British Army Brigadier Paul Tedman, U.S. Space Command’s (SPACECOM) deputy director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, is committed to strengthening relationships with existing allied and partner nations, attracting new partners in the space domain, and building and maintaining a competitive advantage to deter aggression.
Brig. Tedman spoke with Diálogo about SPACECOM’s partnership with nations within U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility, and the security challenges they collectively face in space.
Diálogo: What is Space Conference of the Americas and why is it important?
British Army Brigadier Paul Tedman, U.S. Space Command’s deputy director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships: Space Conference of the Americas is a gathering of like-minded spacefaring nations from North and South America. I hope during the two-day conference that we will develop friendships through mutual respect and trust and discuss how we will cooperate to ensure a safe, stable, secure, and sustainable space domain.
Space-based capabilities are vital to the global way of life for billions around the world, and malign-actors displaying irresponsible behavior continue to put these capabilities in jeopardy. It’s for this reason that we must work together to advocate for responsible behaviors in space by all. The Space Conference of the Americas is an excellent forum to do this.
Diálogo: What are some capabilities SPACECOM shares with SOUTHCOM’s partner nations?
Brig. Tedman: U.S. Space Command’s space capabilities support different missions across North and South America. The main capabilities that U.S. Space Command can share with partner nations in the Americas include satellite communications (SATCOM), Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT), imagery, and weather monitoring. These capabilities support our partners by helping to combat drug trafficking, illegal fishing, mining, and deforestation.
SOUTHCOM is expanding its military space engagement in the Americas to bring more capability to our partner nations. A SPACECOM-established Joint Integrated Space Team (JIST) embeds into SOUTHCOM to coordinate that support. SOUTHCOM is also working to establish a U.S. Space Force service component, much like what happened in November 2022, when U.S. Indo-Pacific Command established Space Forces – Indo-Pacific Component Command.
Diálogo: What sort of threats are present in the space domain?
Brig. Tedman: Competitor nations have recognized the advantage the United States and its allies and partners derive from the use of space to defeat threats abroad and to our homeland. Because of this, the military doctrines of these competitor nations identify space as critical to modern warfare and view the use of counterspace capabilities as a means both to reduce military effectiveness and to win future wars.
For example, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to develop counterspace capabilities to include Shijian-17 and Shijian-21, which are satellites with robotic arm technology. Space-based robotic arm technology could be used for grappling and disabling other satellites. The PRC also has multiple ground-based laser systems of varying power levels that could blind or irreversibly damage satellites.
SPACECOM is entrusted to protect and defend the most critical space assets from these threats, and it depends on a strong network of allied and partner nations to do so. SPACECOM, alongside key allies and international partners, seeks to deter aggression in space to ensure a safe, secure, stable, and sustainable environment for us all.
Diálogo: What has SPACECOM learned from the Russia-Ukraine War?
Brig. Tedman: I think the war has validated the importance of space in modern conflict. The need for space based ISR, PNT, and SATCOM has been starkly demonstrated and as a result we have seen Russia try to degrade and disrupt these capabilities — there should be no doubt that any future conflict will see the U.S. and allies’ space systems contested. Perhaps the most important lesson has been how Ukraine has effectively used commercial space capabilities to support its operations. I would also say the war has highlighted the importance of allies and partners. The way countries have come together to condemn Russia’s illegal invasion on Ukraine and the support Ukraine’s efforts has demonstrated what a collective of likeminded countries can achieve.
Diálogo: We’ve talked about “responsible behaviors” in the space domain. What do those behaviors look like? What do irresponsible behaviors look like?
Brig. Tedman: U.S. Space Command continues to develop a list of more specific behaviors as directed by the July 2021 U.S. State Department memorandum regarding “Five Tenets of responsible behaviors in space.” We have submitted those behaviors to the U.S. Secretary of Defense Mr. Lloyd Austin for consideration and, if approved, hope to use this list to create shared understandings between space operators about longstanding operational practices to increase transparency, reduce miscommunication, and reduce misperceptions.
Irresponsible behavior in space can manifest in a variety of ways. For example, Russia conducted a destructive, direct-assent anti-satellite missile test in November 2021. In this test, they destroyed their own satellite, but this caused thousands of pieces of debris to scatter around our Earth’s orbit. Debris from this test, and future tests like it put lives in danger. The international space station has even been forced to re-position to avoid the debris from this action.
Diálogo: What kind of cooperation and coordination for space research and development opportunities does SPACECOM have with SOUTHCOM’s partner nations?
Brig. Tedman: Around the world, private and public sector entities recognize that a free space domain advances a nation’s security and promotes economic prosperity and innovation. Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru join 26 other nations, two intergovernmental organizations, and over 100 commercial satellite service providers who share a commitment to responsible safe behavior through participation in the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Data-Sharing Agreement. This group exchanges public information to track space debris and mitigate the risk of collisions.
The U.S. military’s participation in Space Conference of the Americas 2023 further reaffirms the United States’ commitment to responsible space behavior alongside our allies and partners. It demonstrates our willingness to help our partners throughout the region develop space capacity and capabilities to address their national security.
Diálogo: What opportunities can space capabilities bring to SOUTHCOM’s AOR?
Brig. Tedman: The significant reduction in launch costs — by up to two thirds — has allowed many of our partners in SOUTHCOM to develop their own space capabilities. Ensuring we support our partners to develop their space capacity and capability is of great importance to SPACECOM. We engage in partnerships that are rooted in the common values of responsible, transparent, and safe behavior. Although not exclusive, I would suggest that one of the main ways space-based capabilities support our SOUTHCOM partners is by providing connect, warn, guide, and inform capabilities to counter illegal fishing, mining, and deforestation.
Diálogo: It has been stated by U.S. leadership that China is the number one pacing challenge, what is SPACECOM doing to ensure we are outpacing the competition?
Brig. Tedman: The recently released National Defense Strategy has ‘integrated deterrence’ at its heart. SPACECOM is playing its part to realize this integration by working very closely with allies and partners to build resilience, increase capability, and to impose cost on our adversaries. SPACECOM’s Space Partnership Framework is designed to build partners space capability and capacity progressively and flexibly. We work bilaterally and multilaterally to ultimately achieve combined space operations.
As the PRC adopts a more coercive and aggressive approach in the space domain, SPACECOM is working with allies and partners to ensure we provide services to the Combined and Joint Force and protect and defend our space capabilities — no one of us, is better than all of us, we are stronger together.