Air Force secretary discusses state of force at Global Warfare Symposium

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  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Defense Media Activity
The Air Force's top civilian leader delivered a key note speech regarding the service's future with special attention to the space mission at the 2009 Air Force Association Global Warfare Symposium here Nov. 20.

At the conclusion of the two-day summit, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley outlined the service's space accomplishments during the last year, which included 65 space launch missions from nine ranges, examined the increasing role of space in the strategic environment, and the challenges and changes that lay ahead.

Secretary Donley said that while the U.S. once had few peers in space, many others have recently recognized the economic and military advantages space-based assets provide, and have begun to invest accordingly.

"As space becomes more international and more commercial, its strategic impact grows," he said, noting that about 50 nations currently possess orbiting satellites. "A nation or even a private entity can contract out the production, launch and operation of its satellites without the need for the costly space infrastructure that, in the past, restricted space access to only the few wealthiest nations."

Secretary Donley elaborated on the importance and potential of commercial ties and foreign partnerships.

"Australia has become a very close partner on the WGS program, and we have agreements in place with a number of other partners, to include Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany," he said.

Secretary Donley highlighted the challenges facing the Air Force to include resources and acquisitions. He noted that space systems account for about 21 percent of total Air Force investment, and include four of the service's 10 largest programs.

"For our investment programs -- and especially our space programs -- this emphasizes the importance of accurate cost estimates, careful budgeting, and improved discipline in program execution," Secretary Donley said. "Failing in these imperatives ... delays key capabilities and puts increased risk on aging systems; terminating lower priority programs we may still need; and, reducing Air Force capabilities in other mission or functional areas. "

The secretary added that the Air Force is participating in the Department of Defense's development of the service's national long-term space strategy, which is occurring as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Space Posture Review.

"We expect the SPR will provide the necessary policy framework to shape how we can further improve our space situational awareness," Secretary Donley said, adding that he hopes to better position the service to operate in the more complex, crowded, and potentially contested space environment and further improve Air Force partnerships with other international and commercial players.

Success in the implementation of the plans that will ensue as a result of the QDR and SPR, Secretary Donley said, will depend on Airmen.

"We'll rely upon the talents, energies, and professionalism of our Airmen," the secretary said. "And, I'm honored to join you in dedicating ourselves to providing America unrivaled air, space, and cyberspace power, now, and for the future."