Air Force Releases Space, Cyberspace Priorities List (Updated)

By Stew Magnuson
The Air Force released a document July 16 that it said is guiding its investment decisions in space and cyberspace. “Nuclear survivable communications” and “proactive defense” for network security top its two lists.
Air Force Space Command leaders were asked by reporters at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April what their priorities were in these two realms. There were no publicly releasable documents that they could share, they responded. On July 16, they released a top 15 list of “prioritized space capabilities” and a top nine list of “prioritized cyberspace capabilities.”
All the items on the lists are important, the document stated. Nevertheless, “prioritized capabilities … guide the strategic planning, investment decisions, and development and fielding of space and cyberspace systems.”
For space, the list in order of importance included: nuclear survivable communications; launch detection/missile tracking; position, navigations and timing (commonly referred to as the Global Positioning System); space situational awareness and battle space awareness; defense space control (the ability to protect its assets); assured space access/spacelift; space command and control; satellite operations; protected tactical communications; offensive space control; unprotected communications; space-to-surface intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; terrestrial environmental monitoring; nuclear detonation detection; and responsive spacelift.
Some of these priorities have already been reflected the in the budget. Operationally Responsive Space — a once highly touted concept that called for on demand launches when satellites go defunct — is at the bottom of the list. The joint ORS office has been recommended for termination. Terrestrial environmental monitoring at number 13 would have included two now cancelled programs the Defense Weather Satellite System and the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System, a joint military-civilian agency program.
Meanwhile, number four on the list, space situational awareness, the ability to discern what is happening in space, whether that is tracking enemy spacecraft, space junk or space weather has received renewed attention over the past few years in the wake of a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 and some notable collisions of defunct spacecraft. The Air Force is investing in the so-called Space Fence, a series of terrestrial radars that will help it track smaller pieces of space debris as they orbit. It also launched the space-based space surveillance satellite in 2010 to help it keep track of satellites in geosynchronous orbit.   
As for cyber-operations, the list in order included: Proactive defense; defensive counter cyberspace; cyberspace intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and situational awareness; persistent network operations; data confidentiality and integrity systems; cyberspace operations center; offensive counter cyberspace for global reach and access; net extension and resiliency; and influence operations.
The top five on this list are all defense related, while using the network for offensive actions are low on the list. “Offensive counter cyberspace, which is defined in the document as “operations conducted to project power against adversaries in or through cyberspace” is number 7 on the list. Last on the list is influence operations, which “serve to amplify the effects of traditional military operations and influence perceptions and behaviors of leaders, groups or entire populations by means other than force (e.g., operations security, public affairs, counterintelligence operations, etc).”
Correction: Original post had incorrect title for Air Force Space Command.

Topics: Cyber, Space

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