WASHINGTON — The nominee to lead the nearly year-old U.S. Space Command voiced support for addressing the problem of over-classification in space, during a July 28 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, currently serving as deputy commander of SPACECOM, told senators that in his experience, declassification has helped the war fighter on the ground.
“In my previous job as commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, I saw firsthand how that over-classification, if you will, was actually making it more difficult for us to provide support to the war fighter,” Dickinson said. “We’ve already seen in the U.S. Army how that declassification, if you will, of some of the assets that we have has added to not only more soldiers being able to be trained and qualified on that capability, but providing that capability to the war fighter on the ground.”
Dickinson further stated that SPACECOM should routinely review classification in regard to space. In answers he submitted to the committee before the hearing, Dickinson also acknowledged the need for a review of how data collected from space is classified.
“We do need a comprehensive review of classification for collection data to ensure widest dissemination possible to the war fighter in a timely fashion,” he noted.
Dickinson is not the first official in the Department of Defense to call for the increased declassification of space programs. In December 2019, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said her office would focus on addressing over-classification within America’s space portfolio.
“Declassifying some of what is currently held in secure vaults would be a good idea,” she said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “You would have to be careful about what we declassify, but there is much more classified than what needs to be.”
And in a recent Defense News op-ed, which was referenced by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., during his questioning of Dickinson, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work called for the establishment of a high-level commission of former officers and officials to address over-classification in space programs and intelligence.
Dickinson said he had read that op-ed, adding that he believes progress is being made.
“I would tell you that we have come a long ways in a short period of time in terms of that particular effort. We have looked at that in DoD in my last job very extensively,” he said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Dickinson would replace Gen. John “Jay” Raymond as head of SPACECOM. Raymond has concurrently served as chief of space operations of the Space Force since that service was established in December.
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.