National Space Defense Center now fully operational

The Pentagon announced this week that the new National Space Defense Center is up and running and fully operational.

The center is located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It had been operating with borrowed personnel but is now fully staffed with 230 full-time personnel. The center operates 24-7.

The center’s primary function is to identify threats to American military and civil space assets including guidance, targeting and communications satellites.

The center operates in complete secrecy and is protected by a double-fence inside the Schriver base’s secure area.

While the center’s operations are classified, its commander, Air Force Col. Todd Brost said personnel staff includes contractors, representatives of American spy agencies along with troops from Air Force Space Command.

“This is not an Air Force unit,” Brost told local media. “It’s not really even a Department of Defense unit.” [source]

Analysis: The center was born out of concerns in 2015 that America’s enemies are increasingly convinced that developing anti-satellite as an asymmetrical warfare capability is key to meeting and defeating U.S. forces on the modern battlefield. While it’s unclear how the center will identify threats to American space-based assets and assist the Pentagon in defeating those threats remains unclear, Brost told local media that satellite operators and intelligence personnel would be operating side-by-side. Also, he said that the center will have access to real-time space surveillance intelligence.

Leaders in developing anti-satellite weaponry include China, which has tested anti-satellite missiles already, and Russia, which has also successfully tested an ASAT missile last year (the PL-19 Nudol). North Korea and Iran are also believed to be developing ASAT weaponry. ASAT development is not limited to kinetic weapons (missiles); adversaries are developing “dazzlers” — lasers aimed at satellites from the ground to blind them — and jammers are two of the concepts under development.

That said, the Pentagon is not sitting on its hands regarding protection of its space-based assets. The Air Force and the Pentagon have committed to spend $5.5 billion in the coming years to devise ways to protect space-based assets; the new center, no doubt, is part of that development.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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