Acting Secretary of Defense: China Is Greatest Threat to US in Space

At space conference, Shanahan emphasizes need for more space forces

Presenting the keynote speech at the Space Symposium, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sought to push the idea that the US needs to spend vastly more on space, and needs at least three new space organizations.

As far as why the US needs to spend billions militarizing space, Shanahan went with the popular excuse: China. He declared China the “greatest threat to American assets in space” and warned that the next major war could be “won or lost in space.”

Shanahan in particular seemed concern that China had ground-based lasers that could be fired at satellites in low orbit which are expected to be operational within a year, and said the US needs to have a “decisive” amount of capabilities in space just to deter them.

While China has lasers, it is not at all clear that this is anything beyond a potential hedge against US military attacks against them. That appears to be neither here nor there for Shanahan and other officials, who see a new focus on space as a justification for massive spending increases, and are promising to promote space personnel across the board when that happens. Since he was saying this all to a space-oriented conference, it’s also not surprising that he was telling the crowd what they wanted to hear.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of