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Cmdr. John “Patsy” Klein, USN (ret.), PhD

MS in Aeronautical Engineering, ‘97
Senior Fellow and Strategist, Delta Solutions and Strategies

Dr. John Klein, callsign “Patsy,” is a subject matter expert on space strategy and also instructs space policy and strategy courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels at several universities in the Washington, DC area. He routinely writes on space strategy, deterrence, and the Law of Armed Conflict. He is the author of the books "Space Warfare: Strategy, Principles and Policy" (2006), "Understanding Space Strategy: The Art of War in Space" (2019), and the recently released "Fight for the Final Frontier: Irregular Warfare in Space" (2023), along with a score of other book chapters and articles.

Patsy is also a retired Commander, United States Navy, receiving his commission through the NROTC program at Georgia Tech. He served for 22 years as a Naval Flight Officer, primarily flying in the S-3B Viking carrier-based aircraft. Patsy supported combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. His tours included the Executive Officer of Sea Control Squadron Twenty Four and the final Commanding Officer of Sea Control Weapons School. 

Patsy holds a master’s in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, a master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and a PhD in Strategic Studies from the University of Reading, England. Patsy is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has over 2,700 flight hours in 27 different type aircraft and over 600 carrier arrested landings.

"The United States needs to work with allies and commercial partners to convey the futility of attacks against spacecraft and associated networks by potential adversaries, and this is done by having so much resilience (e.g., defensive and redundant capabilities) against adversarial attacks that rivals understand that hostile actions will be inconsequential in any meaningful way."

In what ways has your education at the Naval Postgraduate School shaped your strategic thinking abilities and influenced your career trajectory?

The Naval Postgraduate School provided valuable education in aeronautical engineering and space systems, which I have used since my time in Monterey. I had always wanted to be an astronaut, so I've been drawn to aerospace related fields, which aligned well with the school's curriculum. Also, the courses in international affairs helped broaden my worldview to better understand how geopolitics influenced military operations. While becoming an astronaut wasn't in the cards for me, I'm presently working on space policy and strategy related issues with the U.S. Space Force, and I often lean heavily on my graduate education received at NPS.

How can the DOD work more efficiently with private industry to develop relevant technology for our warfighters today? How might NPS contribute to this effort?

DOD can work more effectively and efficiently with the commercial sector by clearly communicating its overarching needs and desired capabilities. Furthermore, DOD should move away from setting strict requirements on commercial capabilities and services, but should instead convey the desired effect, or answer the "so what?" Then, let the commercial sector come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems, vice telling industry how to solve the problem.  

NPS can contribute to this mindset by providing instruction into the fundamentals of engineering principles, so students can glean the needed insights, even as technology ever advances. Security studies and international affairs courses can focus on how past technological innovation was helpful (or not) in achieving political and military objectives during competition, crisis, and conflict.

Considering the space domain as a zone of competition and potential conflict, how might U.S. policymakers approach deterrence to mitigate the risk of escalation?

Deterrence efforts generally fall under the central idea of seeking to affect the decision calculus of would-be rivals. In the United States and the West, we usually approach this by conveying existing and credible capabilities to "impose cost" and "deny benefit" to potential adversaries. In order to better deter rivals in the space domain, policymakers and military leaders need to have some military capabilities (e.g., offensive ones) that are known and credible to impose cost against aggression. More importantly, the United States needs to work with allies and commercial partners to convey the futility of attacks against spacecraft and associated networks by potential adversaries, and this is done by having so much resilience (e.g., defensive and redundant capabilities) against adversarial attacks that rivals understand that hostile actions will be inconsequential in any meaningful way.

Can you discuss how China and Russia have used the concept of “lawfare” to constrain American actions in orbit? What proactive measures can the U.S. take to position itself favorably prior to any potential conflict?

There are several means to achieve political objectives and strategic aims, and one such method is the intentional distortion and misuse of legal regimes for competitive advantage, or "lawfare." The term is a portmanteau of the words law and warfare. Both China and Russia intentionally misuse legal regimes and distort the law. Their political leaders have sought by intentional omission and obfuscation to limit the superiority and military options of the United States and its allies, all while touting themselves as responsible stakeholders. China and Russia often practice lawfare as part of broader campaigns of disinformation, deception, sabotage, and economic coercion. There are several measures that the United States and its allies can take to counter lawfare, and they are integrating counter-lawfare approaches into overarching national strategies and military service education; relentlessly countering lawfare’s narrative of misinformation; incorporating offensive minded approaches; and coordinating with allies and trusted commercial partners.

Given the interconnected nature of cyberspace and outer space, how do space operations complement traditional warfare? In what ways should military and civilian strategists integrate the space domain with other warfighting domains to enhance overall operational effectiveness?

Space operations have complemented traditional, regular styles of warfare for several decades. These include the space mission areas of positioning, navigation, and timing using GPS; satellite communications; space launch; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and environmental monitoring. Instead of thinking about space-based capabilities as solely supporting the terrestrial Joint Force and its military operations, even though it is indeed important, strategists should also consider how space-to-space activities can support achieving U.S. political and policy objectives in their own right. This may include conducting spacecraft rendezvous and proximity operations for coercive effect against a rival, offensive and defense space operations, and space-enabled cyber warfare.

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