What is the Big Idea?

China may claim that its space program is civil and scientific in nature, but Ronald L. Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, issued a wakeup call about China’s anti-satellite missiles and cyber warfare capabilities in the Annual Threat Assessment report presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

“The space program, including ostensible civil projects, supports China’s growing ability to deny or degrade the space assets of potential adversaries and enhances China’s conventional military capabilities. China operates satellites for communications, navigation, earth resources, weather, and intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance, in addition to manned space and space exploration missions. China’s successfully tested a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) missile and is developing jammers and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions. A prerequisite for ASAT attacks, China’s ability to track and identify satellites is enhanced by technologies from China’s manned and lunar programs as well as technologies and methods developed to detect and track space debris.”

What is the Significance?

While national security threats are nothing new, they are growing in scale, complexity and interconnectedness. These space weapons are the latest discovery in China's arsenal of increasingly sophisticated technology used to attack U.S. corporations and military systems.

There is no shortage of threats against the United States and its allies. Security issues in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Qaida, the Taliban, weapons proliferation, the aftermath of the Arab spring, Iran and North Korea top the list of national threats, according to the report.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who also presented to the committee, said that unlike the Cold War when there was one enemy “it is the multiplicity and interconnectedness of potential threats – and the actors behind them – that constitute our biggest challenge.”

Check out the full report here.

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