By Tech. Sgt. Kimberley Harrison
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
The commander of Air Force Space Command was the keynote speaker for the 25th National Space Symposium March 31 in Colorado Springs.
“Space is no longer just the high ground. It is an integral part of the joint fight,” said Gen. C. Robert “Bob” Kehler.
The general is responsible for the development, acquisition and operation of the Air Force’s space and missile systems. He also oversees a global network of satellite command and control, communications, missile warning and launch facilities, and ensures the combat readiness of America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force.
Using the opportunity as the highlighted speaker for the symposium topic, “The Next Space Age,” General Kehler spoke of how the Air Force played a key role in the first space age and outlined what opportunities, as well as obstacles, AFSPC officials face in the next space age.
“No one can define with certainty what the next space age will look like,” he said. “For us, the backdrop will be dynamic and uncertain.” Although it’s not clear what the future holds, there are two things General Kehler knows for certain: the “future national security environment is far more uncertain, complex and changing than ever before,” and the Air Force, in addition to AFSPC, will once again play a key role in developing the next space age.
Understanding and integrating the domains of space and cyberspace are crucial.
“The needs of the warfighter will continue to change at a rapid pace, and we cannot stop,” General Kehler said. “We must provide capabilities to the warfighter at the speed of need.”
In order to do this, there are needs that must be met to adapt to the next space age. Flexibility, agility, better situational awareness of space and cyberspace, as well as recruiting qualified, trained people will become an increasingly important requirement.
“The Air Force is making deliberate efforts to train, educate and recruit a cyber force to develop cyber professionals who can use networks to gain advantages over our enemies, defend Air Force networks from attack, and set up communications any time and anywhere,” said Maj. Gen. William T. Lord, commander of Air Force Cyberspace Command (provisional) at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Speaking on Air Force and cyberspace issues, General Lord listed some of the risks in the cyber domain, for example, the use of Web sites by terrorists for communication to recruit and coordinate attacks, or cyber capabilities – Internet-based maps or voice-over-Internet protocol systems, Skype, being used to coordinate attacks.
“Hackers have attacked large government networks, causing millions of dollars in damages,” he said.
Another challenge facing the command is knowing that resources are constrained and the economy is uncertain. General Kehler said he feels the key to handling constrained resources is transforming the acquisition process.
Lt. Gen. John T. “Tom” Sheridan, the commander of Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., listed a number of characteristics that are integral to the acquisition of space assets, including General Kehler’s concept of developing assets at the “speed of need.”
“That does not mean at the speed which we acquisition guys think is right. It’s the speed that the warfighter needs our developments,” he said.
General Sheridan explained there are challenges to be met in order to achieve the mission, and emphasized the need for coordination, communication, and trust within the government and toward contractors.
“There is a need to be able to define and stick to “good enough” requirements, allowing substantial user benefit, but ensuring the asset is buildable in a reasonable amount of time and within budget,” General Sheridan said.
General Kehler said he feels confident … in Airmen, commanders, industry partners, and in the ability to continue to provide the best space, missile and cyberspace capabilities.
“These are exciting times for sure. We will continue to provide the joint warfighter with game-changing space and cyberspace capabilities while overcoming the challenges to meet the needs of tomorrow. Our nation depends on us.”
The National Space Symposium draws the most senior executive leadership from all sectors of the space community and is hosted annually by the Space Foundation whose mission is to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable, and propel humanity. In the 26 years since its founding, the Space Foundation has become one of the world’s premier nonprofit organizations supporting space activities, space professionals and education.