“We Have to Go to Space”September 6, 2018
“Our entire space architecture, our suite of space capabilities were designed in an era where it was a US sanctuary, it is no longer. Our entire defense posture was centered for decades around the idea the US homeland was a sanctuary, it is no longer. If we are to deal with these facts on the ground, and the fact that these adversaries, as I have said, want to disrupt this rules-based order that has held for three generations, then we have to go to space both for the sensory layer and the ability to project power and that is fundamentally what it is all about.” – Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering
This week on Tuesday, September 4th, we hosted our 20th Congressional Roundtable discussion at the Nation’s Capital on space-based missile defense. At the event, we had an open and public education about what we need to do in space, why we need to go to space, and what is space-based missile defense. We were honored to have the world’s top three experts – Mr. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Missile Defense Agency Director – to discuss and educate on this revolutionary and really positive movement that our nation is going to make happen.
Here are some key quotes from the event. Click here to read the transcripts and the media coverage that has come from the event.
Mr. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy:
“Our policy approach is that we keep pace or exceed the capability of the threat; we do not want to be in a situation where we rely only on offense to provide deterrence. After all, missile defenses are part of modern day deterrence, to deter someone from an attack, from pursuing capabilities, and ultimately conducting it, but also part of assuring your allies that you have the capabilities and the means to fight, assuring them of your ability to meet your defense obligations assured to them, and of course to prevent that attack. “
“I will say that as you get to the case where we have sophisticated larger scale threats, the advantages from a space-based missile defense are one of the things we are looking at. Certainly the president’s national strategy for space highlights space for us as a national security matter, that we have to protect our assets there. We have to protect the ability to utilize space for our activities here on Earth, for the capabilities that those assets bring to our force but certainly for scientific development, and missile defenses can not only strengthen your ability to deal with a missile threat, but can also strengthen your ability to protect your space assets.”
“Of course some of the generic advantages that space-based systems provide are they would provide persistent, continuous, coverage, they can engage missiles launched by any adversary anywhere on Earth, also if the technology in the intercept layers is affordable, they could also allow you to do boost phase defense. This is very attractive because it avoids both debris, but begins to thin out the missile threat before your midcourse and terminal defenses begin to deal with it. That is another reason we are looking at that capability.”
“Well as I mentioned, the 2018 NDAA contained a provision that requires us at the Defense Department to explore a space layer, both sensors and interceptors so we have explored that as an examination, since that period, in conformity with the law. We are not yet at the position where we would announce some programmatic changes or movements forward, we are in the examination phase of this activity and that is appropriate given that it was relatively recent that Congress told us to do that. It is also something that given the progression of space technology, and the gentlemen to my left are more learned in space capability, that we could harness for this effort but certainly it is something commendable as a lay person, seeing the development of what has occurred over the past couple of decades. We would look at that but I think that the later part of your question, those are bridges yet to be crossed and some time away given the level of examination we have given it thus far.”
Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering:
“But what people actually do is, as soon as they can, they develop missiles to go after those they wish to aggress against. I just note that that is what the world seems so be so we need to respond to what the world is, rather than the way the world could be or should be. Secondly the number of nations and societies which are capable of so doing seems to be increasing all the time and there is still only one of us. Thirdly, we just can’t do what we need to do in missile defense without space. Now the ground missile defense program which Sam currently leads is effective at what it does, which is to handle a medium sized threat in the midcourse. It cannot affect global persistence on the surveillance side, it cannot differentiate the missile defense side from the sensor side. It detects an incoming threat after it is well inbound, it is not set up to detect hypersonic threats, it is not set up to detect shorter inter-range threats- on the interceptor side it is capable of going after objects in midcourse, but that is all. It is very good at what is does, I have reason to know that our statistics these days are very good, but it only does what is was designed to do.”
“We today do not have systems which give us globally comprehensive, consistent, timely, multi-mode awareness of what is going on in Earth everywhere all the time.”
“That we will never hit a target we cannot see coming. The Chinese hyper threat is one, in particular, we cannot see coming until it is too late. That alone would make me want to go to space for a space sensor layer. “
“If we wish to affect a comprehensible missile defense we need to be able to go after it in the boost phase. If you wait for the midcourse, you have given the enemy a free shot, why would we do that?”
“I will close by saying I am very, very tired of people who say we cannot afford it., Let me offer just a trial balloon kind of number, I get tired of hearing people say it would cost $100B or more to put up a space-based intercept layer. If I use, as an entirely reasonable number based on experience, of $20K per kilogram delivered FOB low orbit, if I were to say I would be content with a layer of one thousand interceptors, which seems to me like a lot, and each weighs a metric ton, a thousand kilograms, which would seem to be like a lot, then the entire cost of that would be $20B. We have paid a lot more and gotten a lot less in the Defense Department over the years.”
“…directed energy to me is where we want to go in the long run, and I would like the long run to be as short as possible. We will be pushing advances in directed energy forward for the next few years, at least as long as I am in this position so we want to make actual progress in DE. I think it is the path to the future. I believe the answer to your technology questions are, yes we can do it, develop space powers systems that will provide what we need. However, belief is an opinion had without the benefit of facts so it is our job to go do the experiments and prototyping to generate those facts. I view my job as developing arrows for the quiver, if you will. It is up to other disciplines, policy and diplomacy, to decide when and where they are used but first we need to know we can.”
Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency:
“Space provides the high ground to address the advancing threat, it was mentioned that space provides access and persistence to areas of the globe that are denied to us and that is not something we are taking a guess at, it is something we are already demonstrating. The way we need to do this is tying the shooters with the sensors, together with the C2BMS.”
“What is new and what will be really important for dealing with the ballistic missile threat and hypersonic is the next two systems. We need one that does regional staring; to do protection, warning and queuing. What is key about this is looking down at the warm Earth, which is a very different view system from looking at the cold background of space. So to effectively deal with the hypersonic threat we need to ensure we know what it is doing from birth to death, the term we use is birth to death tracking because it is able to maneuver- unlike a ballistic threat where you throw a ball in that direction towards the camera and it moves towards the camera. The maneuverability of the hypersonic threat is of significant concern, so we must remain in custody of that threat from birth to death.”
“In the next part there, which is going after what is happening in midcourse, with a different atmosphere and cold background in space, a sensor is needed to show that. We need it for discrimination, and what we call discrimination which is separating countermeasures the threat may deploy from the actual reentry vehicle. Off to the right, what you may see here is the kill assessment capability that we believe is very important to support optimization of our fielded limited weapons to essentially let combatant commanders know whether we have, in effect, killed or destroyed the threat, or merely just damaged it. That is another system we are experimenting with as we speak.”
“Both Griffin and Rood previously explained why it is important to do this from space, we do not have the ground radar population to do this from any defended area, to do it with confidence so space offers us the vantage point and opportunity to do that. It is really important to mention again that this is not something new for the missile defense world and for the MDA, we have been leveraging and operating at times capabilities from space.”
“It is very robust, going from the National Defense Strategy all the way through delivery of these systems and there is a feedback loop. So you will hear the agency talk about that we absolutely need to get to space, if you cannot see it you cannot shoot it. I do not care how many interceptors you have got but they will be totally ineffective, and the best place to do that from what we can see, as the hypersonic threat matures, is from space. This process is the robust disciplined process to deliver what we say we will.”
“What Riki is talking about is the demonstration constellation that we are just about completing deploying, it will be completed by the end of the year to essentially assess and demonstrate our ability to do a kill assessment. We built the space and communications ground system to be a part of the architecture, we have been demonstrating the ground architecture as part of our flight test for the last few years, so we have been simulating the projection of the space capability, ensuring that ground architecture can process it and deliver it to the command and control battle management system. So with the deployment of the space-based piece by the end of the year, with NATO, as part of our flight test to demonstrate the value of doing a post intercept assessment, that is our official term for it, but kill assessment and working with the combatant commanders to demonstrate the value of that information to determine if the system will take another shot, or save those rounds for another threat coming in. That is something that has so far been a significant success, both in the deployment of that capability as well as working with industry and working cooperatively, and at the speed of industry, to deliver capability and it is something we are very proud of and have been working towards.”
This is probably the first time in history we’ve had this level broach missile defense in space in a public forum and it is the leadership and the confidence of these three top level experts in the environment of advancing threats, existing technology, and bipartisan Congressional support, to introduce and educate our public on why we need to go to space and what going to space means for missile defense.