Military Space Threats Part of Discussion at Wright-Patterson Intelligence Retreat

A sign at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
A sign at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. (NASA courtesy photo)

Military threats from space were one focus of a gathering of national intelligence principals Monday and Tuesday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

In recent months, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R- Dayton, has aired concerns about suspected Russian development of satellite-destroying nuclear weapons, pressing leaders at the Pentagon and within the Biden administration to discuss or acknowledge the possible consequences of such weapons.

A spokesman for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — which Turner leads as chairman — said Turner and others brought those concerns, among others, to Wright-Patterson, where they gathered for a two-day retreat beginning Monday.

"The reporting about Russia attempting to put a nuclear weapon in space, I definitely think that that is why space is a focus," said Jeff Naft, a spokesman for the Intelligence Committee.

He emphasized, however, that the retreat is not being held solely in response to the perception of greater dangers in space. This gathering at Wright-Patterson has been planned for months, Naft noted.

Other subjects drew attention. Late Monday, Turner's office released a statement urging U.S. defense leaders to expedite the delivery of new weapons to Ukraine, a nation that has faced renewed Russian pressures in the country's northeast.

The letter was signed by members of both parties and urged the Biden administration to authorize the use of U.S. weapons within Russian territory.

"Ukrainians have been unable to defend themselves due to the administration's current policy," the letter said. "It is essential the Biden administration allows Ukraine's military leaders an ability to conduct a full spectrum of operations necessary to respond to Russia's unprovoked attack on their sovereign land."

This is the the second retreat for the Intelligence Committee at the Air Force base in the past year

Turner expected his ranking committee member, Rep. Jim Himes, D- Conn., to join him, with other House members and their staffs. While Naft cautioned that itineraries can change, the CIA director, FBI Director Christopher Wray and others, including leaders of the U.S. Space Force, were expected to join them.

Naft has said that for safety purposes, he cannot share a complete list of the national security leaders who are expected to attend.

Wright-Patterson is home to NASIC and the National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC). Those intelligence-gathering missions inform the work of other crucial Air Force missions at Wright-Patterson, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Materiel Command, as well as policy leaders and national decision-makers.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee held an open panel with think tank experts to discuss threats facing the U.S.

Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow and director of Keystone Defense Initiative for the Hudson Institute, told the committee that satellite-destroying Russian space weapons would "be a potential violation of the Outer Space Treaty, which is fitting with the pattern of the Russian systemic violations of treaties, from the INF Treaty to the Open Skies Treaty and then now they are not complying with the New Start Treaty."

"It would be a highly provocative, very dangerous and threatening problem for the United States for which the United States has no answer," Heinrichs added.

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon is "rushing" to counter what leaders there see as advances by China and Russia in space-based operations.

The Times quoted Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the chief of space operations at the U.S. Space Force, who said in March: "We must protect our space capabilities while also being able to deny an adversary the hostile use of its space capabilities. Because if we do not have space, we lose."

And the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Russia launched a satellite in 2022 that is designed to test components for a potential antisatellite weapon that would carry a nuclear device.


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