While the world takes note of the Russian withdrawal of its “main” military forces from Syria, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday that “[a]dversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade, and destroy” important U.S. military and intelligence satellites.
Addressing the House Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee, the commander of the Air Force Space Command, General John Hyten, testified that said the threat to U.S. space systems has reached a new tipping point, according to the report from Bill Gertz over at the FreeBeacon.
“Adversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade, and destroy our space capabilities,” General Hyten said in his prepared statement. “They understand our reliance on space, and they understand the competitive advantage we derive from space. The need for vigilance has never been greater.”
Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, ISIL
Frank Calvelli, identified as the Deputy Director National Reconnaissance Office, also testified. (See Calvelli HouseOversight document here.) “Let me start where the Director of National Intelligence left off last month when he testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on the litany of challenges the United States’ national security enterprise is facing today–
a resurgent Russia increasingly assertive in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; a China that continues advancing its military capabilities while aggressively pursuing territorial claims in the Pacific; a North Korea that recently boasted of its successful testing of a nuclear device; an Iranian regime that continues to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, including Hamas and Lebanese Hizballah; and the spread of ISIL, which he referred to as the “pre-eminent global terrorist threat.”
Believing that discussion of the challenges is critical to thwarting the threats, Calvelli testified to the importance of having “robust intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) systems” which could “provide decision makers the information they need to prevent or respond to crises.” The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) deputy director stated that his agency is vital to providing that information capability.
NRO on the go
“Overhead reconnaissance developed, acquired, launched, and operated by the NRO enables the United States … and its Allies to maintain strategic, operational, and tactical superiority across a broad spectrum of missions around the globe,” Calvelli continued. “It is the foundation of U.S. global situational awareness, providing unique, timely access to locations around the world. NRO systems assist national policy formulation in addition to intelligence, military, and homeland security operations, without risk of putting U.S. military personnel in harm’s way.”
In his testimony, Calvelli, told the panel of a new satellite that carried 13 smaller “CubeSats,” according to the freebeacon story. “The NRO sponsored nine of the CubeSats while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsored the remaining four.” These new satellites apparently can provide “beyond-line-of-sight communication for disadvantaged users in remote locations, and technology pathfinders to demonstrate tracking technologies, optical communications, and laser communication.”
The main point Calvelli made to the congressional panel is the focus of the agency. “We are more focused on survivability and resiliency from an enterprise perspective than we have ever been and we have made significant investments to that end.”