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US Space Operations look to Five Eyes and beyond

10th September 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Scott Gourley in California

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Space operations are one of the recent arenas to embrace the significance of Five Eyes integration as a key element of broader international cooperative efforts. 

Speaking at a recent Army conference of 'Space and the Network', Col Brian Moore, US Army, director of future operations and exercises (J-35) at Joint Force Space Component Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base emphasised the recognition of space as 'a warfighting domain'.

‘It's not a benign environment like it really was about 20 to 30 years ago,’ Moore explained, adding, ‘The cost of entry for space has significantly reduced over the recent decades. What used to be the sole domain of a superpower is now proliferated out to the most tactical edge of a battlefield as well as the smallest terrorist cell having the capability to use what is on orbit today.’

He noted that one key aspect of addressing that growing risk has been the expansion of multinational cooperation efforts. 

Moore said that one of the initial aspects of cooperation at the multinational level is the daily interaction with multinational space operations centres across the globe, including centres in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

‘We interacted with all those countries' space operation centres at whatever classification level we need to and we can,’ he explained. ‘They participate in our update briefs to our commanders at least once a week, sometimes twice.’

In addition to that ‘routine operation across time zones and across geography', Moore highlighted the ongoing transition of the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg ‘to be a combined space operation centre where it will operate at the Five Eyes level. 

‘Right now it's just Four Eyes,’ he said. ‘And we do have some exchange officers from Canada, Great Britain and Australia on board. We're working to bring on board an officer from New Zealand, again to expand that operational flavor.’ 

Moore said that space presents ‘a lot of the sensitivities,’ noting, ‘We don't openly discuss when there are anomalies and problems because it divulges weaknesses. So we may have a chief of combat ops on the operations floor who is a British officer. But when a particular satellite has an issue, he actually can't address the issue. He's got to hand it over to the next ranking American. And it has just caused a lot of clunkiness. 

‘As a nation, we have established very good intelligence sharing with these partners,’ he added. ‘But it's the operations sharing that I think is the next step. And this is one of the ways that as we work towards integrating operations. It's a great opportunity to forge forward, update some of the release quality standards and truly become more integrated.’

But the integration won’t just stop at the Five Eyes level. While the Combined Space Operations Center will include exchange officers, the organisation is also inviting liaison officers (LNO) who will operate under different security constructs and standards.

‘We have an officer from Germany who's already on board and we also have an LNO from Great Britain on board,’ he offered. ‘We expect probably in about a year or so to have a French officer on board and we have additional countries who have expressed interest and we're just getting to the final invitations and offers to figure out how we can integrate them. And it would definitely be a lower level of commitment than the exchange officers.’

‘The Combined Space Operations Center will be Five Eyes this year,’ he summarised. ‘But for some of these countries that are currently participating at the LNO level, in upcoming years they are going to look toward providing an exchange officer. And we're going to expand the releaseability and the operations integration on the floor.” 

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