Gen. Kevin Chilton, Rex Geveden (NASA), Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler
Moderator: Donald Peterson
Sept. 26, 2006
New Space Pioneers
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We're delighted to have as I said a great panel, starting off with General Chilton, the commander of Air Force Space Command. We also have Mr. Rex Geveden, associate administrator of NASA, and Lt. General Robert Kehler, deputy commander of United States Strategic Command. We're going to start off this afternoon with General Chilton.
Thanks. You flatter us, new space pioneers, I'm feeling kind of old. So I really appreciate that. It's all relative, that's right--depends how fast you're going. I want to start off first by thanking you for all that you've done for this conference and for moderating the panels I was on earlier, and this one. And I want to thank the AFA for this great opportunity that you've provided us. And I haven't heard anybody talk about this yet, but I wanted to mention, I am a life member of AFA, and I think it's a great organization. I think it's a great organization to be part of. I'll tell you when I was flying space shuttles, I used to just do annual memberships, because I'd looked at the actuarial tables and I'm a very frugal investor. And I thought, naa, but after my last flight, that year, I took out the checkbook, and became a life member of the AFA. And I certainly don't regret that.
It's certainly a pleasure to share the panel today with Mr. Geveden from NASA and General Kehler from USSTRATCOM. Don't let the blue uniform fool you, he's purple these days, but it's really great to have an airman as the deputy commander of US Strategic Command, that Combatant Command that does the global mission, so many global missions, not the least of which is the space mission that we have. I wanted to talk a little bit about some things that are going on in the command, what our focus areas are.
First of all, these are awful exciting times to be part of Air Force Space Command. Just yesterday, while we were having this conference here, we'd launched a GPS on a Delta II out of the Cape; the only thing better than launching rockets is being on the end of them when they go up, and it was an exciting day at the Cape. Everything went great, that's our 68th consecutive successful Delta II launch; that's our 54th GPS satellite we've put in orbit, or banged off the pad, since the program started. And for Air Force Space Command, if you look at all our launchers that's the 46th successful launch in a row, knock on wood. It's a tremendous streak we have going, and I think it's one to be very proud of.
We talked a little bit this morning in the four-star panel about warfighting and our focus. You know the Chief has three focus areas--fighting the war, winning the war, taking care of our people, and recapitalization. And I kind of went down the list as to what we're doing to help fight the war every day.
Needless to say, we can't imagine nowadays I don't think engaging in combat anywhere in the world without the critical assets and capabilities that Space Command, Air Force Space Command, brings and the great folks behind that, the great airmen behind that that bring those great capabilities--whether it be communications connectivity that supports our airbreathing ISR platforms around the world, or command and control capabilities. Time-sensitive targeting is dependent upon satellite support, communication satellite support. Over the horizon retargeting of our aircraft--if you look at weather for any operation, land, sea, or air, as you head out the door, the last thing you ask is, what's the weather going to be like when I get to the target area? And that's brought to you by Air Force Space Command professionals.
GPS has become just integral to the fiber of how we conduct operations whether they be NEO [noncombatant evacuation operation], support operations, rescue operations like the tsunami or the earthquake in Pakistan, or actual combat operations when you see the power of that precision navigation and timing to bring JDAMS to bear and help our soldiers and sailors navigate around their mediums of operation. Taking care of our people--we start looking to our future in Air Force Space Command. This is a focus area for us right now, and we start looking at new technologies coming onboard, and what I refer to as taskable payloads, like SIBRS, where you can ask it to stay in certain areas--where space radar will be in certain areas one day.
We start asking ourselves are we attracting and retaining the right talent to handle those types of future capabilities as they come onboard. Now, don't get me wrong. We got great people and the right talent in place today to do what we're doing today. But we always got to be looking ahead to the future, and asking ourselves who do we want to attract? And I'll tell you there's a group of folks out there I'd really like to attract to the command, and I think we need to work on this a little harder, not only as an Air Force, but as a society. And that's our young folks that are out taking engineering courses today at the universities around America. There are a lot of ROTC folks in the crowd, and if you're out there studying engineering today and you want to come to an exciting career field, I want you to come join us at Space Command.
And there's something very unique about Space Command--it's the one command that you can come into as an engineer, you can apply your engineering talents in the acquisition or development field, and then we want to take you out and put you in the operations field. We want you to get the hands-on experience, commanding the squadron, actually operating satellites, and be able to flow back and forth between those two communities. And that's a little bit unique, you know, you won't find engineers at ACC going to fly airplanes for a while, and then coming back to be engineers at ACC without being pilots, you know, going to pilot training. There's a few of those called test pilots, but in Space Command, we see great strength and synergy in cross-fertilization between operations and the hardcore engineering aspects of the command, particularly in acquisition.
The third area the chief talked about is focusing on recapitalization, and there's a great new story here for Space Command. I can only think of one system that I'm not satisfied with regard to recapitalization. We are recapitalizing every single constellation we have on orbit right now. We just finished recapitalizing our launch fleet, with the ELVs and they're performing magnificently. We're in the process of recapitalizing our ICBM fleet right now, and (inaudible) motors, new guidance kits on them, new upper stage, and new RVs for them, so it's going to be a brand new kit sitting in the ground up there north of I-80 for many years to come.
The one thing that I'm not satisfied with is our helicopter fleet that supports the ICBMs out there, so the common theme there with the chief is the airbreathing platform, with wings that move, but nonetheless an old UH-1 fleet that needs to be recapitalized. Frankly in 98 when I came back from NASA, they handed to Air Force Space Command headquarters as a deputy DO, they handed me an AOA that had been completed that said we needed helicopters in the ICBM field. Okay, so I went away and I came back this year, said how are we doing on the helicopters, they said--well we got another AOA out, we're studying that again. Let me guess what that's going to say. You know, we need new helicopters out in the missile field. So that's an area I know the Chief's focused on, recapitalizing our helicopter fleet for the entire Air Force and we wanted to be counted among that as well because we need that out in the missile fields. Just a few minutes from a historical perspective, this is my interpretation of history. You can disagree with me and I welcome that, but kind of where we are today and how we got here, and where we need to go in the future.
I look back on the space program that started up in the fifties after Sputnik, and the focus in America on it, and you look in the early days of the Air Force we were focused on developing ICBMs, and those ICBMs turned into space launch vehicles, and those space launch vehicles carried things like Corona satellites, and we had Gary Powers flying U2s, and folks doing overflights and we wanted to stop doing that, and we were really about the Soviet Union and strategic issues and collection of strategic intelligence. We wanted to take people out of airplanes overflying countries, and move that capability to space and that's exactly what we did. And it's a phenomenal capability to be able to do that, but the focus in my view is pretty strategic--strategic deterrent, nuclear-tipped ICBMs, strategic intelligence and surveillance, and I would say that was kind of our culture and nature and order of business through the 1960s and 1970s, and then I think there was kind of a shift in the 80s, 1982, when Air Force Space Command stood up.
I don't know if I mentioned this to you but this is the beginning of our 25th year. Were going to have our 25th anniversary of Air Force Space Command and coincident with the Air Force 60th anniversary, so exciting time for us. Part of standing up Air Force Space Command was to more operationalize what we were doing in space and by that I don't mean to suggest that launching reconnaissance satellites in the Corona program or manning ICBMs is not operational, it's more of linking space to the combatant commanders, the CINCs we called them in those days, and in particular the regional combatant commanders, and finding ways for Air Force Space Command to support them in a better fashion. And so the command was stood up in 82 with that in mind. And probably the amount of work that needed to be done was highlighted best in the early 90s in Desert Storm when you saw the air component commander complaining about the lack of integration of air and space.
And so what did we do? We took General Horner, and we said okay, well, you won the war, you've identified a problem, you're now a four-star in charge of Air Force Space Command. Go operationalize it, and what really started it in the early 90s was the forcing together of the airbreathing community and the space experts in Air Force Space Command, and we really started to see some great synergies come out of that and some great applications that have led to things like JDAMs, and the things you see today, time-sensitive targeting enabled by space assets, over the horizon control of Predators and Global Hawks, all that I think came out of that time period and that adjustment and focus started in 1982, and then in 91-92 through the nineties.
Another thing happened during that time period too though that I think adds significance to our focus and that was the Soviet Union went away. The Cold War ended in the early 1990s. Now coming up to that point we had paid a lot of attention to what the Soviets were doing in space at that time. They had fielded an anti-satellite weapon--you bet we were paying attention to that. They had talked about and maybe fielded a fractional orbital bombardment system--you bet we were paying attention to that. There was, the space part of the Cold War, was every bit as hot as any other part of the Cold War was, and we had an appropriate amount of intelligence focused on that and we had an appropriate amount of capabilities in R&D focus on countering that threat and protecting our assets. Well, when the Soviet Union went away in the early 90s the focus shifted off of that. I mean, those programs dried up, those threats went away. And I would argue appropriately so did our focus for that time period. But, through the 90s and now into this century we see an ever-increasing amount of capability by a lot of other countries around the world. And that in my mind, puts us at I think a critical point in history, another turning point, another time, where we need to take a step backwards to the late 80s, and refocus our effort on paying attention to what's going on up in space. Not space for the sake of space, but paying attention so we are in a position to preserve those assets so we can be utilized in a way that we've been so accustomed to utilizing them in our operations.
So now, given that, if you buy into that context, then what are our needs? In any domain, the first thing a commander needs is situation awareness. If you're going into an air-to-air engagement, you need to know what's out there, what they are that's out there, what they're doing, how they're maneuvering, what their intent are, same on the lands, same on the surface of the ocean, same underneath the water--same thing in space. We need to provide our operational commanders who work directly for Strategic Command with the situation awareness they deserve and be able to assess what's going on in that environment--to be able to figure out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, what's up there, has it maneuvered, did they spit off a micro satellite, what's their intent at the end of the day is what you're trying to figure out early.
And it doesn't start right when they launch. You need to start answering those questions before someone comes off the launchpad, and that comes from focused intelligence. And so in my view we need to increase our intelligence focus for the space domain, we need to increase the situation awareness we provide to our combatant commanders in that domain. And that means improving the 14th Air Force AOC, which is the main and core body of the JSPOCK there at Vandenberg Air Force Base. General Shelton, the commander out there, the new JFCC for space, which is a great new story for our United States Air Force and Air Force Space Command, deserves the very same tools and capabilities that you'll find in any CAOC, in any regional combatant commander you'll find in the world, and that's one of my focus areas. One of the things we're doing to help that out is move the space control squadron out of the mountain and get them out to Vandenberg, so they can be part of that team out there. Take the 1991 computer that's part of that squadron that we use today to calculate orbital elements and upgrade it. Can you imagine operating with something, with a computer that was built in 1991? Who do you suppose can upgrade that thing now? Probably nobody younger than me.
And so we got to be thinking about those things, we got to break that loose, and bring it into the modern era of technology so we can spin those capabilities up and give the tools to the warfighter that they deserve at the operational level of war. We need to team with the NRO and we are, because we need to team with every agency in fact, US agency that's operating satellites in space. We're teaming with NASA, we're going to have our first NASA Air Force Space Command Focus day later this fall. We're teaming with the NRO already, and I think most important for us all to do is to share data, so that we know what each other is doing and so we know that if there is an issue with anybody's satellites that we are concerned with, well I know who's phone's going to ring. It's going to be General Cartwright's phone's going to ring, and then General Shelton's phone's going to ring and he better have the right information to answer the phone when it does. So that's another one of our focus areas, and I think we also need to team with our commercial providers because we all know today just like the CRAF fleet supports our air mobility command in time of war or crisis by using civilian airliners today, commercially owned and operated satellites support our warfighters around the world to increase the bandwidth and meet the bandwidth requirements that we need for communication.
So we need to be teaming with those folks as well to support them. And then I'll close here by talking about an exciting year we got in front of us at Space Command. We got a lot of flights coming up, and a lot of great operations going on, the last DSP is going to go next year and there's going to be a lot of people cheering that one on when it goes up; what a great program; what a great surveillance capability is provided to our armed forces. The first Wide Band Gap Filler's going to be flying next year. You know tenfold increase in our bandwidth over the Discus constellation right now we get those satellites up. TaxSat 1 and 2, starting this fall, and continuing on into next year will help us start exploring small satellite technology. Here's a great area for some of our young engineers to come dive into and help us out with. The first Atlas 5s going to fly from Vandenberg and the first Delta 4 Heavy is going to light up the sky for us next year on a very important mission for us associated with the DSP. At the same time, we're going to continue to fight the war, we're going to continue to deter our adversaries with the most potent and powerful nuclear deterrent force on the face of the planet.
We're going to increase space situation awareness for our commanders, and it's going to be nothing but pure fun and excitement. So 2007 harbors great things for Air Force Space Command and my vision for the command is that we end up at the top of your Rolodex. You got a question about space? You call Air Force Space Command. I can't imagine somebody having a question about close air support, not picking up the phone and calling General Keys at Langley. Or somebody having a question about mobility or tanker support, not picking up the phone and calling the pros at Scott or General McNabb. You got a question or issue about space, we're the pros--Air Force Space Command, and that's the vision I have for this command. Come and join us. Thanks very much, appreciate your time.
Thank you, General Chilton. It's an honor for me to be able to share the stage with you and General Kehler, for having me here today, and just for the record we already have you on rolodex over at NASA. What I'd like to do is a lot has happened since you gathered together here last year, and with your indulgence I'd like to go over what's going on in the civil side of space within NASA and spend a few minutes talking about that. This summer I hope you noticed that NASA conducted two successful space shuttle missions, STS-121, which launched gloriously on July the 4th. My wife Gayle and I were on hand to witness that which was a moment of immense pride for the agency and for the nation. We just concluded our mission called STS-115, which was the resumption of our assembly of the International Space Station. Delivered another solar ray and another trust segment which has a glamorous name, P-three-dash-p-four.
That solar ray that we delivered will double the station's power, enables to extend our research capabilities and operational capabilities on the International Space Station. By the way, just as a gee-whiz fact, when we complete the assembly of the International Space Station it'll weigh over a million pounds. At this point in time, we've got about 450,000 pounds of mass on orbit. Our astronauts and our cosmonauts, members from the European Space Agency, and folks that are putting it together make it look easy but it is not a simple task. As our administrator, Mike Griffin has said, the International Space Station is one of the most amazing construction projects ever undertaken by humanity, and it's almost like building an aircraft while you fly it.
We have 14 remaining assembly missions to do this job and under presidential policy we are required to finish this job by 2010 and retire the shuttle. Incidentally for you early risers, if you get up tomorrow morning by 5:18 in the Washington skies, you can look in the northeastern skies for about a minute tomorrow morning, and see the space station crossing over at about 26 degrees. You can see it the following morning at about 16 degrees in the northwestern sky. If you haven't gotten up to see a space station pass, I encourage you to do it. You may know as the (inaudible) reflection off the space station makes the space station appear the third brightest object in the night sky, and it's definitely worth a look. I'd also like to tell you about some of the progress we had on our follow-on program, which is the vision for space exploration.
Four weeks ago we announced that Lockheed Martin Corporation will be our contractor for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. We've called it CEV, crew exploration vehicle up to this point, it's now called Orion. You might find it interesting that the last time NASA used the name Orion it was for the lunar module that took a pile of 16 astronauts, John Young and Charlie Duke to the Dakkar region of the lunar highlands 34 years ago. Appropriate for this audience, Charlie Duke is a retired Air Force brigadier general. In the interest of equal time I should point out that John Young was a Navy pilot. I bring this up because it's clearly possible that the people that pilot the next ship Orion to the lunar surface may be sitting in this audience today. That's a distinct possibility. If you are here, please raise your hand so your colleagues can see who will be the first one to do that.
Now let me tell you a little bit about the Orion spacecraft, which we're pretty excited about. It's the follow-on to our space shuttle program. It'll be our primary vehicle for human space exploration. Our administrator said kind of jokingly in a press conference one time that it was like Apollo on steroids, and that really stuck. The media uses that still and it's actually kind of an apt description. It is a capsule-type of design. It's got a base diameter of 16 and a half feet, and it has two and a half times the volume of the Apollo capsule. Instead of just two passengers, it will actually be able to deliver four crewmembers to the lunar surface, and it can take six to the International Space Station. This time around and we hope to be there within about 12 years from now by the way, we won't be going on brief sorties.
We intend to have more extended missions that are somewhat like the scientific missions that occur in the Antarctic region today. In addition to the Orion spacecraft, we're developing some space vehicles, a crew launch vehicle, which is called Aries 1, a cargo, a heavy-lift vehicle, 120 megaton class, which is called Aries 5. And these systems will give us four times the capability of Apollo at about 55% of the cost. The way we can do that is basically we have costs into a lot of system development over the years and we're making use of that as much as we can, both from shuttle and from systems on the military side. So with greater crew and cargo capability, the moon won't be a destination that we visit briefly and tentatively.
We will learn to live off of the land; one of the big themes here is your resource utilization. We need to be able to do that the way explorers and pioneers have done it historically because you can't carry all the stuff with you that you're going to need when you go to places like Mars. This year we've worked with a number of potential international commercial partners to develop a strategy for lunar exploration to try to lay out what the scientific goals are, the commercial goals, and what our particular exploration goals are. As we go through that, were trying to identify what critical infrastructure we're going to need for that, to build and operate on the lunar surface.
These include things like habitats, power stations, scientific laboratories, telescopes, manned and robotic surface Rovers, unmanned logistics and resupply vehicles, communication.-navigation equipment, and as I said earlier (inaudible), resource utilization equipment along with duration life support systems and I'll mention briefly just a few of the technologies we think we're going to need on the moon. We're going to certainly need advances in robotics, autonomous and fault-tolerant systems, human machine interface materials, life support systems, and novel applications of micro and nano devices to name a few. We are quite aware that any advances we make in these areas might actually support the work of those who defend our country and our future too.
It's worth noting also in our portfolio of activities we just recently announced two space act agreements for commercial delivery of cargo and perhaps crew and lower (inaudible). Now this is unprecedented for us in the human space flight domain, because historically we've had prime contractor relationships with large aerospace concerns to do this, what we're doing here is quite different. It's a commercial arm's length transaction in which we identify the interface and safety requirements and pay for a nondelivery service. And those agreements are with SPACE X and Rocket Plane Kistler.
What we're attempting to do and General Kehler and I talked about this a little bit before this, is we're attempting to commoditize those pieces of space that we can commoditize because we'd like to use our NASA resources in the best way possible which is working in those areas in which you can't close the business case. We've also been actively engaging our friends in national security communities on matters of mutual interest--General Chilton already mentioned the Space Partnership Council which includes my boss Mike Griffin, General Cartwright, General Shelton, John Young of Defense Research and Engineering, Ron Sega, Don Kerr of NRO, and Stephanie O'Sullivan from CIA Science and Technology. We meet at least twice a year and the principals take the opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest such as our industrial base.
We're also working on the ways that the vision for space exploration can interweave with other space activities within our government, and we're interested in common topics such as, climate, weather, satellite systems, and responsive space operations. In addition, Dr. Griffin, our administrator, is pursuing bilateral relationships with organizations where that makes sense. For example we recently signed an agreement with the Air Force that enforces the sharing of aeronautical research and technology. Just about a week ago, Mike and General Chilton had a conversation which they agreed to have a NASA Focus Day, which has already been mentioned here. And we're discussing a number of other topics of mutual interest including advancing the capabilities of the RS-68 engine which is already being used by the Air Force, but it's something we're going to need for our cargo exploration vehicle, and we're talking about an upgrade program of mutual interest.
Finally I'd like to step back and put NASA's activities in a larger perspective, and at the risk of preaching to the choir I think with this audience I'd like to discuss why I think this is all important, why exploration is a focus for NASA right now. And I'd like to quote Jacques Cousteau and I do this pretty frequently but I really appreciate his perspective on this in discussing in a forum similar to this many years ago in 1976. He talked about why it is important for man to explore and I'm quoting him directly--"the more time I spend observing nature, the more I believe that man's motivation for exploration is but the sophistication of a universal instinctive drive deeply ingrained in all living creatures. Life is growth in individuals and species, growth in size and in number and in territory, and the peripheral manifestation of growth is exploration of the outside world." Our own administrator has made the point that the Roman Empire was built on the mastery of the Earth, in particular aquaduction roads; the British empire was built on the mastery of the seas, our American empire such as it is was built on the mastery of the air, and I think it's a logical following that the next great empire, the next great nations are built on the mastery of space.
And I'd like to think that the US is one of those nations and I can't imagine a world in which it's not. And what the United States gains from a robust focus of space development, of space exploration, is the opportunity to carry our principles and our values along with the inevitable migration of humanity into the solar system. That's our destiny, I believe it, and I believe that America will and should lead the way and that we are compelled to explore space for a number of valid reasons--human nature, geopolitics, economic security, national security, and all of these matter. All of these perspectives matter, all of these are important and they're all valid and I know that you believe that too or you wouldn't be sitting in this audience. That concludes my remarks, thank you for your time, and I look forward to our discussions.
Well let me add my thanks to the Air Force Association for setting this up. I'd like to say that it's a pleasure to see all of you except I can't see a thing beyond the first row. As far as I know everybody got up and walked out. No, I heard giggling, so I guess you're still here. General Chilton and Mr. Geveden had some really wonderful points, and I'm going to try real hard not to restate what they've already covered. Let me give you a bit of a perspective from the view of the combatant commander that has responsibilities for operating and advocating for our military, our Department of Defense space activities. Because it is a little bit different perspective; General Chilton really correctly pointed out that I'm purple, although today I think I can say in this audience that I'm on the blue shade purple and proud to be there. September is a big month for the United States Air Force, of course, not only is it a big month because it's our birthday celebration, but some number of years ago the first Atlas was launched in September of 1959. And if you think about that and some of the remarks that have been made here, on the one hand that doesn't sound like that was very long ago.
On the other hand, in terms of space years, if you will, that's ages ago. See, we're fond of talking about people years and dog years--if you were born in 1959, you would certainly expect to be alive today, that's people years. If you bought a pet, you wouldn't expect them to be around today, that's pet years, dog years, if you want. And if you bought a computer in 1959, well, you know where I'm going with this. This is one of those areas of such importance to us that it compels us to continue to invest and compels us to continue to move forward where technology will take us. This audience in particular has no trouble agreeing with a statement that says--space is critically important for how we conduct our national security affairs. Space enables our ability to conduct the American way of war, and I do not believe that that's an overstatement, because of our space assets we can see, hear, and act at global distances and at the speed of the information age. Because I would modify what Rex said just a little bit when he said that we have got to be in a position where we can master space.
I think it's that we have to be able to master space and information as well, and those are not necessarily separate activities. In every conceivable way that we apply military force today or plan to apply military force, space is woven into that fabric and space is woven into the broader fabric of how you and I go about our lives if you think about space capabilities being used for moving information around, whether that's banking information or credit card information, or the ability for you to receive the page that you need to receive or communicate or whatever you have to do in your daily life, space is probably a piece of that. And in fact there's a throw away joke about people on the east and the west coast looking at people in Nebraska and about what they do there and perhaps even whether they have a particularly sophisticated outlook on the world, and I can tell you not so long ago, now living in Nebraska for a second time, and being delighted for it by the way, I went and saw a tractor that is essentially guided by GPS and if you don't believe that high-tech has come to farming, I would tell you that probably American farmers use space capabilities more than most of the rest of us. Tractors with hands off capabilities that are smart enough to be guided by GPS and then dispense with whatever farming tasks they have based upon what the GPS coordinates are telling them. It's pretty fantastic and when you think about that being woven into our lives, then it's not a stretch to say that this strategic advantage that we enjoy for our national security activities and for our economic activities must be preserved. And that is not a guarantee, so from our perspective it's very very important that we stay about this very serious business of preserving our strategic advantage in space. In fact we would offer that we must take the same kind of steps to preserve our strategic advantages in space as carefully as we do to guarantee those advantages on land, at sea and in the air.
And the world has changed, and as we look with our strategic eye at the environment that we operate these platforms in, it is clear--there are more people operating there. There are more people operating there with greater sophistication, and so it is a logical extension to understand that the challenge to our continued space supremacy, space advantages, are there. So what do we have to do to try to preserve that strategic advantage? And I will tell you that nothing I'm about to say should suggest that I'm being critical of where we are or who we are or where we have been. I've said this publicly before, no one does better in space than we do. No one operates platforms better, no one provides more or better information, no one does better in terms of capabilities, so I'm very complementary and we at Strategic Command, as the operators of these platforms get to see this on a day in and day out basis.
The amazing professionalism and the amazing phenomenal technical capabilities that those platforms provide. Having said that, if you were to ask us what is the one thing that we should do as we look to the future. I think we would answer, at least I would personally answer, become more responsive. Now, I know what you're thinking--what I am not suggesting here is a program called responsiveness. We see responsiveness as an attribute, we see it as an attribute across all of the activities that we need to perform in space and we think it has three basic dimensions--there's a capability dimension, which is providing the right capability to the right folks at the right time. An acquisition dimension, there are times when we're going to need a capability delivered in days and weeks, and when it has to be delivered in months or years, it can be months or years but not decades, and all of the activities that have been under way in the Air Force, really led by the Air Force and elsewhere, that try to address those issues of being able to deliver capability much more responsively and to be able to acquire much more responsively are very very welcome things to the United States Strategic Command. We're working very carefully with the Air Force and we're very very pleased with what we see the Air Force doing, and not just the Air Force, but the entire team that is developing and acquiring and moving down the road to address the problems that we've had and have been so noted over the past couple of years.
Then finally there's an operational dimension to responsiveness--we've got to be able to understand and characterize and respond in real time. And General Chilton mentioned this that awareness is the foundation of responsiveness--you have to be aware in order to respond. And that has its own dimensions to it and we couldn't agree more, that responsiveness has a foundational intelligence piece of it that goes with it. There's also a technical piece to understand what's in space, what it does, what capability does it have, how you can characterize it, how quickly you can determine if activities are under way on orbit, and so on. This is important for NASA as well especially with continued human occupation in orbit, and then what we see out of what NASA's going to do in the future. So space situation awareness winds up being a real key to the future for us.
So does our ability to do better in terms of foundational intelligence and then of course the advocacy for the capabilities that allow us to do better situation awareness is something that we're very interested in Strategic Command. So all those things put together help us in terms of responsiveness as we look to the future and look to the ways in which we're going to have to be much more flexible adapting to what is a changing environment on orbit. And then finally I would add that we're very much intrigued and working very hard to build relationships. You heard comments here on both sides of this panel about work to build and improve relationships, STRATCOM is a big believer in all of that we are working very hard with organizations that are represented of course here in this panel and then the broader national security team to improve our relationships, whether they be with the National Reconnaissance Office, NGA, NSA, DIA, the whole team that produces space capabilities and delivers space effects, all of those are very interesting to us, and one of the things that we've done here recently is we have now stood up a joint functional component command for space that will be co-equal to the other four joint functional components that we had already established in Strategic Command, and elevates the importance of space, we believe, to the level immediately responsive to the combatant commander. As General Chilton mentioned, headquartered at 14th Air Force at Vandenberg, collocated with 14th Air Force and very much a part of our day in and day out activities, and we're very excited about what we see going on there and under General Shelton's leadership and with General Chilton's very strong support, we see great things in order to build the joint space operations business, which is the direction we need to head, so we're happy with where things are headed regarding space.
We're very confident in our space capabilities; we believe that we have a very strategic way forward to preserve our advantages in space, and we're looking forward as the days go by to increasing our space capabilities that are dedicated to national security. Again, nobody does it better than we do, I think there's a song like that, but we would certainly agree that the folks that run our space team today, the folks that produce the space effects, the people that operate the platforms, those that are in support of those who do, is a phenomenal team. So thanks for having me here today and I look forward to your questions.
How will the recent and growing push for civilian space travel affect the US Air Force mission or operations in space?
How is it going to affect US Air Force missions? Well, we provide a service today and that's keeping track of orbital debris, and I'm sure that anybody that's going to want to ride a rocket into that environment is going to be interested in knowing if something's going to be in the way, and so I'm sure that we'll continue to provide that information, which of course we provide to NASA today and many other launch providers and customers. What I'm excited about is entrepreneurs start going off and looking at these ideas is what they will develop are technologies or ops concepts or different capabilities to allow them to put them, efficiently put people up, and bring them back, and then turn the vehicles around quickly. And I think that'll be a pretty interesting thing for the Air Force to pay close attention to as we see entrepreneurs go off and do that, see what new technologies and ideas they come up with. If you look what Burt Rutan did for his recent four days up there and the novel way that he figured out how to reenter the atmosphere with the shuttlecock type approach to bringing that vehicle back down. I mean, that's innovation, that's innovative, that's great stuff. And so I think only good can come from it, and I think the Air Force will be there to support them as we do anybody who goes up into that environment.
What does NASA think about this growth in interest of commercial space operations?
We see it positively, and I attempted to address that in my remarks, we're trying to take advantage of some of the emerging commercial capabilities for cargo delivery into lower earth orbit and possibly human delivery into lower earth orbit if it can be done reliably and less expensively. My general view that any successes that occur in commercial space accrue benefits to the space program of this nation in general, and so where we can take advantage of it we will try to do that.
Should the space shuttle be kept in service after 2010 in order to service and supply the International Space Station?
No, it shouldn't be kept in service after 2010. The way our budget is structured in order to wedge up enough budget to do the exploration program, which is our top priority following assembly of the International Space Station, we have to get off of our big operational programs. That means we have to stop flying the shuttle, we have to stop assembling the space station, and get onto developing our Orion 1 vehicle and Aries 1 and Aries 5 launch vehicles, in fact were going through that delicate balance right now, so it absolutely is necessary from a budget point of view for us to succeed. It's also necessary from a presidential policy and an authorization point of view, it's the law of the land now that we complete the international space station by 2010 and stop flying the space shuttle in 2010 so there's bipartisan support for the vision and that's a component of the vision. And so we intend to do it.
General Chilton, as the space professional functional authority, do you believe there should be a space acquisitions career field?
The acquisition career field in Space Command is very important to us. But I've done acquisition work in both the airbreathing and spacebreathing community, and to me the fundamental principles are the same. You may put emphasis, it's blocking and tackling in program management and I don't see any big differences between the basics in space acquisition from airplane acquisition. Iíll caveat that by saying you put different emphasis at different times during the acquisition process, and you test differently, because you can test airplanes a long time after the first flight, and you can't do that with spacecraft. You better have them tested and you put that extra effort and rigor into those programs early on, but that doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that. So I'm for integrating and utilizing the best talents in our Air Force whether it be in space acquisition programs or airbreathing acquisition programs, showing those talents between ABC, ESC, and SMC, but kind of circling back with SMC being a part of Air Force Space Command which is a unique relationship. I'd mentioned this in my remarks is that one of the great powers of that and one of the unique aspects of it is we can take our engineering, acquisition, and science career officers that come into the acquisition career field and bring them into operations. And I think there's great benefit to that, and then bring them back to the acquisition career field--they can help us write requirements, they can help us develop architectures, they can flow back and forth between engineering work and operational work and I think that's unique to this command I think it's a great strength.
General Chilton, what is the future of ICBMs and where do you see us going with our ICBM force?
Actually that's a question for General Kehler. We supply forces for the combatant commander and right now the President and the combatant commander says we need ICBMs, and we support them. And I'm, like I said, excited about the fact that that is another system for Air Force Space Command which is a good steward of that system--the Air Force has invested a lot of money to upgrade that ICBM fleet, to upgrade security for that fleet, and the command and control for that fleet, and we have great programs that plans to continue to march down that path. So as long as the President and the country needs them, you can bet Air Force Space Command will deliver a land-based deterrent that we have done for so many years so well. And let me pass the mike down to General Kehler.
I would just add that although the numbers of nuclear weapons have come down dramatically since the end of the Cold War, and of course along with other activities at the end of the Cold war, those weapons still remain the foundation of our country's defense posture and the importance of the ICBM force, the SLBMs, and even the airbreathing leg of the strategic deterrent force, remains as high as it has ever been. So we are continuing to maintain those forces, were going to continue to maintain those forces as long as the country needs them, and we're certainly very very proud and pleased of the contribution of the ICBM force. That is where I grew up operationally, and remains maybe the most proud of any time I spent in the service was as a young lieutenant and a new captain doing that mission at that time and what that meant to us and what it meant to the country. We remain responsible stewards of the country's nuclear deterrent force, those forces are still being called for in the country's defense policy and strategy, and as long as they are called for that, then we would certainly expect to see ICBMs as part of that mixture.
The Chinese ASAT test--does this change how quickly the US should deploy a protection devices for our satellites?
I don't think there's any one thing that would suggest we need to go off and concern ourselves more with protection or defense of our space assets. I think the sum of where we are today relating to the numbers of people that are in space, the observation that our adversaries and our potential adversaries have made of us in our use of space, I think all of these things together would suggest that prudence demands that we take measured steps to ensure that we are protecting and preserving our advantages in space.
Thanks to all three of you.
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