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News | May 6, 2024

USSPACECOM ‘Partners to Win’ at NATO’s First Space Symposium

U.S. Space Command

Lt. Gen. Thomas James, U.S. Space Command deputy commander, and Royal Air Force Air Commodore Darren Whiteley, USSPACECOM Strategy, Policy and Plans deputy director, represented the command at the inaugural NATO Space Symposium in Toulouse, France, April 29-30, 2024.
The goal of the symposium, hosted by the NATO Headquarters International Military Staff and Allied Command Transformation, was to accelerate the integration of space capabilities into NATO’s planning and operations; explore how to leverage the rapidly evolving space sector for the benefit of collective defense; and lay groundwork to define NATO’s long-term vision for space.
The approximately 300 attendees from across Allied nations’ defense, industry and academic communities engaged through a range of panels, speeches and group discussions focused on the theme, “Deterrence, Defence and Resilience in and through the Space Domain.”
General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, set the tone and kicked off the forum by encouraging the audience to, “envision a future in which space remains a platform for scientific collaboration, environmental monitoring, and global prosperity. Here at NATO, we are committed to working with nations and ‘partnering to win’ to secure that future through a collaborative approach built on innovation, resilience, and responsible progress.”

While USSPACECOM senior leaders recently met with several Allied leaders during bilateral engagements at the 39th Space Symposium, this NATO event was established to get as many nations together all at once for the sole purpose of advancing the alliances’ deterrence and defense efforts in space, resulting in 27 of the 32 NATO countries attending.  

Lt. Gen. James was invited to represent U.S. Space Command and participate in panel discussions. His panel labeled, “The Importance of Space for the Future of NATO’s Deterrence and Defense” allowed him to share examples of the command’s successes that have increased Space Domain Awareness and improve its protect and defend mission through the integration of commercial partners. These include the Joint Commercial Operations center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Commercial Integration Cell at the Combined Space Operations Center, Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., which is expected to grow in the future.
“Given the rapidly advancing threats we collectively face, we must continue collaborating with our Allies here and think globally – teaming with our Allies and partners is an asymmetric advantage over competitors,” James said. “It would be incredibly powerful to see greater defense and commercial integration and data-sharing of SDA at a global scale, giving us redundancies and creating complexities for our competitors.”
The topics of SDA, commercial integration and data sharing were threaded throughout all discussions and a clear priority for NATO to fulfill core tasks and operate in a multi-domain environment. They are exploring different ways to build closer relations with space industries that may make it easier for industry to work with defense programs and allow NATO to harness innovation and data from broader markets.
Additionally, NATO is also working on their Alliance Persistence Surveillance from Space initiative, announced in February 2023, which plans to establish a combined constellation of both national and commercial space assets to help streamline data collection, sharing, and analysis among NATO Allies and the NATO command structure, while also generating cost savings. The United States was one of the initial 16 nations who launched the initiative.
Other major improvements have demonstrated how NATO has changed their approach to space over the last few years. For instance, in 2020, the NATO Space Centre was established, then in 2021 NATO recognized that attacks in space could lead to the invocation of Article 5, and in 2022 the Strategic Concept was released. Additionally, countries on their own have also made adjustments and investments to focus on the domain. 
“Several countries have made tremendous progress in space over the last few years setting up their own commands or centers and normalizing the domain,” Whiteley said, who is an exchange officer on the USSPACECOM staff. “There is more of an awareness to remove unnecessary classification barriers to open conversations with Allies and Partners. And there are some Allies bringing niche policies and military options that we haven’t seen before, which is important to bringing synergy to operations.”
That synergy was evident during the two-days of discussions that will likely feed into a unified vision to shape NATO’s space agenda for the upcoming summit in Washington D.C.
Acknowledging there is more work to be done, James closed his remarks by citing a well-known saying across space communities, “Space is hard,” while also reminding the audience, “But hard is authorized … History has shown that when threatened by adversaries, being part of this alliance has had a transformative effect. We are encouraged by NATO’s efforts in space, and we look forward to collectively ensuring we have continued access to satellite capabilities so important to our way of life,” James said.