The Air Force's Future Space Challenges
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley
Remarks to the Air Force Association Global Warfare Symposium, Beverly Hills, Calif., Nov. 19, 2010
Good morning, and thank you, Sandy for that kind introduction. Please let me begin today by thanking the Air Force Association, you, Mike Dunn, and your team for once again outdoing yourselves with this event - you never fail to amaze me with the hard work that goes into these important symposiums. Thanks for all you do for America's Air Force.
To those in uniform, thank you and your families for your integrity, service, and excellence - for living out the core values which continue to serve us well. General Schwartz ... Chief, thank you for being here and for your leadership of our Air Force. I could not have a more dedicated or effective partner in this work.
And to those in other governmental agencies, to Aerospace - our resident FFRDC, thank you for attending - your contributions to national security space are truly appreciated. And to industry, thank you for continuing to support our efforts to maintain the world's premier space force - in a space domain which is now clearly understood as more congested, contested and competitive.
As an aside, I'd like to compliment our policy community for these alliterative terms describing today's environment in space. But I remain disappointed they did not accept my more robust proposal describing space as a "kaleidoscopic canopy and cacophony of congested, contested, competitive and convoluted capabilities and contraptions."
Thank you all for what has been a very successful year in space. I would like to begin by noting one of this year's most important events in our headquarters: the arrival of Undersecretary Erin Conaton, following a long vacancy in that office. Erin has quickly become a valued and respected player on our leadership team and is making a tremendous difference for our Air Force, in large part due to her role as the U.S. Air Force Focal Point for Space. Also, the addition of Mr. Rich McKinney, coming in behind Gary Payton as the Deputy Undersecretary for Space is a real boon for the Air Force. Mr. McKinney spent much of this year on our Space Management Review and I am pleased to have him continue in this more formal position.
The Space Management Review realigned space acquisition functions back under SAF/AQ, and created an Air Force Space Board to support the Undersecretary, as our focal point in the headquarters, in the oversight and coordination of all aspects of the AF space enterprise. This reorganization was due and is already having positive effects, such as helping the Space and Missile Center with deeper dives into the business side of our space programs.
In addition to these management changes, we're also on the cusp of some important leadership changes. First, I would like to congratulate Gen. Bob Kehler for his nomination to be the new Commander of STRATCOM. Bob had his confirmation hearing yesterday, and comes to us this morning not bleeding and with all his arms and legs intact. I share Secretary Gates' hope and expectation that Bob's nomination will be endorsed by the Armed Services Committee and confirmed by the full Senate prior to their adjournment next month.
Second, congratulations to Gen. (select) Willie Shelton, who has already been confirmed by the Senate to be the next Commander of Air Force Space Command. Willie, thanks for taking on this new assignment. And finally, the real winner in all this, Gen. Kevin Chilton, will be permitted to retire. I want to recognize and sincerely thank Chili for his leadership at STRATCOM. A talented and brilliant officer and astronaut, Chili has been a tireless and effective leader of our joint space community.
While I want to boast about some of your space successes since this event last year, it is first important to discuss the status of our Air Force in a larger context. We continue to fulfill our assigned operational tasks in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are currently at 45 RPA CAPs and on track to 50 by end FY11; we completed deployment of 30 MC-12s in record time from concept to combat; we met airlift and schedule requirements to accomplish the OIF drawdown and OEF surge; and we continue to provide armed overwatch, special operations, combat rescue, aeromedical evacuation, training, and all the other tasks our joint and coalition partners rely on daily. And, of course, we have supported the Combatant Commanders with ongoing operational space capabilities.
Weather, intelligence, communications, precision-navigation-and timing...are all capabilities we have brought to the fight from the space domain and are relied upon in virtually any and every military operation. You extended our streak of successful national security space launches to 73; and launched the initial AEHF and next generation GPS satellites, the 3rd WGS, and SBSS. So, I am grateful for all of the hard work that went into these accomplishments, but unfortunately we have little time to revel in our gains, as the future is rapidly coming at us.
On the global technology front, rapid advancement in communication has spread knowledge around the world, leveling competition and causing us to work harder to maintain U.S. advantages, making us more interdependent with international partners. At the strategic level we are taking on new missions. Some of which are driven by these rapidly changing technologies, such as missile defense, space situational awareness, and cyber operations to name a few. We continue to face challenges from non-state actors, from terrorist organizations to crime syndicates, to drug cartels; challenges that require 24/7 world-wide operations, and that are quite different from those of our long standing state-to-state relations. And all of this is occurring at a time of economic and fiscal crisis.
The nation's economy and revenue have slowed while our requirements and costs have increased sharply; and the resource outlook for our immediate future is not promising. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2020 annual interest payments on the federal debt alone could equal what we are spending today on defense. The combined impacts of the federal debt, an aging population, and large entitlement programs have become a growing strain on the federal budget that will significantly impact the resources available for defense.
It is within this context where the changing security environment, technology, and resources intersect that we must plan and operate. Going forward, our strategic choices will be more difficult and more important at the same time. We are pursuing a balanced approach that seeks to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency across our core functions.
The Quadrennial Defense Review, the Nuclear Posture Review, and the National Space Policy are shaping our efforts; and a National Security Space Strategy is nearing completion. The QDR gives us four priorities.
We must first, and foremost, prevail in ongoing conflicts - and, as already mentioned, we are invested to prevail alongside our Joint and Coalition Partners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Second, however, we must prevent and deter conflict, and in this regard we continue to make significant investments in our nuclear enterprise to sustain and strengthen two of the three legs of the Nation's nuclear Triad - and this remains among our top priorities.
Third, preparing for what the future holds - for other conflicts, conflicts of a different nature, across the full spectrum of conflict - must also be accomplished. Modernization efforts - in the air, in space, and in the cyber domains - are underway; but they face cost and funding challenges. Half of our top 10 acquisition investment programs are space-related. While I won't address them in detail today, it is good news that there is Joint demand for what we are building; but the flip side is that several of these programs continue to face technical, cost, and schedule challenges. So, to support this work we have also made achieving acquisition excellence a top priority -- this will be even more critical in the months and years ahead, as we fight to retain technological advantage, adapt to rapid changes, and work to do so within strategically relevant timeframes and tight budgets.
The fourth QDR priority is to preserve our all-volunteer force; and while I won't dwell on this today, let me just say that your Air Force leadership remains focused on taking care of Airmen and their families.
The new U.S. National Space Policy, published in the spring of this year, established the principles, goals, and guidelines for space. Importantly, it reaffirms the United States longstanding position on space as a domain where all nations have a right to access and peaceful use, in which no sovereign has claim, and that with this right comes responsibility. It recognizes that space has become more congested, and calls for increased collaboration within our government, and between the U.S. and other nations, in using space responsibly to the benefit of all mankind. And, of course, it reaffirms our right to defend our access, platforms and use of space.
For DOD, and especially for the Air Force which provides the majority of our military space capabilities, a common thread throughout is an unprecedented need to coordinate and cooperate effectively - first within DOD, and with what I refer to as the three "I's": our interagency, industry and international partners.
To better coordinate space efforts with DOD, the Deputy Secretary of Defense has recently made a series of decisions aimed at better positioning DOD to implement the policies and tasks outlined in the NSP and soon to be completed National Security Space Strategy.
First, he revalidated the role of the Secretary of the Air Force as DOD's Executive Agent for Space. The Executive Agent will, among other tasks, integrate and assess DoD's overall space program; conduct and oversee long-term space planning and architecture development; and facilitate increased space cooperation with the intelligence community.
Second, he approved the establishment of a DOD Space Council, chaired by the Executive Agent with representatives from across the department that will assist in coordinating this work. As many of us can attest, DoD has had a number of space boards and committees - by some counts a dozen or more, with many of the same players, addressing various issues. With this decision, the Deputy has created a council explicitly tied to the DAWG, DOD's senior decision making body, and has tasked us essentially to roll up DOD's space work and recommend where feasible the consolidation, realignment or cancellation of these other committees.
The Deputy also directed the Executive Agent, in consultation with the Undersecretary for Acquisition, Dr. Carter, to establish a jointly manned space office under the Secretary of the Air Force to support the Executive Agent and the new Space Council - in essence, restructuring and replacing the current National Security Space Office.
These decisions will not only better position DOD to coordinate the implementation of space policy and strategy, they will also provide the framework for DOD's coordination with the IC on national security space. And as many of you know, a governance structure for national security space is a due out from the NSP.
There is certainly several months of work ahead in standing up this new structure for space governance in DOD, and further work beyond in meeting the goals and objectives of the NSP. For my part, I look forward to carrying forward the collaborative relationships we established this summer between the Air Force and our OSD partners in coming to grips with space governance.
But none of this is to suggest that we are starting from scratch.
The Letter of Intent recently signed between the Air Force, NASA, and the NRO, based on long-standing relationships, commits us to closer coordination in the acquisition of launch vehicles, liquid-fueled engines for boosters and upper stages, and development of launch bases and ranges, in ways that will help us share costs and address common challenges associated with the space industrial base.
The European Union's initiative to develop a "Code of Conduct" for space holds promise for a more cooperative and transparent domain as we look to the future. Our space partnership with Australia was further strengthened earlier this month when Secretary Gates and his counterpart, Minister for Defence Smith, signed a Statement of Principles regarding space situational awareness. And, of course, the vital work of developing, building, launching, and operating satellites - as effectively and efficiently as we can - continues.
As we canvass the national security landscape, perhaps the one constant is change. Changes in key space leadership; change in the level of resources available for defense and space activities; changes in space governance; change in the way we acquire various capabilities from industry; and change in the way we collaborate across sovereign borders. However, change in these areas presents the Air Force and the Nation with opportunities. Opportunities to strengthen existing partnerships and enter into new ones; opportunities to increase flexibility and resilience in space operations; and ultimately, opportunities to create more transparency and confidence in collaboration which may lead to a safer and more stable world for us all. While these are not easy undertakings, they are necessary all the same.
Please allow me to finish as I started - thank you, for the support that led to a very successful year, and in advance for your continuing contributions in what I am sure will be challenging months and years to come. Thank you again to AFA, to our industry and interagency partners. And to our Airmen, it is an honor to serve with you in the world's finest Air Force.