Space Force becomes 18th member of US intelligence community

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The U.S. Space Force became a member of the U.S. intelligence community on Friday, meaning that the intelligence element of the newest branch of the U.S. military is also the country’s 18th spy agency.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond announced that the section of the Space Force specializing in intelligence would join the spy community during an afternoon ceremony.

“This accession reaffirms our commitment to securing outer space as a safe and free domain for America’s interests,” Ratcliffe said. “American power in space is stronger and more unified than ever before. Today we welcome Space Force to the Intelligence Community and look forward to the power and ingenuity of a space security team unrivaled by any nation.”

Ratcliffe, a former Texas Republican congressman who has overseen the nation’s now-18 spy agencies since May, added that “through sharing space-related information and intelligence, the IC and DOD increase integration and coordination of our intelligence activities to achieve best effect and value in executing our missions.”

The intelligence community is comprised of two independent agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, led by Ratcliffe, and the CIA, led by Gina Haspel — along with eight other Pentagon elements — the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the intelligence wings of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

There are also seven elements from other federal departments: U.S. Coast Guard Intelligence, the FBI, the Energy Department’s Office of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the DEA’s Office of National Security Intelligence, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

“Today, we took action to elevate space intelligence missions, tradecraft, and collaboration to ensure the success of the Space Force, the Intelligence Community, and ultimately our National Security,” Raymond said. “This is a significant milestone, a clear statement that America is committed to a secure and accessible space domain. Our partnership will ensure the Space Force and the Nation remain always above any threat.”

Ratcliffe had hinted about this move while warning about dangers posed by China and Russia in space in December as the Trump administration unveiled a strategy for the key arena. He joined a public meeting of the National Space Council at Kennedy Space Center in December, as the United States released Trump’s National Space Policy to revamp the country’s posture toward space.

“To a degree unparalleled in American history, the nation’s economy and security rely on space systems that our competitors are challenging and that our adversaries are increasingly threatening. To that point, America’s vital interests are increasingly at risk as China and Russia develop and field destructive weapons to threaten U.S. and allied space capabilities,” Ratcliffe said, adding, “the intelligence is clear: China poses the greatest national security threat to the United States, and that includes China’s actions in space, where China is pursuing weapons capable of destroying our satellites up to geosynchronous Earth orbit, where many of our critical space systems reside. China has also deployed a ground-based missile intended to target and destroy satellites in low Earth orbit.”

Ezra Cohen, the acting under secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, said Friday that “today’s change aligns our newest service with the other members of the Defense Intelligence Enterprise and will help ensure our efforts are coordinated and synchronized across all domains of warfare.”

China views space as a “critical domain in international strategic competition,” as described by Chinese government leadership in 2020. The Pentagon released a congressional report in September, noting that “Beijing has devoted significant resources to growing all aspects of its space program.”

Ratcliffe told the Washington Examiner in December that “China intends to dominate — economically, militarily, and technologically, and they want to replace us as the world’s superpower.” He also warned about the dangers posed by the Kremlin’s actions in space in December.

“Russia has a similar system to China in development that is likely to be operational in the next several years, and Russia has also fielded a ground-based laser weapon, which could blind or damage our space-based optical sensors,” he said. “And I’ll note that Russia, in particular, has recently demonstrated provocative behavior, creating a potentially dangerous situation in space.”

Trump’s national space policy noted U.S. national security being tied to space.

“The United States seeks a secure, stable, and accessible space domain, which has become a war-fighting domain as a result of competitors seeking to challenge United States and allied interests in space,” the strategy said, also declaring that “the space domain is a priority intelligence and military operational domain for the United States.”

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