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Research Questions

  1. Does the United States have a plan to collaborate with allies to address the challenges within the contested, congested, and competitive space domain?
  2. Are existing DoD rules and practices compatible with closer integration with allies in the space domain?
  3. Has the United States achieved allied cooperation in mission areas outside the space domain that could serve as examples for the DoD space enterprise?

Recent U.S. strategy documents, such as the 2022 National Defense Strategy, clearly state that close cooperation with allies is central to U.S. policy, especially in space. However, allies have grown increasingly vocal about a "say-do gap" between U.S. high-level policy statements versus tangible U.S. cooperation on defense-related space activities. Some allies perceive cooperation as an afterthought rather than as a consciously planned activity undertaken "by design." In this study, sponsored by the U.S. Space Force's Space Operations Command, the authors investigate how U.S. policy can more effectively achieve improved integration of allied space capabilities for select allies.

In this report, the authors assess the goals, organization, and activities of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) space enterprise. They also evaluate six allied nations — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom — to determine their interest in, potential for, and perspectives on cooperation with the United States on defense-related space activities. Their findings from reviews of policy documents, articles, reports, and public statements by senior leaders, as well as over 144 interviews with more than 150 DoD and allied officials and staff, provide insights on cooperation with allies on nuclear weapons, combined operations, and intelligence that reveal opportunities for a more effective approach to allied space power.

Key Findings

While there are some signs of DoD efforts to improve collaboration with allies, there remains much to be done to achieve desired levels of cooperation

  • DoD lacks a consistent vision and desired end state for partnering with allies. There are some examples of efforts to articulate a vision for cooperation and improving overall coordination across the DoD space enterprise, but they are nascent and, so far, insufficient.
  • DoD space enterprise roles and responsibilities remain ambiguous and disputed although there are signs of improvement in this area.
  • In their current state, DoD regulations, processes, and infrastructure limit the feasibility of integration.
  • The United States and allies lack adequate, interoperable communications standards and infrastructure across all levels of classification.
  • Absent change, continued U.S. inefficiencies and a "say-do gap" risk weakening the allied space coalition.
  • Historical examples of U.S.-allied cooperation in mission areas other than space, such as nuclear weapons cooperation and the development of a combined special operations center, suggest opportunities for addressing current challenges in the space domain.

Recommendations

  • The United States should be consistent across the DoD space enterprise and clear with allies when and where cooperation and information-sharing are possible.
  • DoD should build on early efforts to create a DoD-wide approach to space-related activities, including allied space cooperation, that fully develops stakeholder roles and responsibilities and articulates realistic desired end states with each ally.
  • DoD should conduct operational analyses of relevant functional areas with a focus on collaboration and identify the desired elements and levels of relationships with each ally.
  • The United States should consider a range of options to address regulatory and practical constraints on sharing classified information with allies.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by U.S. Space Force's Space Operations Command and conducted within the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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