next few years,” Mr. Coats said.
STATE ON CHINESE TECH TRANSFER
A senior State Department official has warned that American business cooperation with China risks bolstering Beijing’s military and nuclear weapons programs.
Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said in a speech that China, unlike the United States, does not distinguish between civil and military technology that it uses, creating increasing dangers that foreign technology will go toward advancing China’s military buildup. China was a major supplier for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and also supplied nuclear know-how to Iran.
Mr. Ford said the problem for many years has been “Beijing’s willingness to condone — or perhaps even to promote — dangerous transfers to proliferators.”
During the early 2000s, China transferred arms-related technology to Iran and Pakistan, and more recently there has been a focus on China’s willingness to join crippling international sanctions on North Korea for its development of nuclear and missile capabilities.
Mr. Ford said U.S. companies are seeking to sell civilian nuclear equipment to China but the risk that such technology will be diverted to military programs is high because of a national policy called “military-civil fusion.”
Under the program, headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese-controlled companies are required to utilize all means to support China’s large-scale military buildup, whether contracts prohibit sharing the technology or not. The result: Chinese promises required for sales of sensitive dual-use American and other foreign technology are hollow.
“Very little credence can be given to China’s commitments,” Mr. Ford said in a speech at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “China’s internal technology barriers are extraordinarily permeable, and they are becoming steadily more so.”
Chinese industrial strategy is geared to building strong military forces along with Mr. Xi’s “China Dream” of matching U.S. global power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the communist takeover.
“Under this strategy, civilian and defense industries are pooling financial resources to enhance research and development opportunities and officials there are working systematically to employ all aspects of the Chinese economy to advance military programs, while simultaneously developing a high-technology innovation base,” Mr. Ford said.
Beijing’s fusion policy is also increasing the risks that foreign technology transferred to China will be used to bolster Chinese ambitions to replace the United States as the world’s leading superpower.
“If any given technology is in any way accessible to China, in other words, and officials there believe it can be of any use to the country’s military and national security complex as Beijing prepares itself to challenge the United States for global leadership, one can be quite sure that the technology will be made available for those purposes — pretty much no matter what,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford did not provide any examples of Chinese technology diversion, but Sid Trevathan, a security expert who tracks Chinese weapons, identified three Boeing 737 commercial jets sold to China that were illegally diverted to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force for transport and a command aircraft.
The Commerce Department was alerted to the diversion of the 737s several years ago but took no action over concerns about upsetting trade with Beijing.
Additionally, Mr. Trevathan reported on China’s illegal use of two American-made Learjets as electronic intelligence aircraft, along with two types of drone aircraft, the WZ-4A and WZ-4B, that are derived from U.S.-origin technology.
Mr. Ford said the Trump administration is now reviewing U.S. export control policy toward China with an eye toward greater restrictions.
One area being studied is in the lucrative field of civil nuclear power generation. The administration wants to allow American nuclear power companies to compete for contracts with China — but in ways that do not boost China’s nuclear buildup.
“Indeed, Chinese literature on military-civilian fusion explicitly identifies nuclear technology transfer as an arena of special emphasis in the Communist Party’s strategic effort to build up China’s military power,” Mr. Ford said.
RUSSIAN BUILDUP NEAR NATO
European fears of Russian military encroachment are increasing as a result of Moscow’s deployment of forces closer to NATO allies.
Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoygu announced Tuesday that over 70 military units and other formations have been deployed in the Russian western military district since 2016, and the troops are equipped with advanced weapons.
“Strengthening of Russia as an independent international player does not give rest to our colleagues from the NATO,” Gen. Shoygu said, according to the official Tass news agency.
“For these purposes, over 70 large units and military formations have been set up, including two divisions and three brigades,” he said.
The new units included one combined army, four motorized rifle divisions and one armored division, along with a rocket brigade, two artillery brigades and an air defense brigade.
By contrast, the bulked-up Russian forces are lined up against a few thousand NATO troops that analysts say would be no match for a Russian military advance should Moscow take action against what it terms the “near abroad.”
Among the new arms with the forces are Tornado-S large-caliber multiple launch rockets, Tor-M2 small-range air defense missiles, and armored Taifun-K and Taifun-U vehicles.
Professional soldiers, as opposed to draftees, also have increased in the army from 90,000 to 131,000 troops since 2016.
The number of military exercises also has increased, with more than 100 exercises with 80,000 troops since January.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.
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