Focal Point for Space: An Air Force Perspective
Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin C. Conaton
Remarks at the Air Force Association Global Warfare Symposium, Beverly Hills, Calif., Nov. 18, 2010
Thank you, Sandy, for that gracious introduction. I also want to express my deepest appreciation to AFA and its President and CEO, Mike Dunn, for hosting this symposium. There are a tremendous number of Air Force, interagency, and industry leaders here - I am privileged to serve with you all.
From my current position and from my years on Capitol Hill, I am well-acquainted with the unwavering support AFA gives to our Air Force. For many years, AFA has been an incredible advocate of not only the Air Force mission, but more importantly, of the brave men and women who make up our Service. Thank you for all you do to promote the Air Force, our Airmen, and our mission.
I'm so glad to be the first speaker of this event. It means that at least for the next 20 minutes or so, I'll be the best speaker you've heard during the symposium!
Seriously, today and tomorrow, you're going to have the privilege of hearing from some tremendous leaders and great strategic thinkers who have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the Air Force in the nuclear enterprise, cyberspace, expeditionary forces, and in the area that I'll be covering today - space. I know you will benefit from all the knowledge imparted by the featured speakers...Secretary Donley, General Schwartz, Gen. Bob Kehler, and Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, just to name a few. The fact that both the Secretary and Chief will be here tomorrow is testament to the importance of this event.
The topics of this week's symposium are certainly timely. They demonstrate that while we're "all in" - as the Chief likes to say - with our Joint partners in the current fight, we've also got our eyes facing forward at the coming challenges.
In our cyberspace mission, 24th Air Force reached full operational capability on Oct. 1, 2010, and through this new numbered air force, Airmen will be providing a crucial part of operations security by protecting our critical information, networks, and systems. I'm glad to see Maj. Gen. Dick Webber here - he's done a great job standing up 24th Air Force.
In our nuclear enterprise, we're also doing some great work. I just came from Air Force Global Strike Command headquarters which also recently reached full operational capability. Our nuclear mission remains critically important. Air Force leadership is focused on the future of the New START Treaty and on sustaining our nuclear weapons capabilities and modernizing our delivery systems. We've made substantial progress in reinvigorating the Air Force nuclear enterprise over the last two years.
I was excited to see the panel on Long Range Strike. This is an area that I and other Air Force leaders are spending a lot of effort on. We recognize the critical need to continue to be able to hold any target on the globe at risk. As we work through precisely what the family of Long Range Strike systems looks like, the Air Force is committed to providing national leaders with options to do just that.
But today, I'm going to focus on our space mission, which only makes sense, as we are definitely in space country. Many of our industry partners here have major facilities in California, and in fact, California is home to 44 percent of the U.S. space market, and 21 percent of the world's space market. And of course, ably led by Lt. Gen. Tom Sheridan, Space and Missiles Systems Center is responsible for research, development and purchase of our military space systems, managing over $56 billion in space assets.
Being successful in our space work is truly a team sport where Airmen, our inter-agency teammates and our industry partners play together. But please indulge me for a minute to brag about the incredible Airmen who deliver this combat power.
There's no question that the Air Force is the world's best space force - by a very wide margin. The Air Force delivers the full gamut of space-based capabilities not only to the Joint warfighter, but also to other federal government agencies, the civilian community, and indeed, the entire world. The assets we have on orbit are the world's most sophisticated; and we have had over a decade of successful launches delivering these assets into space. There is much to be proud of, particularly this year when we have put so many systems on orbit. In particular, I want to commend SMC and its partners for the innovation, creativity and skill they have brought to bear to the launch of AEHF-1, following the failure of the liquid apogee engine. They will have an incredible story to tell as they get that space vehicle to her final orbit.
In short, our industry partners create and our Air Force operates space systems that are the envy of the world. At the same time, these world class capabilities are very expensive, and have often been beset by schedule and cost overruns. Later in the speech, I'll talk about how our space programs fit within the overall Air Force investment portfolio, and about the need to redouble our efforts in this era of flattening budgets and efficiency quests. Because Air Force leadership recognizes the need to continue to provide essential space capabilities - as General Kehler says: at "the speed of need" - we know we must continue to improve our acquisition process. And we need to do better in convincing the larger Air Force and DOD community that the cost of national security space is justified given many other warfighter priorities competing for the same dollars. More on this in a moment.
Air Force Space Governance Review
Last year, Secretary Donley spoke at this event about the need for the Air Force to review our internal space structure. Since my confirmation, I and the rest of the Air Force leadership, have been working hard on space governance under the Secretary's leadership. I'm pleased to share some of the results of the Air Force space governance review today.
Air Force Space Management and Organization
A year ago, while participating in the Department's development of the national long-term space strategy as part of the Space Posture Review and Quadrennial Defense Review, Secretary Donley recognized a need to review our own internal space governance structure to better position the Air Force to help execute the direction coming out of these reviews.
Before this review, we had last reorganized our space governance structure about eight years ago, based on findings from the "Space Commission." As a result of the Commission's work, the Secretary of the Air Force was designated the Department of Defense Executive Agent, or EA, for Space with responsibilities for both Air Force and DOD space management.
Tomorrow, Secretary Donley will talk to you more about our efforts with partners throughout the Department of Defense to reinvigorate his role as the EA for Space, and to improve the DOD-wide coordination of space issues. But permit me to compliment my boss in his absence. Secretary Donley has devoted great time, intellectual effort and leadership to these space governance questions.
But back in 2003, the Secretary of the Air Force delegated EA responsibilities to the Under Secretary of the Air Force, who also served as the focal point for space system planning, programming, and acquisition. In addition, the Under Secretary was dual-hatted as Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Since the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics had also delegated to the EA a host of space acquisitions functions, including Milestone Decision Authority, for major DOD space programs, to the EA, the Under Secretary's plate was extremely full....it's no wonder the Air Force couldn't get anyone to take the job for a few years there!
Since then, many factors on which the 2003 reorganization was predicated have changed. With changes to the Intelligence Community structure in 2005, the Under Secretary of the Air Force relinquished the NRO Director role. And partly as a result of that change, Milestone Decision Authority returned to AT&L. With five separate offices with space responsibilities reporting to the Under Secretary, and the division of space acquisition programs separated from all other acquisition programs, many found our organizational structure confusing. This year's review sought to clear up such confusion.
Starting late last year, Mr. Rich McKinney conducted this review, which generated nine recommendations for improved Air Force Space Management. I won't go over each of those nine recommendations with you today - sigh of relief, right? - but I do want to highlight some of the key ones.
The first recommendation was that the Under Secretary serve as the focal point for space within the Headquarters Air Force. Basically this means I am the senior Air Force official for space matters - to include planning, policy, strategy, international relations and space interagency relations. I also coordinate all the space functions and activities across the Air Force, and I serve as the primary interface to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for space matters.
Now, the decision to do this is not because of me, per se. Instead, the reasons for this designation are institutional: First, in addition to Secretary Donley's leadership as EA, it places Air Force space responsibilities at a senior leadership level, which is appropriate given the importance and complexity of the issues.
Second, because I am also the Chief Management Officer and co-chair of our Air Force Council with the Vice Chief, the Under Secretary is well-positioned to bring a space perspective to the broader resourcing and policy work of the Air Force. Fortunately, I am not alone, and have a great support team in executing these duties, led by my outstanding Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, Rich McKinney.
A big change in our internal governance is how we are now approaching space acquisition. Dave Van Buren, the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive, now serves that function for all Air Force acquisition, including space. All space acquisitions have been consolidated into one office, designated SAF/AQS, led by the newly promoted and very able, Maj. Gen. John Hyten.
Space and Missile Systems Center, under the great leadership of Lt. Gen. Tom Sheridan, will continue its current role of acquiring the world's best space systems. This acquisition change is important - our space acquisition efforts will be improved by pulling all of Air Force acquisition under the same headquarters umbrella - particularly given the efficiency initiatives underway across all of DOD's acquisition system...more on that in a minute.
To coordinate Air Force positions regarding multi-organization, service, and inter-agency issues, we have created an Air Force Space Board. I co-chair the Space Board with the Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Howie Chandler, with a membership that encompasses key Air Staff and Secretariat positions, including notably, the Commander of Air Force Space Command.
Space Command remains our operational arm, and its leadership - General Kehler, and soon to be, Gen. (William) Shelton - is the essential voice as we consider these broad, cross-cutting issues. The Board met for the first time this week, and it is clearly going to be a great asset as the Air Force considers a wide range of decisions - from international partnerships, to operations, to acquisition programs.
Toward A More Efficient Air Force Space Enterprise
With those organizational changes as a backdrop, I want to talk a little more about the imperatives driving our acquisition efforts. The Air Force and the DOD are moving into an era of flattening budgets. Part of the "fun" of my job is that I - along with the Vice Chief - head the Air Force management of our mandates under Secretary Gates' efficiencies initiative. This challenge to all
parts of the DOD, including the mandate that the military services shift $100 billion over the next 5 years from "tail" to "tooth" - is born of a recognition that available resources are finite even as requirements increase.
We must therefore find ways to "do more without more." In this fiscally-constrained environment, more than ever, Air Force space programs have to compete against all other Air Force priorities - airborne ISR, strike, nuclear modernization, to name a few - as well as other DOD priorities for scarce resources. It's not enough simply to demonstrate the warfighter's need for a capability. We have to also show that this is a good value for the taxpayers' investment.
As the new National Space Policy makes clear, Air Force contributions to national security via our space programs are enormous - and the space mission remains a core Air Force function. But to be good stewards of the space mission in the emerging budget environment, we simply have to make our programs more competitive.
We're also faced with a daunting task of upgrading systems in nearly all of our mission areas simultaneously. New capabilities can provide significant improvement in performance over many current aging systems. Major General Hyten has likened this process to changing out and upgrading the engines of our aircraft while the plane is in flight...and doing it in a way the pilot - the warfighter - doesn't even know it's happening.
Our modernization efforts include upgrades in virtually all of our major constellations. The universally- relied upon GPS system is being recapitalized, adding new civilian signals to improve interoperability with European and Japanese satellites, and a new military signal that is less susceptible to jamming.
MILSATCOM is also being upgraded. Our new Wideband Global SATCOM and Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites will provide over 10 times the capability of the satellites they are replacing.
To augment the aging Defense Support Program - the backbone of our nation's missile warning capability - we're also investing in the Space-Based Infrared Systems system. As you know, two Highly Elliptical Orbit payloads are already on-orbit and providing operationally certified missile warning data. And the first of four SBIRS GEO satellites is on target to launch next year.
We are also investing in major efforts to improve launch acquisition. The reliability of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, known as EELV, has greatly improved our access to space. The EELV program has a 100 percent success rate - 36 of 36 launches have been successful. And while we're glad we've had such great reliability over the past decade in our launches, we also recognize the need to get a handle on the EELV business model. So we are focusing on greater industrial base stability, more efficient production, and more affordable launch vehicles for our space enterprise.
Secretary Gates' efficiency agenda, with its emphasis on maximizing contributions to modernization over support activities and overhead in terms investment dollars, provides a fitting context for our efforts.
At the same time, Dr. Carter's guidance to our acquisition professionals on obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending will help find those additional savings in our procurement programs. Dr. Carter's guidance focuses on: targeting affordability and controlling cost growth; incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry; promoting real competition; improving tradecraft in services acquisition; and reducing non-productive processes and bureaucracy.
Although this guidance is not uniquely focused on space acquisitions, neither are our space programs exempt. We have already seen the application of Secretary Gates' and Dr. Carter's efficiency guidance in programs like the Joint Strike Fighter, and we are working our way through other Air Force programs, including space acquisition.
As we strive to improve our space acquisition process, we are doing a couple of things. First, we're taking a "Back to Basics" approach. To avoid overreaching and increase efficiency, we are attempting to implement more stable requirements and funding, so that program managers don't have to annually renegotiate efforts to keep their programs within appropriations. The incremental development of technology as it matures will help in delivering initial operational capability at a quicker rate and identify critical technologies to the industrial base for development and incorporation at the right time.
Second, in concert with the "Back to Basics" approach, we're also implementing our Air Force Acquisition Improvement Plan. These steps should help us modernize and recapitalize in a strategically relevant timeframe, by moving us toward an acquisition model where new capabilities come on line in years, rather than decades. To provide rigor, reliability and transparency across the Air Force acquisition enterprise, AIP focuses on finding the right workforce, key performance parameters, budget discipline, source selections, and clear lines of authority.
Finally, we're looking at different and better ways to buy space systems. And although we're not yet ready to announce anything here today, I can say that we plan to evolve our acquisition approach with a focus on providing more capability at lower cost; creating stability and a consistent workload for our industrial base; and making regular improvements to our capabilities through consistent investments.
To do this right, we will need our industry partners to work with us. We are committed to providing more stability to the space industrial base, but our drive for more stability will be paired with a commitment to leaner, more efficient contract arrangements. This means we will be scrutinizing cost drivers, overhead rates, and contract types.
We'll continue to work on the health of the space industrial base including through a reinvigorated Space Industrial Base Council which I chair with Director Bruce Carlson of the NRO. Also, in cooperation with our partners at the NRO, NASA, and elsewhere, the Air Force is focused on creating, acquiring, and sustaining the launch vehicles, bases and ranges required to assure the Nation's future launch capability and capacity for civil and national security missions, and to foster growth of commercial space activities.
In closing, I want to reemphasize that the Air Force is now delivering, and will continue to deliver, the world's most sophisticated and capable on-orbit assets. We are also redoubling our efforts for more effective acquisition and contract execution. To all the Airmen here today - from our acquisition and operations community - thank you for all you do. You are making a difference in this mission at a critical time.
To our industry partners, we'll continue to work with you in building the best systems in a way that can compete in this time of budget constraints.
We believe our new Air Force governance structure is more cohesive, integrated and streamlined, and will enable the Air Force to carry out its space mission more effectively and efficiently.
Our Back to Basics approach to improved acquisition will complement these efforts. And our efforts to partner with industry to trade additional stability for better value to the taxpayer will be critical. As we carry out this mission, we are committed to promoting the National Space Policy - which Secretary Donley and Chief Schwartz will talk about tomorrow. We look forward to continuing to demonstrate to the nation and the world that the Air Force leads the way in these space efforts.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. And on behalf of our Airmen and their families, thank you again to AFA for hosting this symposium and for all you do to support the Air Force, its mission, and our Airmen.