By 1st Lt. Christopher Merian
Headquarters Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. — Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson’s first official trip included visits to Airmen at Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases this week. Her trip highlighted the importance of Air Force space and cyberspace missions.
Wilson visited the 21st Space Wing, 302nd Airlift Wing, and North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, and the 50th Space Wing and National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base.
She also spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, where she was joined by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. Both leaders participated in an interview prior to departing the area.
“The United Sates is very dependent upon space and our adversaries know it. We have to anticipate in any future conflict that space will be contested,” said Wilson. “With respect to cyber, whether it is air, space, or land, there are effects that you can create though computer systems that we might otherwise have to create by sending aircraft.”
For 35 years, Air Force Space Command has operated with minimal hindrance in space and has taken advantage of unparalleled military space programs in support of combatant commanders.
Recent innovations in technology and reduced entry costs have enabled allies and adversaries alike to benefit from the unique capabilities that space-based systems provide.
This has transformed space from a benign domain to a warfighting domain; and Air Force Space Command is taking action to meet the change.
“I have been very pleased with what I have seen in the shift in culture from space being a benign environment where we just communicated and watched and assumed we would always have it, to thinking about how to defend our capability in space,” said Wilson.
Goldfein reiterated the importance of the shift in the space operational environment.
“We have an obligation to the nation and to the joint team to ensure that space is further normalized as a warfighting domain that is integrated across all of the mission sets the joint force performs,” said Goldfein.
Recent Air Force Space Command initiatives are transforming the way the Air Force views and operates in this new space environment. Programs such as the Space Warfighting Construct and the National Space Defense Center will ensure continual access and operational capability in space. Strengthening partnerships and collaboration between the Air Force, other services, government agencies, commercial partners, and allies is also becoming increasingly important in this new operational environment.
Other changes are being made to organization and acquisition processes to ensure the nation retains space superiority.
“It is a change in culture, and I have been very pleased to see the experiments and changes in training that increase the resiliency of or space capabilities in a time of conflict,” said Wilson.
Additionally, the proposed Presidential fiscal year 2018 budget reflects the importance of space.
“The president’s budget was just released a few days ago, what you will see in that is an increase in funding for space,” said Wilson. “There is a significant increase in funding for both space research development, test, and evaluation and in procurement this next year.”
During her trip, she met with Airmen at each location and was impressed by what she saw.
“I really enjoy meeting the young Airmen who are doing the job, I usually learn more from them than I do in hundreds of briefing papers and memos in the Pentagon,” said Wilson. “The Airmen are leaning forward, learning new things, when you put tools in the hands of very creative well-trained Airmen they come up with different ways to solve problems.”
For Airmen of Air Force Space Command she said, “Do your duty, keep innovating and pushing us to take ourselves forward and do the best we can every day. The nation relies on everything you do every day and I am going to do everything I can to help make sure you get the tools and the training to do the job.”
Summing up, Goldfein reflected on the Air Force’s 60-year heritage in space and a future working with Wilson, who was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force May 16, 2017.
“The secretary and I are privileged to follow in a long line of secretary and chief teams who have been stewards of space since 1954,” said Goldfein. “This is an exciting time and I am really excited to have Dr. Wilson on board to help lead us as we go forward.”