Building a Strategic Framework for Tailored Deterrence of China in Space

June 2023 No Comments

Speaker: Dr. Krista Langeland (RAND)

Date: 13 June 2023

Speaker Session Summary

The US Armed Forces must bolster their warfighting capabilities in space to better deter aggressive Chinese activities in the domain. US-China competition in space can be expected to increase because China views US space activities and capabilities as a roadblock for achieving its own space objectives. Dr. Langeland commented that Cold War era deterrence measures can be applied to the current US-China competition. However, these old measures must be altered to apply to the current global competition and to the space domain, specifically. Deterrence measures for space are not solely rooted in this domain, making the development of cross-domain responses necessary. The current perception of competition in space is that an aggressive actor who strikes first will have a significant advantage. This perception could lead to unintended or unwanted military escalation.

Dr. Langeland emphasized that an effective deterrence strategy for space should be based on the credibility and legitimacy of US space capabilities. The space domain as a sphere of military cooperation is relatively new, giving the US an opportunity to establish the operational norms that all countries will adhere to. Similar to other domains, understanding China’s values and objectives will help the US conduct effective deterrence in space. For example, China places a high value on dominating the information environment across all domains. As China increases its own space capabilities, it is becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Dr. Langeland emphasized that a key aspect of state-level deterrence is a country creating a perception that it is not beneficial for an adversary to attack its assets. She identified several approaches the US can take to decrease the perceived benefits for China to attack US space assets. These initiatives include: using strategic messaging to develop cross-domain approaches to deterrence and reinforcing efforts by key allies and partners in space deterrence. 

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials

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Biography: Krista Langeland is a physical scientist at the RAND Corporation focusing on developing frameworks and models for strategic development and decision making support. Her recent work at RAND focuses on policy and strategy in the space domain, including deterrence in space, building cooperation with allies, assessing adversary perceptions, and examining escalation dynamics. She leverages a wide set of tools and techniques for her analysis, including game theoretic and behavioral modeling, event tree analysis, risk assessments, and network analysis. She has developed frameworks to support decision making in a number of different areas, including examining the potential impact of space technology investments and assessing possible approaches for increasing resilience in the space domain. Since joining RAND, her research has supported technology assessments and policy development through a wide variety of focus areas that include 21st century deterrence, advanced sensing technology, space situational awareness, design principles for technological innovation, optimization of data value, nuclear systems and sustainment, and organizational resiliency.

Link to recent publication on First Mover Advantage in space:


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