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Benjamin Ogden

Professor of Strategic Space Studies, NPEC Space Policy Fellowship Alumnus, MIT Lincoln Labs Defense Technology Seminar Alumnus: for sure he is not short of credentials and this interview will be worth your reading!

The SpaceInfo Club had the honor to ask mr Ogden some questions about his current job as Professor of Strategic Space Studies as well as his long path in the U.S. Army giving us a unique view on the importance of Space nowadays. Here are some questions, don't forget to join the members club, which is free, to get the full interview inside the next editions of the Magazine!

Can you share insights from your 27 years of experience in the US Army, particularly focusing on how military strategies have evolved over the years, especially in the context of space studies?

Let me begin by saying that the views expressed in this interview are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense. To your question, so much has changed pertaining to how the U.S. military conducts operations using capabilities across all domains. When I entered the service, we still used the Cold War-era doctrine known as Air-Land Battle, which was the first strategy to synchronize forces from the air, land, and sea to achieve military objectives in large scale operations. After 9/11, however, our military strategy changed to support localized counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East but has since evolved, once again, to Multi-Domain Operations or MDO. Think of MDO as Air-Land Battle 2.0 because it now includes critical Cyber and Space capabilities into global strategies to help create advantages that achieve objectives. While space was present early in my career, it has grown to become a vital pillar in our current doctrine that sustains the U.S.’s way of life and way of war.    

As a professor of strategic space studies, how do you see the role of space in modern warfare, and what are the key challenges and opportunities it presents for military strategists?

The role of space in modern warfare is vital. In fact, I would say that space is the primary enabler that makes modern warfare, “modern.” Without assured space capabilities, the U.S. military and its allies would lose informational dominance and revert to the challenges of industrial age armies. Capabilities like GPS, satellite imagery, and communications allow modern forces to operate anywhere on Earth with the precision and speed needed to decisively win in conflict with the least amount of destruction or civilian casualties. Without space, strategists would have to develop strategies that account for things like slower tempo, command and control limitations, dependence upon line-of-sight communications, and inaccurate munitions – all of which have greater associated risks.

How does your background in the military inform your teaching at the US Army War College and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies? Are there specific lessons from your military career that you find particularly valuable in an academic setting?

My career has had a “mud to space” path that gives me a unique and relevant perspective to teach at these institutions. My original specialty was Army Air & Missile Defense (AMD) where I was placed in support of army combat units, giving me a great appreciation of how ground forces operate and how to lead people. Later, my missile defense jobs required me to work strictly with the U.S. Air Force, giving me a glimpse into air domain operations and how it differed from land operations. Finally, I was assigned to U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense command, expanding my reach into space operations and how it related to terrestrial conflict and national strategy. These three experiential trends converged as I became a faculty member at the U.S. Army War College and began a journey to teach other senior officers and students my knowledge and experiences.   

Space is becoming an increasingly contested domain. What do you believe are the most pressing issues and potential conflicts related to space security, and how can nations address these challenges collaboratively?

With the democratization of space and new actors pursuing their interests there, some emerging activities and technologies are worrisome. Two issues are the most pressing: increasing Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and establishing norms of behavior. SSA is the foundational element to all space operations. If we can’t collectively see what’s happening in space, then we won’t be able to solve disputes when they arise or deter participants from using technology for nefarious purposes. Also, space uniquely lacks agreed upon rules or norms meant to standardize operations and prevent miscalculation. Things like right-of-way or safety zone practices are essential ground rules meant to avoid escalatory behavior and they are ambiguous in space. Nations can only address these collaboratively through either bilateral discussions or multilateral institutions such as the UN, and those efforts aren’t keeping up with the growing activity.  


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