DNI Clapper Cites Russian, Chinese Counterspace Capabilities at Intelligence Committee Hearing

DNI Clapper Cites Russian, Chinese Counterspace Capabilities at Intelligence Committee Hearing

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper noted — if briefly — Russian and Chinese counterspace capabilities in an assessment of worldwide threats at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday.

Clapper and four other top intelligence officials (CIA, DIA, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center) testified at the annual open meeting of the committee, which typically meets in closed session.  Clapper made a statement on behalf of all of the witnesses.  The unclassified version of his statement and the video of the hearing are posted on the committee’s website.  

The breadth of topics covered by Clapper’s unclassified statement is illustrated by its title:  Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  While counterspace occupies only one paragraph in the 27-page report, the fact that it is included at all is notable.

The unclassified report asserts that “Threats to US space services will increase during 2014 and beyond as potential adversaries pursue disruptive and destructive counterspace capabilities.”  The only two countries mentioned are Russia and China, even though other countries (such as India) have discussed developing antisatellite (ASAT) systems and jamming of communications and navigation satellite signals by various countries have been cited in the open literature for years.

China’s counterspace capabilities were discussed in more detail at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday by non-governmental witnesses.   Clapper’s report mentions only generally China’s ASAT test in 2007 and its satellite jamming capabilities.   As for Russia, Clapper says that its military doctrine emphasizes “space defense as a vital component of its national defense.”  In addition to satellite jammers, the report asserts that “Russian leaders openly maintain that the Russian armed forces have antisatellite weapons and conduct antisatellite research.”

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