The United States’ ability to maintain assured access to space is eroding, and “the need for vigilance has never been greater,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense, space, strategic, and intelligence systems said Friday. More than 170 countries have access to some space capability, and 11 countries have indigenous launch capabilities, while the US has more than 100 military and intelligence satellites in orbit, John McNellis said. “Clearly we don’t ever want to fight a fight that extends into space, but we must be prepared,” he said. “There isn’t a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground architecture, that isn’t at risk today.” McNellis, who has been in his position for just five weeks, said effectively responding to the threat will require the government and industry partners to work together on the “Third Offset” strategy, to maintain competitive and comparative advantage. McNellis also noted that data sharing hit an “all-time high” in 2015. The Pentagon has negotiated sharing agreements with 51 commercial entities, two intergovernmental organizations, and 10 nations, he said. (See also Surviving in Space.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.