December 09, 2023

Commercial Conundrum? Potential Implications of Using Commercial Space for U.S. National Security

On October 16-17, the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory hosted its 5th annual “Space and U.S. Defense Policy” workshop. The workshop focused on strategic deterrence and how the U.S. can better integrate the space domain into its overarching defense strategy. The private space industry was a frequent topic of discussion, as the U.S. Government may leverage commercial capabilities in its efforts to deter its adversaries, particularly China. This article serves to build upon those discussions by exploring the potential consequences of using commercial providers within the U.S. national security space architecture.

The DoD will not automatically defend commercial assets without an order from senior leadership; but there is reason to believe they have an interest in doing so.

Commercial space companies offer a range of services that may be valuable to the U.S. defense and intelligence community including launch, remote sensing, communications, and satellite servicing. A growing number of companies are entering contracts with the U.S. government to provide such services. For instance, the U.S. remote sensing company Planet announced contracts in 2023 with NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and most recently an unnamed Asian government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From an American perspective, this is a successful instance of integrated deterrence, utilizing all tools of national power – including cutting-edge commercial technologies – and working with allies and partners to deter aggression. But it also raises questions about the consequences of further integrating commercial space assets into U.S. national security.

Read the full article from Pacific Forum.

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