Russia and China are deploying capabilities that can target GPS and other vital space-based systems in an effort to degrade the military space advantage of the U.S. and its allies, said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.
Hicks made the remarks today in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as Army Gen. James H. Dickinson relinquished command of U.S. Space Command to Space Force Gen. Stephen N. Whiting.
U.S. Space Command is crucial in helping to develop, innovate, promote and practice supporting the safety, stability, security and sustainability of the space domain, she said.
“I want to be clear: Conflict is not inevitable in space or anywhere else. And the United States of America is committed to preventing conflict through deterrence by making clear to our competitors that the costs of aggression would far outweigh any conceivable benefits,” Hicks said.
Hicks pointed out how the Defense Department has launched an ever-growing constellation of smaller, more resilient, lower-cost satellites than were ever previously deployed.
“America’s dynamic commercial space industry enables it and also enables the United States to significantly outpace [China’s] growth in space launches and payloads over the last five years,” she said.
From 2019 to 2023, China doubled its number of annual space launches and more than tripled how many payloads it put into orbit. That’s real growth, she said.
But over that same time, American space launches per year more than quadrupled, while U.S. payloads launched increased by nearly 13 times, she said.
In 2023, China launched 240 payloads to orbit while the U.S. lofted over 2,500 payloads, she said.
“As DOD invests more in space, the whole of America’s lead will only grow,” she said.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Christopher W. Grady, who also spoke at the ceremony, said that the dedicated 18,000 members of Space Command exemplify U.S. commitment to space excellence and leadership as they pioneer new frontiers, strengthen international partnerships and safeguard the nation’s interest in the limitless expanse of space.
“Recent conflicts have starkly illustrated the indispensable role of space in our nation’s defense capabilities. And, in my view, space has emerged as our most essential warfighting domain—integral to our national security, our coalition interoperability and our global stability,” he said.
Hicks and Grady lauded Dickinson’s leadership and achievements at U.S. Space Command and noted that Whiting is more than qualified to build on his predecessor’s accomplishments.
Hicks and Grady also mentioned the support the generals received from their wives, who also supported other military families.
Dickinson mentioned the tremendous support his command received from allies, partners, industry and academia. Whiting said he’d continue building on those relationships.