House Armed Services Committee Hearing: “To Receive Testimony on United States Strategic Command and United States Space Command”

U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services Hearing  

“To Receive Testimony on United States Strategic Command and United States Space Command in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2025 And the Future Years Defense Program” 

Thursday, February 29, 2024 

Watch the Hearing  


The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services (SASC) held a hearing “To Receive Testimony on United States Strategic Command and United States Space Command in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2025 And the Future Years Defense Program” on Thursday, February 29, 2024. During the hearing, the witnesses highlighted the transformation of space into a contested domain, with adversaries like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation actively developing capabilities to challenge U.S. dominance. General Whiting emphasized the need to modernize existing systems to defend against current threats, as current systems are optimized for a “benign” space environment.

Key Highlights  

  • General Whiting emphasized the need for Congress to make long-term investments in (1) space C2 programs, (2) spectrum capabilities, and (3) battlespace awareness to match the rapid advancements of adversaries in the space domain. 
  • By 2027, USSPACECOM is committed to delivering on five identified priority requirements: (1) resilient and timely operational C2; (2) integrated space fires and protection; (3) modernized agile electronic warfare architectures; (4) enhanced battlespace awareness for space warfare; and (5) cyber defense of space systems. 
  • With respect to the establishment of a Space National Guard, General Whiting highlighted the importance of ensuring there are no interruptions to existing missions during any potential consolidation or transfer of the National Guard’s space functions. 


  • General Anthony J. Cotton, USAF, Commander of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)  
  • General Stephen N. Whiting, USSF, Commander of United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) 

Opening Statements   

Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI)  

In his opening statement, Chairman Reed emphasized the importance of identifying and addressing gaps resulting from the transition of USSPACECOM from USSTRATCOM. He highlighted that dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum plays a vital role in modern warfare, particularly referencing instances such as GPS denial and the deliberate disabling of commercial satellite systems during the war in Ukraine. Additionally, he pointed to the PRC’s increasing investments in jamming electronic and kinetic technologies capable of disabling military and civilian satellites. Chairman Reed stressed that while USSPACECOM has reached full operational capability, in his eyes, that does not equate to “full mission readiness” as a warfighting domain. He emphasized the imperative for the USSPACECOM to advance its battle management capabilities and integrate with other combatant commands. Finally, Chairman Reed noted that there would be a classified briefing immediately following the hearing to continue the discussion.  

Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS)

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Wicker referenced The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States and recommended that the U.S. act on recommendations set out in the report to maintain U.S. competitiveness against adversaries with respect to nuclear and space capabilities. He also stressed that both Russia and the PRC are developing counterspace capabilities, highlighting the use of kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) tests 

Witness Testimony  

General Anthony J. Cotton, USAF, Commander of USSTRATCOM 

In his testimony, General Cotton mentioned modernization efforts in the space domain are connected to the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) enterprise operation, referencing the fully deployed Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) space constellation. Additionally, General Cotton discussed the transition of the Missile Defense mission from USSTRATCOM to USSPACECOM. Read the Full Statement.  

 General Stephen N. Whiting, USSF, Commander of USSPACECOM 

In his testimony, General Whiting emphasized that the PRC and Russia have transformed space into a “contested warfighting domain.” With the war in Ukraine establishing space as an enabler of terrestrial warfare for Russia, General Whiting highlighted that the PRC operations have also become “increasingly enabled by space at all levels.” He stated that USSPACECOM is leveraging every resource available to expand the U.S.’s competitive advantage, including enhancing its partnerships at the interagency, joint forces, allied, commercial, and academic levels. He argued that it is vital that USPACECOM delivers improved capabilities and capacities by 2027 “to match the PRC’s speed and maintain its advantage.” In collaboration with other agencies and combatant commands, USSPACECOM has identified the following five priority requirements to deliver on by 2027.  

  1. Resilient and timely operational command and control 
  2. Integrated space fires and protection 
  3. Modernized agile electronic warfare architectures 
  4. Enhanced battlespace awareness for space warfare 
  5. Cyber defense of space systems. 

However, General Whiting emphasized that absent commitment to long-term investment in these areas creates a risk of ceding advantage to adversaries. He specifically requested continued investment and support of (1) space command and control (C2) programs, including the Consolidated Space Operations Facility, (2) a modern suite of electromagnetic spectrum capabilities, and (3) programs to enhance battlespace awareness for contested space operations. Read the Full Statement. 

Question & Answer  

Commercial Industry 

  • In response to a question by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), General Whiting affirmed that the U.S. commercial space industry is not only an advantage for the space community but for the entire nation, and this advantage is expanding over our competitors. He highlighted that USSPACECOM is partnered with USSF on initiatives, such as the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve (CASR) that will launch next year, aimed at developing new ways of contracting with commercial industry. 
  • In response to questions by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) regarding his role in the Unified Command Plan (UCP), General Whiting recognized USSPACECOM’s responsibility to safeguard commercial assets. He elaborated on USSPACECOM’s collaboration with commercial entities to establish information-sharing agreements and enhance commercial cyberinfrastructure.  
  • In response to a question by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) about the Building Chips in America Act, General Whiting highlighted the importance of a robust industrial base and supply chains in the U.S. Without this; he stated our competitors might have a chance to catch up. 
  • In response to a question by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), General Whiting outlined the strategy for satellite communications, emphasizing the desire for a hybrid architecture comprising constellations specifically designed for exclusive government use, alongside other constellations that can be commercially owned. 

International Adversaries and Actors 

  • In response to a question by Ranking Member Wicker, General Whiting highlighted the existence of a “vulnerability window” in the U.S. space infrastructure resulting from investments made by Russia and the PRC in counterspace capabilities. He stressed that until these capabilities are strengthened, the vulnerability window will persist, underscoring the strategic imperative to deliver on enhancements as soon as possible. 
  • In response to questions by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), General Whiting reiterated the vital importance of satellites in supporting the operations of all U.S. terrestrial forces. He voiced apprehension regarding the possible threat of space debris to these satellites, emphasizing that deliberate destruction of satellites by adversaries to undermine U.S. space-based capabilities would be “incredibly reckless” and pollute the same environment they are operating in. Moreover, General Whiting underscored that the PRC exhibits the highest level of dependence on satellite systems compared to Russia, which can rely on fiber and microwave shots, as well as Iran and North Korea, which do not have space-enabled militaries. 
  • In response to a question by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) regarding Iran’s progress in their ballistic missiles and space programs, General Whiting highlighted the close partnerships that exist with countries in the Middle East. He noted that several space situational awareness (SSA) sharing agreements have been signed with over thirty countries, including three Middle East nations. General Whiting stressed that fostering partnerships serves a dual purpose, not only strengthening collaboration but also denying opportunities for adversaries like Russia and Iran to establish partnerships, making these relationships strategically valuable.  

Counterspace Capabilities 

  • In response to a question by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), General Whiting emphasized the need for ongoing congressional investments to keep pace with the rapid development of the PRC and Russia. He highlighted that the priorities outlined in the Unfunded Priorities List, to be submitted to Congress, will involve improving capacity and capabilities in the next 3, 5, and 10 years. 
  • In response to a question by Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), General Whiting stated that the electromagnetic spectrum is vital to space operations, and technologies that can mitigate jamming techniques are desirable, such as laser communication. He encouraged the research and commercial community to continue to work to mature these new technologies. 

Inter Force Cooperation 

  • In response to a question by Sen. Hirono about the potential establishment of a Space National Guard, General Whiting acknowledged the support USSPACECOM receives from states hosting National Guard units involved in space missions. He emphasized that regardless of the findings of the study mandated by the NDAA, it is critical to ensure there are no interruptions to existing missions if there are any changes to how the National Guard’s space functions are consolidated or transferred. 
  • In response to a question by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), General Cotton stated that changes in the UCP resulted in the loss of a significant portion of space-specific airmen. While a joint force team under General Whiting’s leadership provides support, there is no space component officer to facilitate connections with the space layer. General Cotton said he is working with General Saltzman to address this gap and fill the necessary billet. 
  • In response to a question by Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), General Whiting acknowledged the interconnectedness between space, cyber, and Special Operations Forces (SOF). However, he expressed that he does not anticipate an impact on his command if there are cuts to SOF. 

An archive of previous hearing coverage is available here.