“In my view, it’s not an overstatement to say that we are at another Sputnik moment and you could argue that the stakes are much higher than they were in the late 1950 and early 1960s”, Dunford said in his speech at Petersen Air Force Base in the US state of Colorado.
In 1957, the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik I, the first-ever manmade artificial earth satellite, shocked the American public into recognizing that the Soviet Union had several years lead in space capabilities both scientific and military.
The competitive advantage that the United States enjoyed after the Cold War had eroded, Dunford cautioned.
“That dynamic has been particularly evident in space … The Russians and the Chinese have seen how we have leveraged [US assets] in space. They have developed jamming, cyberspace, directed energy weapons [and] anti-satellite weapons …We can no longer take our access to space for granted”, he said.
US President Donald Trump is pressing for the Department of Defence to create a new unified and independent Space Force. Space Command or SPACECOM is not that force but integrates existing space fighting units and capabilities under its direction form the existing US armed forces.
“We perform our mission in a very complex and volatile security environment … Space is a contested domain ... This is about taking it to the next level”, Dunford said.
President Ronald Reagan first set up a US Space Command in 1985 during his so-called “Star Wars” or Strategic Defence Initiative, but it was ended and integrated into US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in 2002.