General: US faces 'Sputnik moment' in space race competition

Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, shakes hands with Gen. John Raymond, the new commander of the U.S. Space Command, during a ceremony Monday to recognize the re-establishment of the Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The United States has reached a new “Sputnik moment” in which the military must act to keep the nation’s competitive advantage in space against adversaries such as Russia, China, and, to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday.

Gen. Joseph Dunford made his comments during a ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recognizing the relaunch of U.S. Space Command.

He compared President Trump’s reboot of the Space Command to President John Kennedy’s call to action after the Soviet Union started the space race with Sputnik, the first space satellite launched in 1957, and with 1961’s first manned trip into space.

“In my view, it’s not an overstatement to say that we’re at another Sputnik moment,” Dunford said. “And you could argue that the stakes are much higher than they were in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

The Pentagon had a U.S. Space Command from 1985 to 2002, but it was disbanded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks to focus on homeland defense. Trump said in December he would re-establish the Space Command with the goal of improving space operations across the U.S. military and to speed up technical developments.

The Space Command is not the Space Force, a separate military service that Trump wants but which Congress must approve.

Russia and China are placing greater emphasis on their space capabilities, and have developed technology and weapons that could disrupt or destroy satellites, Dunford said.

Iran and North Korea have less developed capabilities, but they still pose a threat, he added.

The Space Command has become necessary to not only compete, but will be essential to the nation’s ability to fight wars, Dunford said.

“I learned early in my career the value of seizing the high ground in a fight,” he said. “Space command will seize and hold the high ground.”

The Space Command’s new commander, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, said he wants to deter war in space by focusing on building forces that would win a cosmic battle and keep U.S. “space superiority.”

“We will develop ready and lethal space forces,” Raymond said. “We will take our existing space warfighting culture established by the original United States Space Command, honed in the Cold War and hardened in the many conflicts since, and adapt it to today’s strategic environment.”

The initial Space Command headquarters is Peterson Air Force Base, which is also home to other units with space operations, including missile defense warning systems.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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