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Space is a Domain of Human Endeavor, Says DOD’s John Hill

Rapid technological advancements have made space more accessible than ever before, opening a new arena for competition between the U.S. and its adversaries. As space continues to grow in influence, the Department of Defense has made it a priority to ensure the security of the evolving domain.

Though adversaries are actively working to dominate the space environment, conflict is not inevitable, according to John Hill, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space and missile defense. With strong efforts to embrace the multi-domain approach and acknowledge the collaborative nature of conflict prevention, Hill said that stability in the space domain can prevail.

During his closing keynote address at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2023 Industrial Space Defense Summit last week, Hill described the modern variety of adversary attacks, which target the “growing surface of vital networks and critical infrastructure” of the U.S. and its allies across multiple domains and must be dealt with using a multi-domain approach.

“This is especially true in the space domain, which empowers the resiliency of the joint force across all domains,” he said.

“Resilience in space is tied to empowering the cost and position capability of the joint force. Space is interwoven with both ideas of denying the benefits of aggression and assuring clinical capacity to impose costs that exceed benefits of aggression,” said Hill.

While the operational aspect of the space operations are important, he said, space – and all other warfighting domains – are characterized by human endeavors. 

“Some human endeavors are beneficial to America and to our planet and some are not. Some human endeavors are peaceful and some are not. The United States uses it so that all nations can explore and use space for peaceful purposes and the benefit of all humanity,” Hill said.

Preventing aggression in space necessitates the establishment of norms, rules and principles that evolve synchronously with changes in space activities, said Hill. The creation of these norms helps build a “shared understanding between operators and nations about what constitutes responsible behavior” and lowers the possibility of misperceptions and miscalculations that could spur conflict.

Hill said that ensuring that norms are successfully entrenched in the space domain is a collaborative effort, and the U.S. is dedicated to cultivating relationships with other major entities operating in space.

“We are working with several countries to expand the network of ground-based and space-based sensors that can provide the additional information necessary to assure important advantages in our collective space domain awareness,” Hill shared.

Recently, the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the creation of norms in space, which Hill said the DOD heavily supported – and only nine nations opposed.

“We were gratified by the many co-sponsors of the resolution and the overwhelming majority of 155 nations that joined together to pass the resolution,” he said. 

Also operating in space is the private sector, which has made huge progress in developing space technology. Hill said that industry offers strong expertise and relevant insight on best practices for space activities. 

“The space industry and commercial space operators are important partners in these sorts of multilateral initiatives as active advisory participants in various international venues as commercial operators, degree mitigation experts and developers of international standards,” he said.

Hill underscored the U.S.’ commitment to empowering “responsible, peaceful and sustainable exploration and use of outer space.”

“In all of those activities, the Department of Defense will continue to work with industry, with our security partners and with space operators around the world to advance the safety, civility, security and sustainability of space activities,” he said.

The Potomac Officers Club will host its next summit – the 4th Annual CIO Summit – on May 16. The event will bring together notable GovCon CIOs for a variety of engaging speeches and discussions regarding IT problems and solutions. To hear each speaker’s invaluable insights, please visit the Potomac Officers Club events page and register to attend.

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