U.S. Army General James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) is committed to several lines of effort as the command drives toward full operational capability, including strengthening relationships, attracting new partners, and building and maintaining a competitive advantage.
Gen. Dickinson spoke with Diálogo about his partnership with nations within U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility, and the security challenges they all face in the space domain.
Diálogo: What are the main capabilities U.S. Space Command shares with partner nations of U.S. Southern Command?
U.S. Army General James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command: U.S. Space Command’s space capabilities support different missions across all the combatant commands to contribute to our policy goals. The main capabilities that U.S. Space Command can share with partner nations in the Americas include satellite communications (SATCOM), Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT); ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance]; and weather monitoring. These capabilities can directly support SOUTHCOM partner nation efforts combating crime from drug trafficking to illegal fishing and deforestation.
SOUTHCOM and the Intelligence Community are currently best postured to coordinate with our partner nations in the Americas to discuss supporting drug interdiction efforts. That said, SOUTHCOM is expanding its military space engagement in the Americas to bring more capability to our partner nations. A USSPACECOM-established Joint Integrated Space Team (JIST) embeds into SOUTHCOM to coordinate their support. SOUTHCOM has also announced plans to have a southern space component at some point.
Space capabilities can also support SOUTHCOM partner nation efforts dealing with illegal fishing. For example, SOUTHCOM is already working to increase sharing of space-based information to improve our partners’ awareness of activities in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). This is helping to counter threats such as the People’s Republic of China’s illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing that are depleting regional stocks critical to fishermen’s livelihoods.
Diálogo: Space-based technology can contribute to all phases of the disaster management cycle, including prevention, preparedness, early warning, response, and reconstruction. How could SOUTHCOM’s partner nations improve their ability to predict disasters, provide early warnings, and swiftly respond?
Gen. Dickinson: Society relies on space capabilities — and we expect these space-based services, like meteorology and global positioning systems, to be immediately available to us. And, while space does play a vital role in our national security, access to space-based technology has a profound effect on the everyday lives of people around the world. Space-based technology like the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) can support climate and weather observations, and provide global environmental data that could be used for a variety of purposes, including identifying areas that need humanitarian assistance.
In the response to the Haiti earthquake in 2021, the U.S. and its partners were able to leverage space-based imagery to assess the damage and better direct humanitarian assistance, which ultimately saved hundreds of lives.
SOUTHCOM was an important part of the immediate response providing logistical support facilitated by that space-based imagery. So too with environmental disasters like the oil spills in Peru this year and in Brazil in 2019. Satellite imagery provided the best and quickest means of assessing the extent of the spills and in Brazil’s case, in identifying the source. Whether we’re talking about spills, deforestation, environmental crimes, wildfires, and more, space-enabled technologies have the potential to transform how countries respond to and prepare for disasters and save precious lives.
That’s why the cooperation between our partners and allies is such a crucial part of the Space Command mission. The world is growing increasingly reliant on space-based capabilities and safeguarding the access to those capabilities has never been more imperative. We must continue to strengthen our alliances and partnerships with the international community, commercial industry, and whole-of-government, to ensure our shared interests are protected.
Diálogo: SOUTHCOM has space-related relationships with Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru. How are those partnerships working? What type of combined U.S.-SOUTHCOM’s AOR space operations could strengthen mission assurance and military effectiveness?
Gen. Dickinson: USSPACECOM’s security-cooperation program assists partner nations as they develop their space capabilities and capacities. This program, through coordination with SOUTHCOM, is facilitating the measurable growth and development of the Brazilian, Chilean, Colombian, and Peruvian military-space capabilities.
Last year, as part of the Global Sentinel campaign series, USSPACECOM expanded partnerships through direct cooperation with more than 20 international partners to support shared space domain awareness and bolster space operations expertise internationally, a number of them in Latin America.
The partnership between USSPACECOM and Chile is a great example of our long-term goal: a powerful, globally-integrated network that continuously monitors the space domain for threats to technologies that we all depend upon in our daily lives. Recently, USSPACECOM’s Joint Task Force–Space Defense (JTF-SD), Air Forces Southern, and the Chilean Air Force completed the Sprint Advanced Concept Training series consisting of simulated launches and tracking events in order to build our joint capacity to protect space-based assets.
In addition to joint training opportunities, USSPACECOM’s sensor-data sharing program integrates government agencies and allies, commercial industry partners, and academic institutions into the tracking and reporting of space activities.
These cooperative operations not only broaden our collective space domain awareness, but also project a united front against adversaries that threaten a safe, secure, and sustainable space domain. Space activities benefit humanity, and we need to collectively deter hostile acts that threaten their stability.
The long-term goal is to conduct integrated operations with allies and partners to collectively monitor and defend the space domain from threats. Conducting integrated operations with our allies and partners are central elements to ensure space is protected for the future. Moreover, our alliances and partnerships strengthen integrated deterrence to hopefully prevent conflict from extending into space.
Diálogo: What kind of cooperation and coordination for space research and development opportunities does USSPACECOM have with SOUTHCOM’s partner nations?
Gen. Dickinson: 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. Chile joins Brazil, Peru, and 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, promoting a safer use of space for everyone.
The U.S. military’s participation in Chile’s international air and space fair, also known as Feria Internacional del Aire y del Espacio (FIDAE), further reaffirms our commitment to participating in responsible space behavior alongside our allies and partners. Alongside countries around the world, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory conducts research in South America to advocate for good stewardship in the space environment and work with our South American partners to develop space integration into their civil and military operations.
Diálogo: What kind of multilateral engagement/exercises among USSPACECOM and SOUTHCOM have taken place/will take place to solidify efforts in the space domain? In November 2020, USSPACECOM and SOUTHCOM co-hosted a virtual Americas Space Conference which was a great opportunity for our most active space partners, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru to discuss ways we can all work together to achieve common goals in space. Do you have plans to host a new and bigger event?
Gen. Dickinson: U.S. Space Command’s participation in FIDAE 22 is just one way our U.S. forces work together with our partner nations to promote mutual interests of security and stability within the space domain. The protection of the space domain should be inherent to all space faring nations. Through exercises like U.S. Space Command’s Global Sentinel, we are able to work with partners who have SSA sharing agreements with the U.S. to learn how to work together to identify and address threats in the space domain. As the space domain becomes more congested, contested, and competitive it is essential to work together with allies and partners to ensure that space remains safe to operate in for all.
Last year, in coordination with SOUTHCOM we implemented our first “space-centric” security cooperation initiative focusing on institutional capacity building with allies and partners. This initiative provides funds to help our partners build capacity to execute space operations. Additionally, USSPACECOM is committed to working with allies and partners in regards to sharing SSA data. Collectively, this data will go beyond merely tracking space objects for situational awareness to a collective space domain awareness that identifies, tracks, and characterizes space threats.
We plan to hold a second virtual Americas Space Conference in late 2022, where we hope to include additional partners across the region.
Diálogo: What are the biggest challenges for SOUTHCOM’s AOR in terms of the space domain?
Gen. Dickinson: Most countries aspire to either establish or expand their space capabilities, however; the greatest barrier to entry for any nation is the cost of developing and operating a national space program. The U.S. is committed to encouraging the peaceful use of space for everyone around the world and will seek opportunities to assist or partner with countries who are improving their space systems. We engage in partnerships that are rooted in the common value of responsible, transparent, and safe behavior, preventing other countries from exploiting a host nation for its own gain. U.S. partnerships facilitate the development of sustainable space capabilities that benefit our partners and harness the use of space to tackle shared, pressing challenges, while preserving the benefits of space for current and future generations.
Diálogo: What does Chile gain by partnering with USSPACECOM?
Gen. Dickinson: Chile is a source of space leadership within the region and USSPACECOM is excited to work alongside them as they expand their space capabilities. Both Chile and the United States realize that space is vital to the safety and security of our people and that all nations around the globe stand to benefit from the safe, secure, and peaceful use of space. Chile’s plans to rapidly grow their capabilities in space to meet their national security, economic, and scientific needs are ambitious, and the United States is excited to partner with Chile to help them reach their goals, as we are with other partners in the region. USSPACECOM is committed to helping Chile develop its national space program in an open and transparent way through cooperation, collaboration, and mutual trust with the hope that we will be strong partners for years to come.