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News | April 9, 2024

Whiting underscores growing partnerships, capabilities required for competition, conflict at Space Symposium 39

U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Force Gen. Stephen Whiting, U.S. Space Command commander, opened the 39th annual Space Symposium at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 9, 2024.

During his remarks, themed “Winning in Competition and Conflict,” he highlighted the importance of growing international and commercial partnerships and their contributions to a warfighting advantage.

 “Relationships matter, and space is a team sport,” Whiting said. “At U.S. Space Command, we are committed to building a coalition of teammates to achieve a collective advantage, and we’re committed to being great teammates ourselves.”

This commitment is outlined in the command’s four focus priorities – showcasing how USSPACECOM prepares and postures to maximize combat readiness by 2027, improving its capabilities to counter threats that hold our modern way of life and national defense at risk, and building strong partnerships to not only achieve a warfighting advantage, but maintain and expand that advantage.

One powerful demonstration of this team focus can be seen through Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER, the command’s named multinational operation intended to strengthen deterrence, optimize space operations, improve mission assurance, enhance resilience and optimize space assets by engaging with U.S. government partners and allies, through the sharing of information, data and resources.

The United Kingdom was the first nation to join OOD in July 2020, followed by Australia and Canada. During his remarks, Whiting announced that USSPACECOM invited three new Allies to join OOD, including Germany, France and New Zealand.

“Our international Allies and Partner nations provide strategic and operational advantages,” Whiting said. “I’ve been proud to work alongside Germany, France and New Zealand for many years, and I look forward to their consideration of our invitation to join OOD.”

Another vital and growing relationship the command leverages is the strength of the commercial industry, which is demonstrated through USSPACECOM’s Commercial Integration Cell and Joint Commercial Operations Cell. The CIC enables operational and technology exchanges between operators at the Combined Space Operations Center located at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

Commercial partners improve space domain awareness by providing real-time and near real-time information flow during daily routine operations and enable informed rapid responses to critical unplanned space events or other activities in and through space. Additionally, partnerships within the JCO enable commercial 24/5 space domain awareness at the unclassified level, providing indication and warning capability to augment the space protect and defend mission.

“The U.S. commercial aerospace industry is one of our nation’s biggest advantages, and it is an advantage that is growing,” Whiting said. “Today, we have multiple companies at our Commercial Integration Cell at Vandenberg Space Force Base. and I’m excited to announce today that we are inviting eight additional companies to enter the (Commercial) Integration Cell, so we can share information and gain insights into how each other’s constellations are operating.

Finally, the command has shown further growth through expansion of its Space Situational Awareness sharing program, enhancing the safety, stability, security, and sustainability of spaceflight for all. Currently, the command has 185 SSA Data Sharing Agreements, and cosigned a new agreement with Uruguay at the symposium.  

“By sharing space information with space-faring Allies and Partners and academic institutions we promote trust required for coalition unified action,” Whiting said.
Uruguay also became the 36th nation to sign the Artemis Accords Feb. 15, 2024, underscoring its commitment to the peaceful, safe, and transparent exploration and use of outer space, and plans to establish a national space agency in the future.

While partners provide a clear asymmetric advantage, Whiting also outlined the need for specific actions and increased capabilities to deter, and if required, defeat threats.
Those capabilities include dynamic space operations and on-orbit logistics that can sustain space maneuver – on-orbit satellite refueling, consumables replenishment, system repair, and forward sustainment.

Tactically Responsive Space and launch operations is another important U.S. Space Force capability that can be used to augment and reconstitute and replenish capabilities in support of combatant commanders.

"Today we've got a lot to do. We've got to make all of our constellations more resilient; we've got to protect and defend those constellations against the threats now arrayed against us; we have to protect the joint force from space enabled attack; and we must have a test and training enterprise that convinces us that these capabilities will work in a conflict which has never happened,” Whiting said, to name a few.

On the importance of simulating threat scenarios through maturation of testing and training environments, Whiting announced the achievement of the command’s Capability Assessment and Validation Environment, or CAVE, reaching minimum viable capability. CAVE is a modeling and simulation laboratory, which will be used to derive combatant command capability requirements and insights into multidomain joint warfighting concepts, improving how USSPACECOM deters and plans “a fight that has never happened and a fight we don’t want to happen,” Whiting said.

“U.S. Space Command does not want any war, let alone a war that starts in or extends into space, which would be particularly bad for our domain. We want to remain in enduring competition and not progress into crisis or conflict,” he said. “It’s our job to instill doubts, so that every morning (our adversaries) wake up and say, ‘today is not the day for armed conflict.’”

And to do that, Whiting emphasized the need to not only modernize capabilities and expand partnerships, but also to increase mutual trust through information sharing, an area the Department of Defense has made significant progress through its recently approved space classification policy.

“Together, these next necessary steps will ensure that all of us, as a team, win in competition and conflict,” he said. “We will work with a Coalition of peace-loving nations to ensure space remains, safe, sustainable and secure for future generations.”

Space Symposium is an annual event that brings together sectors of the space community from multiple space-faring nations and space agencies, to focus on examining issues from multiple perspectives and promoting dialogue on critical space issues. 

Gen. Whiting's keynote address transcript