The Pentagon needs to accelerate efforts to build resilient satellite constellations to defend against anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, such as the one tested by Russia last November, John Plumb, the nominee to become assistant secretary of defense for space policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Jan. 13.
“One of the best ways the department can pursue to nullify that type of behavior is an architecture that’s resilient enough to withstand a blow to one or several satellites,” Plumb told the committee in response to questions from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). “Being able to reconstitute quickly and having a resilient architecture makes the attractiveness of a target much less. I think that’s a really important place, and I don’t think we’re moving fast enough, and we need to get going.”
Plumb is the chief of government relations at the Aerospace Corp. a U.S. Navy Reserve officer, and a former National Security Council staffer during the Obama administration. If confirmed, Plumb will become DoD’s first permanent assistant secretary of defense for space policy–a position created by the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
At the Biden administration’s first National Space Council meeting on Dec. 1, participants, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, discussed promoting rules and norms for space behavior, and Hicks called on nations to refrain from ASAT tests that create debris (Defense Daily, Dec. 1, 2021). Russia’s ASAT test last Nov. 15 generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces.
“There is a need for rules and for norms in space behavior, and I hold some deep kernel of hope that we could come to agreement with Russia and China on that in some not too distant future,” Plumb told SASC on Jan. 13 in response to questioning from Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). “At the same time, nothing there would, in my mind, prevent us or preclude us from pursuing both offensive and defensive capabilities to ensure we can defend our own assets and prevail in a conflict.”