US Space Command

As presented, Commander in Chief, North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Space Command and Air Force Space Command, Commander,

Speech for the Air Force Association International Air Power Symposium

April 23, 1997, Las Vegas, NV


     Good Morning. It’s an honor to be here today celebrating the Air Force’s 50th anniversary with this distinguished group concerned with the current and future state of air power—airpower deployed around the globe to enhance our mutual security and to support the continued evolutionary development and expansion of our shared democratic ideals.

      I feel particularly comfortable addressing this symposium today because I agree with your belief that airpower will continue to be the key enabling force facilitating the success of joint and combined military operations in both peace and war throughout the world.

     However, I must say, I’m not in full agreement with the choice of titles for this symposium and I’d like to request that the next time we meet, we give strong consideration to changing it.

     In 1867, Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister, stated that “Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant.” Well, America and the world’s democratic powers are very progressive countries and we are proud of this fact.

     A more scientific view of change was expressed by Sir Isaac Newton this way: “The changing of bodies into light, and light into bodies, is very conformable to the course of nature, which seems delighted with transmutations.”—With change. Well, America and the world’s democratic powers are very scientifically enlightened countries and we are proud of this fact.

     Therefore, in keeping with the rapid conceptual evolution regarding the vertical dimension of warfare, in recognizing the logic of Newton and Disraeli and countless others throughout history, and to better reflect the evolving realities of today, I submit that next time this symposium be entitled the “International Air and Space Power Symposium.”

     I do not make this request lightly. It is central to the purposeful, considered, and successful evolution of air and space power. Something as simple as “what’s in a name” can lead to outcomes going far beyond those intended by our meager abilities to influence or portend future change or, conversely, stifling any initiative aimed at striking out in brave, new directions.

      I would urge we not fall prey to our Newtonian inertial tendencies to continue to move in a straight lines until we are compelled to change our direction by forces impressed upon us at times and places perhaps not of our own choosing.

     John Locke, whose philosophies regarding the rights of individuals became the cornerstones of America’s Declaration of Independence wrote, in 1690, that “new opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”

     Well, ladies and gentlemen, civil, commercial, and military space operations are, to many of us in the space business, already common. But, I will tell you, we have a long way to go before space and its importance to the security of our nations is generally understood and actively supported by our citizenry.

     As the triple-hatted commander of America’s three key space operations commands—North American Aerospace Defense Command, United States Space Command, and Air Force Space Command—I work every single day trying to espouse the benefits derived from space, inform on our dependence on space, and advocate for further investment in space to government, military, and civic leaders. I find I have very few tasks more important than this.

     As a triple-hatted space operations commander, I am entrusted with a unique set of responsibilities which provide me a unique perspective on the future of joint and combined military operations and the ever-expanding importance of space forces in these operations.

     The significant importance of the responsibilities we bear as senior leaders in a time of such dramatic change is probably best revealed in the words of King George the Fifth of Great Britain.

     While visiting a World War I Cemetery in France he rhetorically asked his hosts, “… can there be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war?”

     I, frankly, think not. The world is overly abundant in its supply of gravesites of war dead. In our positions as senior leaders we hold a special responsibility to ensure we do not needlessly contribute to this supply.

     It is important to me to be able to address a symposium such as this, prepared to contemplate and act on evolutionary, even revolutionary, principles and ideas carrying us into the next decade, the next millenium. It affords me the opportunity to advocate the importance of space in deterring, warning, and, if need be, fighting and winning wars quickly, efficiently, and with minimal loss of US and allied life.

     So, let me tell you a little bit about the evolution of air and space power, and the significance of ‘what’s in a name.’

     In my role as the Commander-in-Chief of United States Space Command, I am charged with implementing four presidentially-assigned space operations missions.

     They provide US Space Command with unequivocal and complete discretion regarding the organization and employment of this nation’s military space assets and capabilities.

     The first of these missions, space support to the warfighter, is defined operationally as the deployment of space-based systems and capabilities in direct support of air, land, and sea forces. US Space Command measures its success in this mission area through the degree to which space-based systems and capabilities are seamlessly integrated into air, land, and sea operations.

     The jointness inherent in space support to the warfighter makes this mission area one of my key bridgeheads to the other services and agencies within the US Government and throughout the world. This mission area doesn’t just support US forces, it supports those of our allies and, of course, the US civil sector as well.

     The most obvious operational example of our success in this area is the Global Positioning System. In December 1996, the US Department of Defense took delivery of its 100,000th GPS receiver. This fact is eclipsed by the conservative economic projections indicating that by the year 2000 US-made GPS products will represent $8B in sales alone -- spin-off and indirect economic benefit not included.

     As a measure of merit, GPS is so well integrated into air, land, and sea operations that it is in many ways taken for granted. Like the telephone dial tone, everyone just expects it to be there.

      And, the GPS system is capable of supporting far more innovation. We are working very hard to further exploit this revolutionary navigational capability.

     In addition, we are working hard to further integrate and take advantage of other space-based capabilities included under the space support to the warfighter mission area. These other areas include space-based communications, surveillance, theater missile warning, and remote sensing of dynamic weather conditions both on earth and in space. We are making great strides in each of these areas. These capabilities are becoming as integrated into routine military operations as GPS.

     And what comes next…for years we have been talking about space based radar that would provide a real time picture of things moving on and just above the surface of the earth. While these ideas have been interesting, they haven’t taken root because technologies have not adequately matured and because of extremely high cost…but in the future technology will mature and by focusing on areas of interest instead of the whole globe and migrating this mission to space in phases, we will make it affordable. Will it be a single system? Most likely not…but rather a combination of system. Will it be radar based? Possibly but more likely a combination of technologies.

     Just as space based GPS has had a tremendous impact on navigation systems today; the implications of migrating the real time surveillance mission to space are enormous. In my opinion it is only a matter of time…and money.

     The Command’s second mission area is spacelift and satellite operations. In simple terms, spacelift and satellite operations is the art of getting operational systems into space and taking care of them once they are there. Successful execution of this mission area translates into assured access to space for America and the world.

     This mission area is based on enduring and evolving relationships between military space and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, between military space and the domestic commercial launch industry, and between military space and our allies.

     Air Force Space Command is leading the charge for the development of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) -- our new ride into space. The requirement is for a new family of launch vehicles that will be 25-50% cheaper to operate and 25-50% more flexible and responsive than our current family of launch vehicles.

     From what I’ve seen so far of both contenders for EELV, I believe we are easily going to make the 25-50% cost reduction. In fact, I’m convinced in heavy launch we’re going to see cost savings above 50%. It’s a great tribute to industry, those who are working this problem so hard, that we’re making such great progress.

     NASA is in the process of developing a reusable launch vehicle centered on the Lockheed/Martin team’s Venture Star. United States Space Command is actively cooperating with NASA in their reusable launch vehicle efforts with an eye towards the future use of the technology for a variety of space operations to include the possibility of a space plane—a possibility which is not as far off in the future as many of us might think.

     I’ll make a prediction that by the end of the first quarter of the next century, we’ll be routinely operating a form of space plane. In fact, space planes will create an interesting dilemma best highlighted by this futuristic story.

     A man from Boulder City, Nevada, about 30 miles southeast of here, took his wife to the new spaceport at Las Vegas International Airport to catch her commercial space-plane to Tokyo for business.

     After fighting his way through the morning traffic, he had nearly arrived back home when he received a call on his personal, satellite-based communicator.

     He answered the call while tensely dodging traffic and listened to the brief message.

      “Arrived Safely. Tokyo’s great! Your loving wife.”

     Finally, our competitors in other nations are keeping us on our toes. The Europeans are working hard to maintain market share with their medium lift Ariane IV until their heavy lift Ariane V is operational. The second launch is scheduled for mid-September this year.

     The Russians have a variety of lift capabilities and are working very actively through a variety of commercial joint ventures to increase their market share.

     The Japanese have an excellent success record with their launch vehicle fleet and are pressing hard to become more competitive on the world launch market with upgrades for the post-2000 timeframe.

     Why is all this important to US Space Command?

     American and international corporate success in the commercial launch market is a highly reliable indicator of the success military space operators will have in funding the deployment of military space systems.

     In this time of limited budgets and modernization account shortfalls economies of scale and efficient operations can make the difference between being able to afford a ride to space or finding other terrestrial alternatives. This makes assuring routine, reliable, and affordable access to space a top mission priority for the United States.

     US Space Command’s third mission area, space control, is operationally defined as ensuring friendly use of space while denying use of space to our adversaries—in other words, ensuring space superiority.

     Currently, the command executes this mission area by performing four functions. The first three of these are space surveillance, strategic missile warning, and protection of our space-based systems.

     The fourth function is the negation of space-based threats to our systems. This is a capability we, as a nation—as a world—will have to take for more seriously in the future. Why do I say that?

     The nations of the world today are far more reliant on space-based systems and information than many people appreciate. Currently, the United States alone has over 220 active commercial, civil, and military satellites on orbit worth in excess of $100B.

     These satellite systems deliver products Americans depend on everyday ranging from entertainment, to education, to international funds transfer, to weather reports, to global navigation, and the list goes on and on.

     This investment is an indication of economic strength but in purely military terms, our national dependence on space-based systems equates to vulnerability, and, as history so clearly tells us, all vulnerabilities are eventually exploited by those who would choose to do our country, or our allies, harm.

     The tremendous investment we have in space is going to become a ‘national security interest’ as other economic investments we have made around the world have become. We are going to have to prepare, as a nation, to deal with threats to our civil and military systems in space. Without question they are going to be challenged at some point in the future.

     In purely doctrinal terms, ‘space control’ is rapidly becoming synonymous with ‘space superiority.’ The Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff last fall released the new six core competencies of the Air Force.

     Preeminent among these six core competencies is ‘air and space superiority.’ The ability to ensure space superiority will become a keystone for the future in ensuring that the benefits of space continue to contribute to the growth and prosperity of America and its allies.

     As these benefits continue to enter our lives, we become more and more dependent on them. Similar to electricity and telephones, space-based benefits will become routine, expected, and surely taken for granted. Quietly going unnoticed, space assets are invisibly contributing to our everyday lives.

     Militarily, space superiority will become an assumed operational conditional as part of the military planning process much as air superiority is an assumed operational condition today. General Fogleman, was recently quoted as saying “the bottom line is that everything on the battlefield is at risk without air and space superiority.”

     US Space Command’s ability to execute the space control—read space superiority—mission is becoming a prerequisite for success on the battlefield.

     Some might say, we’ve all ready arrived at that point where space control systems must be deployed as a mandatory condition to success on the battlefield. All I can say is we stand ready as a military to support whatever decisions our elected civilian leadership may arrive at in regard to space control and the systems required to carry out the mission.

     This also holds true in the area of Missile Defense Of The United States. Through its relationship with the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), US Space Command is perfectly organized and ready to assume operational control over a National Missile Defense system for the 48 contiguous United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.

     From a purely military doctrine point of view, a threat posed by a nuclear- or biologically-armed aircraft violating US air space is of no consequential difference than the threat posed by a nuclear- or biologically-armed ballistic or cruise missile entering US or North American air space.

     The only difference between the air versus missile threat scenarios lies in what we can do about countering them. Right now of course, we can’t do anything about countering the ballistic missile threat to the United States except to warn everyone they’re on the way.

     We accomplish this warning using the strategic missile warning components of space-based infrared launch detection satellites, terrestrial radars, and the command, control, communications, and intelligence plugging it all together.

     As we work toward the possibility of fielding a national missile defense system for the United States, my responsibilities as CINCSPACE are to state the requirements for the system and to prepare to operate the system, awaiting a decision by our civilian leadership to deploy.

     I have three key concerns regarding a national missile defense system. First, we need to be sure our intelligence is sufficiently focused to identify ballistic missile threats to the United States as they develop. In other words, we cannot afford to be surprised by a ballistic missile attack because we did not have adequate intelligence. I don’t have any indication that this is a problem…in fact quite the contrary. But the impact of not seeing a ballistic missile threat develop in sufficient time to deploy an adequate defense would have, in my estimation, catastrophic consequences.

     My second concern is simply that we cannot be late to need with an NMD system. My opinion, as CINCNORAD, is that our nation, our citizens, would not stand for an impact of a ballistic missile on our soil. There would be a tremendous public uproar over such an occurrence, to say nothing of the potential loss of life were it to happen.

     Therefore, it’s important that we not be late to need. I’m not interested in deploying it any sooner than we have to but again, we cannot be late.

     Finally, my third concern is that when we do deploy the system it must be capable of doing what it was set out to do. That’s a basic requirement I have as a CINC.

     When our civilian leadership decides it’s time to deploy a national missile defense system, it must be capable of doing the job it was designed to do.

     So far, I’ve covered three of the four US Space Command missions. The Command’s final mission is called space force application. Like space control, force application from space is more of bridge to the future than it is a set of relationships today. Currently, US Space Command has no capability to apply force from space.

     Whether or not we develop a capability to apply weapons from space against either space-based or terrestrially-based targets sometime in the future remains a matter of much political debate and, to a lesser extent, a matter of technological prowess. Without question it is a decision that will be made by our civilian leadership.

     Perhaps in recognition of the possible development of this space mission area, the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have made it very clear that the Air Force is on an evolutionary track from its current form as an air and space force—a really marked change in verbiage—to becoming a space and air force—an even more important change on how the Air Force thinks of itself.

     These statements clearly highlight the importance of a long-term vision and the subtle effect of “what’s in a name.” These statements unlocked the philosophical chains of our air and space power pioneers and opened up a vast array of potential futures.

     Today, many US Air Force missions are conducted in the vertical dimension above the land and sea using air-breathing machines because the technologies for these machines and the knowledge for their use exist. These missions have been historically carried out in the atmosphere due to the lack of any other alternative. This situation is rapidly changing.

     The senior leadership of the Air Force is unequivocally on record as favoring mission accomplishment in the vertical dimension in the medium best suited to successful operations, be it air or space.

     As the Commander of Air Force Space Command, I am using this guidance to expand operational relationships into the Air Force and beyond, to bring about the migration of terrestrial missions to space where operationally sound and appropriate.

     Certain space control and space force application mission functions will become viable alternatives to similar terrestrially-based alternatives. These are the two mission areas that are really going to advance us further into space—lead us into brave, new directions.

     By way of summing up, I see the short- to mid-term programmatic priorities in military space continuing much as they have over the last few years. We’re not going to see any dramatic programmatic changes. But, we are going to see dramatic cultural changes—changes already begun.

     Programmatically, we must press forward hard on theater and national missile defense system research and development and, because of threats today, deploy more robust theater missile defense systems as soon as possible. Adequate theater and national missile defenses do not exist today. The proliferation of ballistic missile technology to rogue countries has placed many nations under the threat of theater ballistic missiles today and in the future will place the United States at risk as well.

     We must build the next generation of enabling missile launch detection systems. We must continue to build relationships with our commercial, civil, and international partners for assuring routine, affordable access to space and to mutually leverage our capabilities in space-based communications, environmental and weather sensing, navigation, and more.

     For our roads to the future, we must aggressively support NASA in pursuing the future of reusable launch vehicle technologies, and be ready to implement the directives of our civilian leadership regarding the possibility of future space control and space force application missions.

     The way ahead is not totally clear, but these areas I have discussed will most certainly be a key part of our plans to provide for America’s national security and the security of our allies.

     Culturally, we must build intergovernmental and interagency relationships. These relationships will create productive interfaces and alliances helping us deal with the not so clear part of our future.

     More importantly in the cultural sense, by considering ‘what’s in a name,’ we force cultural change in our Air Forces, our militaries, our nations, creating the conditions that will allow us to take full advantage of the technological advances and breakthroughs that we cannot possibly foresee but will surely happen.

      The potential promise and danger in the future are most eloquently summed up in the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, prophetically written in the year 1842:

     For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the vision of the world and the wonder that would be;      Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,      Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bails;      Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew      From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;

     Ladies and Gentleman, it was a great pleasure to speak to you today and be able to contribute my thoughts to your national and international discussion regarding the future of air and space power. I hope my comments will prove useful and perhaps generate an idea or two about our future mutual security interests.

     Thank you.