Unsurprisingly given the intense focus on Saudi Arabia's brutal proxy war, coverage of Defense Secretary James Mattis' appearance at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Tuesday focused on his call for a ceasefire in the Yemeni civil war. But the former Marine general's wide-ranging interview touched on a number of other topics, including his support for building out the US's offensive capabilities in space.
As RT highlighted in its coverage of Mattis's talk, when asked about the nascent US 'Space Force', Mattis explained that dominance in space is essential for preserving the American way of life. And in order to counter geopolitical rivals who might abuse their own space superiority, the Pentagon must pursue the development and deployment of space weapons.
"We're going to have to be prepared to use offensive weapons in space should someone decide to militarize it and go on the offensive. You cannot simply play defense. No sport in the world, no competitive sport in the world, can simply play defense and win. And this is not an area where we want to be second place."
Mattis, who once said that he "wasn't against" the space force, has previously warned about Russia and China's efforts to develop their own space firepower and described their efforts as a direct threat to American autonomy. To counter this, the US will need to deploy more advanced satellites and weaponry, which in addition to their defense capabilities, will also have an economic component.
As Mattis explained, space is "critical to our economy, it’s critical to our way of life, we’ve grown reliant on it," Mattis said. In addition to the surveillance capabilities, US satellites are used for navigation, communication, commerce, and banking.
And while he hopes the US will never have to resort to space warfare, as competing powers deploy more resources in the final frontier, eventually the US will be forced to reckon with the possibility that rival powers might not abide by the longstanding policy of space neutrality that has existed between nations since the 1960s. One example of this happened more than a decade ago, when China carried out its first test of an anti-satellite weapon back in 2007.
"We're going to have to recognize if nations are not willing to live by those rules...we're going to have the ability to defend, and the ability to do offense.
Back in August, Vice President Mike Pence unveiled a spending plan to establish the Space Force as an entirely separate branch that will cost $8 billion over five years - a paltry sum compared with the $716 billion allocated to the US military in 2019. While he didn't comment on the budgetary allocation, we imagine Mattis would view this as money well spent, if not slightly on the lean side for something that should be a top national security priority.
Mattis's Space Force comments begin at the 50-minute mark in the video below: