With increasing technological capabilities and growing political and economic interests, outer space has become a potential conflict domain and correspondingly an important area of concern for U.S. national security. American assets in space, such as satellites used for communication and navigation, face the risk of being targeted in the event of a crisis or conflict, and as such it became critical that the United States Space Force be established and included as the newest branch of the military. However, while all branches of the United States military hold their own respective places among the Intelligence Community, the newly formed Space Force was not included. This recently changed when, after about a year since its creation, the Space Force was finally recognized as the eighteenth member of the Intelligence Community. As the Space Force pursues a new frontier for both the Intelligence Community and the military, it will open new opportunities for innovations in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.
On January 8, 2021, the Director of National Intelligence, John Radcliffe, announced the expansion of the IC with the addition of the U.S. Space Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Enterprise—the first member to join the IC since the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2006. While the Space Force itself is not designed to send combat troops into outer space, it takes main leadership in protecting American security interests in outer space. Correspondingly, the Space Force’s new agency in the IC will now contribute and ensure better interagency access and sharing of intelligence to defend American and allied space systems against countries like China and Russia, who are developing missiles and cyber technologies to disrupt and destroy satellites.
Satellites comprise a vital military infrastructure: they enable instantaneous communication across vast distances and provide geolocational data that can pinpoint positions and movements, create navigational systems, support precision strikes, and analyze atmospheric conditions. As such, U.S. military operations rely significantly on their support—in fact, the U.S. satellite fleet is the largest of any nation in the world. Furthermore, satellites play a central role in our economic system; in today’s digital age and increasingly interconnected world, everyday activities cannot take place without internet service provided by satellites. Such military and economic dependence poses a huge security risk for the United States in both wartime and peace, as satellites are very vulnerable to physical strikes and cyber attacks. The new intelligence agency will empower the Space Force’s mission of protecting these integral American assets in outer space to maintain U.S. military superiority and economic stability on Earth.
While the recognition of the Space Force as an IC member serves as a big step for the military branch towards greater authority and participation in national security matters, it also reemphasizes critics’ previous concerns about the theoretical need of the Space Force as well as its potentially negative impact on the administrative fluency of the U.S. national security system. Lawmakers, who felt compelled to waste no time in establishing American military advantage in outer space amidst growing threats, created the Space Force in 2019 even though many argued that the new military force should not be created without first developing a proper space warfighting theory to justify its value to U.S. national security. The Air Force and Marine Corps, for example, were granted organizational independence only after substantial analysis was conducted to prove their military significance. By further solidifying the Space Force’s role in national security matters through its inauguration as an IC member, the United States may be raising the bureaucratic risk even further.
Moreover, the mission of the Space Force inevitably crosses into those of other branches, subjecting the organization to the influence of various competing yet inextricably intertwined interests from across the government. As mentioned earlier, satellites are the backbone of all U.S. military operations. Even before the Space Force was officially enacted, different services already had their own counterparts that reflected the modern era’s increasing demand for space intelligence, investment, and security, with the most notable being the Air Force Space Command. The Space Command spearheaded many space efforts that brought decisive advantages to military operations over the last few decades, such as the Gulf War and the War on Terror. Correspondingly, the Space Force was formed largely out of these pre-existing establishments, with 16,000 personnel from the Space Command joining the new branch and with the Secretary of the Air Force assuming leadership. Forging another role in the intelligence community dedicated to the Space Force may complicate coordination, threaten efficiency, and increase interagency friction if bureaucratic boundaries are not clearly outlined.
While the United States has long been active in the space domain, the formal establishment of an intelligence agency that consolidates various space intelligence efforts will encourage allocation of more resources for U.S. space endeavors, as well as accelerate theoretical research for space warfighting. These will place increased demand on the development of specialized analytical tradecraft for gathering and producing intelligence related to security threats in space. Furthermore, the ability to fuse and analyze all types of data in the IC space will become extremely important as the variety and volume of inflowing information increase and agencies must figure out a way to coordinate their work efficiently and effectively. Subject Matter Experts at Praescient lean into these sorts of modernization efforts with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve DoD and IC mission sets. They work closely with our engineers to select and implement informational technologies that meet an agency’s unique knowledge management needs and provide comprehensive training to ensure the workflow is properly integrated into the heart of the agency’s mission.