The threat drives us to confront it, degrade it, and defend from it. The competition to achieve superiority and dominance in the seams of regional strategic power is fast upon us. The cessation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Chinese and Russian air intrusions, Russia’s relentless pursuit of nuclear powered cruise missiles that can never run out of fuel to loiter for days or months and strike at will anywhere, Chinese overmatch in hypersonics, maneuverable cruise missiles, and massing regional non-INF compliant land-based missiles, Chinese and Russian anti-satellite capabilities are in total challenging the status quo of Western Democracies.
We see this manifested in a range of behaviors and activities throughout the Indo-Pacific, ‘a toolkit of coercion,’ to include:
- Deploying advanced weapons systems to militarize disputed areas, destabilizing the peaceful status quo by threatening the use of force to compel rivals into conceding claims;
- Using influence operations to interfere in the domestic politics of other nations, undermining the integrity of elections and threatening internal stability;
- Engaging in predatory economics and debt for sovereignty deals, lubricated by corruption, which take advantage of pressing economic needs to structure unequal bargains that disproportionately benefit one party; and,
- Promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations’ military and civilian technology.
– Patrick Shanahan, then Acting Secretary of Defense, at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 on June 1, 2019.
North Korea and Iran, along with conflicts in Syria, northern Iraq, and Afghanistan are not challenging the status quo of the world. They each need to be better addressed for the threats and harm they place within their regional spheres of projection. But North Korea cannot project its power intent or capability beyond the Korean Peninsula even with its limited nuclear ICBM capability and capacity that the United States continues to negate by the continued evolution of U.S. missile defenses being developed, tested, demonstrated, and proven.
The last two high speed intercept test were Extraordinarily successful in extremely difficult circumstances. I have a great deal of confidence in GMD.
– Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, at the Hudson Institute on August 13, 2019.
Last week the United States air and missile defense community and its leadership converged together in Huntsville, Alabama for a three day long symposium on the way forward to maintain superiority and stay ahead of the near peer competition of Russia and China that has excelled and proliferated.
So the United States has an army, which – if we have to do it – is pretty much capable of dominating any battlefield. If we have to do it, we can control the land masses. We can’t control everywhere all the time, but where we send the army, that becomes American ground for as long as we need to hold it. On the ocean, when other people behave badly enough, they can be made to go away. That’s why we don’t have piracy. That’s why we have international waters. All of those international norms and rules of the road have to be enforced by somebody, and for the last seventy years, the enforcer of maritime peace and security and freedom of navigation is the U.S. Navy. In the air, when the United States says somewhere that there’s a no fly zone…Well, there’s a no fly zone. If you fly in the areas where we say are no fly zones, you’re going away. That may cost us, as with our – my other comments – that may cost us some political capital, but here’s the interesting thing: If you violate one of our no fly zones, you’re not part of the discussion about how much of a political problem that is for us because you’re gone. So far, we have not – as a nation – stepped up to the recognition that space is a new domain of human activity. We have not stepped up to the need for us to say norms, the behaviors, the rules of the road, the international rights of passage as long as you behave. Again, that would cost us some political capital, but our objective should be to see that we always remain part of the discussion, and it is other people who are taken off the board. That requires both capability and intention. Intention is always a thing of the moment. Capability takes a long time to build, and it has to be done purposefully. It has to be done with a strategic vision in mind that our job is to be the people who – on behalf of the rights and freedoms and privileges of all people everywhere – enforce norms in space, or behavior in space, as the human race moves out. Missile defense is a part of that. It’s part of space control. It is not – even today – it’s not a small part. It’s a very significant part, but it is not the entire big picture, and I would encourage you to keep in mind the strategic necessity of thinking about space as a strategic human domain into which we will be moving, and the only question is who gets to set the norms? I submit that if we wish to preserve the freedom of the society we have today, it needs to be us, and we need to budget accordingly, and we’re not doing that so far.
– Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, at MDAA’s Huntsville Breakfast of Champions on August 8, 2019.
Over the 17 years that MDAA has attended the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, there has never been a standing room only presentation and one ever on offensive missiles, as was done by Lieutenant General Neil Thurgood, Director for Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, last Wednesday in Huntsville. The new Army/Navy hypersonic missile will use a joint service common hypersonic glide body off the existing U.S. submarine booster rocket stack that fits into a Vertical Launch System (VLS) and is being developed to go on a land-based transporter erector launchers (TELs) for the new effort to strike deep regionally into enemy territory with nothing to defeat it in taking out offensive weapon systems- shooting down the ‘Archer’ before he releases the ‘Arrows.’ This new development, that has parallels to the development and deployment of land based missiles by the withdraw of the INF Treaty, has put both existing U.S. offensive weapon systems – like the Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) and the Tomahawk – as well as developing systems – like the Army’s Precision Strike Missile – on land to be deployed forward to allied nations such as Japan and on U.S. territory such as Guam and Alaska. Providing immediate capacity and capability to strike in “left of launch” against near peer capabilities. This brings forward and demands full integration of left of launch offensive capabilities with right of launch defensive capabilities to provide the best deterrence and stability today and in the future of the near peer massing of offensive missiles.
So, the best answer is, sooner rather later, we want to develop this capability and making sure we can have long range precision fires, not just for that theater, but for the theater that we’re deploying to as well, because of the importance of great distances we need to cover, and how important an intermediate range conventional weapon would be to the Asia Indo-PACOM theater… Right now, we don’t have plans to build nuclear-tipped INF-range weapons. It’s the Russians who have developed, non-compliant, likely, possibly nuclear capable weapons. So, I don’t see an arms race happening. I do see us taking proactive measures to develop the capability that we need for both the European theater and certainly this theater, the Indo-PACOM theater. And at the same time, we need to now develop defensive capabilities to make sure that we can deal with the Russian threat of cruise missiles wherever they may appear.
– Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, on August 2, 2019.
50 years ago, the United States went to the Moon and back and brought undeniable dominance and superiority in space breaking the will to win from its opponent. Today, the United States is pushing the envelope once again to invest and prioritize in its technical dominance in space, missiles, and cyber to break the will of its opponents. What’s behind the curtain, is much more than what the threat can do, it’s what we as a nation can do to defeat it.