PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In order to combat rising threats in the space domain, the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate at Headquarters, Air Force Space Command and the Space Security and Defense Program stood up the Space Intelligence Intern Program in July 2018. The 24-month program is designed to improve the space foundational intelligence base for candidates to succeed in future space intelligence leadership roles.
In its inaugural year, SIIP is developing two junior officers – Capt. Devin Hightower and 1st Lt. Rebecca Bosworth – in SSDP’s threat division.
When asked about the importance of in-depth space knowledge for intelligence officers, Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for ISR and Cyber Effects Operations at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, and inspiration for the program, highlighted the opportunity that SIIP will provide to Airmen.
“ISR for and from space will be the critical element to successfully conduct joint operations in the contested space domain,” said Jamieson. “The Space Intelligence Intern Program is an effort that ensures the Air Force ISR Enterprise has a professionalized space intelligence cadre that will excel in future space operations.”
Both officers participating in the internship program are working on real-world, experiential projects concerning space threats, trends and how they affect U.S. space assets.
“SSDP offers young intelligence officers the opportunity to work side-by-side with engineers, analysts, operators, and senior intel experts on some of the most challenging threats to national security space,” said Col. Anthony Mastalir, SSDP deputy director.
Prior to SIIP, Hightower was the 50th Space Wing Operations Support Squadron chief of operations intelligence and Bosworth was a general intelligence analyst and the command intelligence briefer at HQ, AFSPC.
As candidates for the internship, both Hightower and Bosworth went through a nomination process, followed by a board interview made up of ISR and SSDP experts to gauge how well the candidates would fit into the new program and culture at SSDP.
“You have to be able to stand on your own and not wait for somebody to tell you what to do. It’s a jump-in-with-both-feet type of atmosphere, and it’s very technical,” said Col. Suzy Streeter, director of ISR at HQ, AFSPC. “We are looking for people with either a STEM background or experience. It’s not mandatory, but it is definitely value-added.”
Recruiting for the program in 2019 remains available to junior intelligence officers stationed in the Colorado Springs area, as SIIP works through formalization. Two new interns will be added to the program each year, and the program will be shaped by feedback from graduating participants. The ISR office plans to open up the internship opportunity to all Air Force intelligence officers within the space enterprise in 2020.
Interns who complete SIIP will be placed into a follow-on position within AFSPC or the space enterprise, in order to apply their space intelligence knowledge and further develop their leadership skills.
“An internship like this helps create the foundation so that somebody can use their deep background and newfound space intelligence operationally as subject matter experts,” said Streeter. “This is part of us getting to the next level of understanding the domain and how we apply our knowledge to operations.”
Ensuring that military operations in space and by air, land and sea are prepared and supported by the intelligence community is critical to mission success. The work the SIIP interns are involved in aims to continue, improve and formalize the understanding and data that space operators need to ensure space superiority and to fight and win in a conflict, should it extend to space.
“The space domain is evolving,” said Hightower. “We need to build that intelligence expertise, so we can make sure our Airmen and joint partners are getting the support they need. We’re creating programs and processes to effectively support operations through this internship program.”
The program highlights the Air Force’s prioritization of developing young officers for working in space in the future.
“The Air Force has traditionally been focused on air threats,” said Bosworth. “Fast forward to 2019 – it’s a new Air Force that is highly focused on new technologies. It’s moving very quickly, and that’s why they started this program.”
Because of the fast-paced nature of the space domain and its changing environment, the intelligence community is encouraged to present unique solutions to new challenges.
“Things are changing, people are building things never built before, processes are changing, and the environment right now is very much focused on innovation and problem-solving,” said Hightower. “We have the opportunity to bring good ideas to fruition.”
The current interns encourage fellow intelligence officers to apply and train alongside SSDP and work on experiential projects for space.
“Go for it!” said Bosworth. “I encourage everyone to come here. This is definitely the place you want to come if you’re doing any intelligence work in space. Coming here to spend a couple years and learning from the team is very valuable.”
Hightower also touted the unique opportunity for his peers to be a self-starter at SSDP.
“Take your problem-solving mindset, learn the problem-solving processes and be ready to implement those,” said Hightower. “If you have good ideas, speak up and get them out there. Space is evolving, so now is the time to implement any changes. This is a place where you can implement changes very quickly.”
The newly selected interns – 1st Lt. Robyn Hayes, chief, expeditionary section for ISR Operations at HQ, AFSPC and 1st Lt. Catherine Willis, officer in charge for intelligence training, 21st Operations Support Squadron — will begin the SIIP program July 2019.