Is Earth-moon space the US military's new high ground? -
Sep 17, 2020 2 mins, 49 secs
military space policy officials have increasingly flagged a new role in guarding American assets and interests in Earth-moon space. .

What do space experts say about extending military tactics to a new "high ground" domain beyond Earth orbit.

American military interest in Earth's moon was spotlighted in a recent report, "State of the Space Industrial Base 2020: A Time for Action to Sustain US Economic & Military Leadership in Space." .

In terms of cislunar (Earth-moon) space and the moon itself, there is a need to control critical "choke points." .

"As space activities expand beyond geosynchronous orbit, the first nation to establish transportation infrastructure and logistics capabilities serving GEO [geosynchronous Earth orbit] and cislunar space will have superior ability to exercise control of cislunar space and in particular the Lagrange points and the resources of the moon," the report says.

"The 21st century space economy is expanding beyond traditional orbits out to the moon with commercial companies seeking to harvest resources, and NASA and other countries returning to the moon," said AFRL's David Buehler, a program manager.

"There is indeed a reimagination of space to transcend simply LEO [low Earth orbit] and GEO to move onto the cislunar space," said Namrata Goswami, an independent analyst specializing in space policy.

military would want to pay more attention to that big patch of space, said David Burbach, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. .

Speaking in a personal capacity, Burbach said that, in principle, spacecraft in cislunar space can affect the many satellites in lower Earth orbits, or be relevant to military operations on Earth.

"Organizationally, the whole point of creating a separate service [the Space Force] was to forge a space-centric culture, and it's natural that a new organization would want to take steps to differentiate itself from its parent and to show that it is actively taking on new missions, and as a corollary, needs new resources," Burbach said. .

space community, Burbach said, who envision the moon as the "new El Dorado," a place of fabulous wealth or opportunity.

So, some advocates see a near-term economic boom in cislunar space, though Burbach and many other analysts are skeptical that this will happen in the next few decades.

Garretson expects that "thinking boldly" and designing for the next 100 years would include the articulation of a vision or strategy for cislunar or an in-space economy that excites future Space Force recruits.

The current argument over military ranks for Space Force, Garretson suggested, is also fundamentally about whether or not the Force should be focused looking down or looking out — including at the moon and cislunar

"Those who favor a focus on space resources and development of the moon seem to favor naval rank, while those wanting the Space Force to remain an overhead robotic monitoring force favor status quo rank," he said

Garretson said it will be interesting to see if the current generation of Space Force leadership, which grew up within the Earth-centric culture of the Air Force, will be able to bridge visionary thinking in their posture statements and then force design guidance. 

We are waiting to see whether or not the Space Force leadership has in fact embraced the vision of Congress and the administration or intends to be merely a status quo continuation of Air Force Space Command and a puppet of the Air Force proper," Garretson added

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