U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Dr. Christopher Scolese, nominated to be Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and General John W. “Jay” Raymond, nominated to be Commander, United States Space Command (USSPACECOM), this morning at a SASC nomination hearing.
Inhofe: Dr. Scolese, in my opening statement, I was initially concerned with your public statements regarding the establishment of the United States Space Force and the responsibility of integration and synchronization with the NRO. The NRO has done such a good job for a long period of time, and I respect that, but I’d like to know the reason for making that bold statement at that time, because at that time, I don’t think you knew the details of the proposed organization, and what your feeling is at this time.
Dr. Scolese: Senator, I believe that it’s critically important that the NRO collaborate and cooperate with all elements, particularly with the reformed, newly formed Space Command. As part of the confirmation, General Raymond and I spoke together about what that would look like. General Raymond informed that they have a great relationship between the NRO and the current Air Force Space Command. I look forward to continuing that relationship and making it stronger so that we can serve the nation better.
Inhofe: That’s good, that’s good. I would think also that the NRO has proven itself after some 15-plus years of dedication and mission-focus as an outstanding space system acquisition organization. Keeping the standards of excellence on track will be a challenge. Dr. Scolese, how will you keep the NRO on its continued path to excellence in designing and acquiring the systems necessary for mission success? The reason I ask the question is, one reason, I think, a driving reason behind the whole idea, is to make sure our allies and our adversaries and those around the world know that we’re just as active, and more active, than our adversaries of China and Russia. I think it’s very important that they see that we are doing this in a coordinated and concerted effort. Do you have any response to that? What’s your idea to keep ourselves ahead of the group?
Dr. Scolese: It’s absolutely critical that we maintain our technological advantage over our adversaries. The NRO, as I understand it, has a responsibility for developing end-to-end systems for providing overhead reconnaissance. And it’s critical that we demonstrate to the world that we are constantly evolving, developing our systems, infusing new technologies, working with partners inside the government and outside the government, commercial industry, to show that we have a resilient and increasingly resilient and capable constellation of systems that can provide overhead reconnaissance.
Inhofe: Good, and that all our adversaries and everyone understands that.
General Raymond, the specific AOR we’re talking about to the space warfighting domain is an area surrounding the earth at altitudes equal to or greater than 100 kilometers—that’s 54 Nautical Miles above mean sea level. This is an established standard where space begins. When forces are deployed in another geographic combatant commander’s AOR, they will remain assigned to and under control of the Commander of the US Space Command unless otherwise directed. So General Raymond, given the expansive AOR you will be responsible for, how will you integrate and synchronize operations through and from the space warfighting domain, especially with other combatant commanders? Do you see any kind of a problem or competition with other combatant commanders that are out there?
General Raymond: Thank you for the question, Senator. Absolutely not on the competition. We have space is a physical warfighting domain, I think this recognition of an AOR in space supports that fact. One of the things that we’re doing with the standup of the US Space Command, and if confirmed, I’ll work very hard to do this, is to integrate more effectively with the geographic combatant commands around the world. I think this elevation of the joint force space component commander to a unified command actually helps that, and, if confirmed, one of the plans that we’ve got that were working is to put integrated planning elements at each of those combatant commands to allow for that seamless integration between US Space Command and the other combatant commands.
Inhofe: I think both of you have articulated very well that point, and that’s what all of us at this side of the table are wanting to see. To make sure that we know and that everyone else knows we’re going to do it better than our adversaries.